How The Killing Of Latasha Harlins Sparked The LA Uprising

grafitti from the los angeles riots
Zain Murdock
March 10, 2022

15-year-old Latasha Harlins walked into a shop in South Los Angeles on March 16, 1991 – but she didn't leave the store alive. In response, her city went up in flames.

After one of the store owners, Soon Ja Du, accused Harlins of stealing orange juice, the two fought. Harlins, who’d had the money in her hand the whole time, returned the bottle and walked away. It was then that Du shot the girl in the back of the head!

Months after the killing, Du got off easy. Between Harlins’ death and the police acquittal for Rodney King’s beating, the LA Uprising erupted in April 1992. 

As the city rebelled in anger, thousands of cops and National Guard troops happily left Black and Korean residents to fight each other – while protecting rich white suburbs from suffering a scratch.

When the dust settled, 12,111 predominantly Black and Latine people were arrested. And while Korean shop owners were considered by many to be the enemy, the authorities left THEIR businesses to burn as well.

Just like today, authorities pit people against each other and don’t keep any of us truly safe.

To fight for Harlins' justice, and our future, is to end white supremacist policing. And that means not just ending brutality in uniform or white skin, but anti-Black criminalization and dehumanization perpetuated by everyone – even each other.