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1992 - Balkan War

War in the Balkans - a series of separate but related ethnic conflicts, wars of independence and insurgencies is fought in the former Yugoslavia, with the bitter conflict dragging on for years and prompting UN forces to intervene in attempts to stem the bloodshed.

The former Yugoslavia was a Socialist state created after German occupation in World War II and a bitter civil war. A federation of six republics, it brought together Serbs, Croats, Bosnian Muslims, Albanians, Slovenes and others under a comparatively relaxed communist regime. Tensions between these groups were successfully suppressed under the leadership of President Tito.

After Tito's death in 1980, tensions re-emerged. Calls for more autonomy within Yugoslavia by nationalist groups led in 1991 to declarations of independence in Croatia and Slovenia. The Serb-dominated Yugoslav army lashed out, first in Slovenia and then in Croatia. Thousands were killed in the latter conflict which was paused in 1992 under a UN-monitored ceasefire.

Bosnia, with a complex mix of Serbs, Muslims and Croats, was next to try for independence. Bosnia's Serbs, backed by Serbs elsewhere in Yugoslavia, resisted. Under leader Radovan Karadzic, they threatened bloodshed if Bosnia's Muslims and Croats - who outnumbered Serbs - broke away. Despite European blessing for the move in a 1992 referendum, war came fast.

Yugoslav army units, withdrawn from Croatia and renamed the Bosnian Serb Army, carved out a huge swathe of Serb-dominated territory. Over a million Bosnian Muslims and Croats were driven from their homes in ethnic cleansing. Serbs suffered too. The capital Sarajevo was besieged and shelled. UN peacekeepers, brought in to quell the fighting, were seen as ineffective.

International peace efforts to stop the war failed, the UN was humiliated and over 100,000 died. The war ended in 1995 after Nato bombed the Bosnian Serbs and Muslim and Croat armies made gains on the ground. A US-brokered peace divided Bosnia into two self-governing entities, a Bosnian Serb republic and a Muslim-Croat federation lightly bound by a central government.

In August 1995, the Croatian army stormed areas in Croatia under Serb control prompting thousands to flee. Soon Croatia and Bosnia were fully independent. Slovenia and Macedonia had already gone. Montenegro left later. In 1999, Kosovo's ethnic Albanians fought Serbs in another brutal war to gain independence. Serbia ended the conflict beaten, battered and alone.



Further Reading


ThoughtCo - The Wars of Former Yugoslavia

The Atlantic  - The Bosnian War In Pictures

War Photo Ltd - The End of Yugoslavia

USHMM - Eyewitness Testimony: Bosnia & Herzegovina

1992 - LA Riots

Los Angeles Riots - widespread rioting and looting breaks out following the acquittal of four police officers accused of excessive force during the arrest and beating of Rodney King

Early on March 3, 1991, an intoxicated parolee named Rodney King led police on a high-speed car chase before stopping in Lakeview Terrace.

His subsequent beating, which left him with a fractured skull and cheekbone, was caught on video by Lakeview resident George Holliday, who forwarded it to local station KTLA. Within days, the footage of police repeatedly hitting a black man with batons was airing on all major networks, drumming up nationwide outrage against the officers involved.

On March 15, LAPD Sergeant Stacey Koon and officers Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind and Theodore Briseno were indicted for assault in the King beating, with Koon and Powell also charged with filing false police reports. The African-American community endured another blow the following day, when 15-year-old Latasha Harlins was shot and killed by Korean grocer Soon Ja Du over a disputed shoplifting.

On November 15, Du drew a sentence that included community service and suspended jail time, a decision that outraged Harlins’ family and supporters. Eleven days later, it was announced the trial for the four officers in the King beating would be moved from Los Angeles County to predominantly white Ventura County. In February 1992, the trial commenced with a 12-member jury that included one Latino, one Asian American and one half-African American.

At about 3:15 p.m. on Wednesday, April 29, the jury released their verdict: All four officers were acquitted of charges in the King case, save for a mistrial on one charge against Powell of excessive force.

The response was immediate, as angry protesters took to the streets. Hundreds of people gathered at the Los Angeles County Courthouse to protest the verdict. By 5:30 p.m., the unrest had grown violent near the intersection of Florence and Normandie Avenues in South L.A., where locals attacked passing motorists and forced overwhelmed LAPD officers to retreat.

A news helicopter captured footage of white truck driver Reginald Denny being pulled from his rig and beaten nearly to death, with no signs of police assistance. Minutes later, a Latino driver named Fidel Lopez endured a similar attack.

In a matter of hours, neighborhoods across South and Central Los Angeles were in flames as rioters firebombed thousands of buildings, smashed windows, looted stores and even attacked the Parker Center police headquarters in downtown L.A. By the end of the day, California Governor Pete Wilson had declared a state of emergency and ordered the activation of reserve National Guard soldiers.

The citywide unrest showed little signs of abating on April 30, prompting the suspension of rapid transit, mail service, schools and professional sports games. Many businesses closed, leaving residents to wait in long lines for food and gas, while other store owners, like bands of armed Korean merchants, chose to engage the looters.

Although some 2,000 National Guardsmen had reached the city by 8:00 that morning, a lack of proper communication and equipment prevented effective deployment until later in the afternoon.

May 1, the third day of continued rioting, was marked by the televised appearance of King, who asked for the mayhem to stop, quietly pleading, “Can we all get along?”

That evening, President George H.W. Bush also took to the airwaves to denounce both the “senseless deaths” of the riots and the police brutality that inspired them, and to announce the dispatch of thousands of federal officers to Los Angeles.

By May 2, with 6,000 National Guardsmen bolstered by the addition of another 4,000 federal troops and Marines, the disorder had largely quelled. An estimated 30,000 people marched at a peaceful rally for Korean merchants, and volunteers began cleaning up the streets. Meanwhile, arraignments began for some 6,000 alleged looters and arsonists.

The final tally for the L.A. riots included 2,000 injuries, 12,000 arrests and 63 deaths attributed to the uprising. Upwards of 3,000 buildings were burned or destroyed and 3,000 businesses were affected as part of the $1 billion in damages sustained by the city, leaving an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 people out of work.

At the conclusion of the riots, elected officials set about putting the city back together through a combination of federal grants, collaborations with financial institutions and tax proposals.


Further Reading


NPR - When LA Erupted In Anger: A Look Back At The Rodney King Riots

Vice An Unseen Side of the 1992 LA Riots

Baltimore Sun - Remembering the LA Riots

Curbed - Mapping the LA Riots

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