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Operation Garden Plot
JTF-LA Joint Task Force Los Angeles

Garden Plot is the generic Operations Plan [OPLAN] for military support related to domestic civil disturbances.

The euphoria over the August 6, 1965, signing of the Voting Rights Act subsided a week later when the Watts section of Los Angeles exploded in the Nation's worst race riot since 1943. It lasted 6 days and left 35 dead, 900 injured, over 3,500 arrested and $46 million of property damage. The Watts riot demonstrated the depth of the urban race problems in the North.

Over a week of rioting was triggered in the Watts district of Los Angeles by the arrest of a black motorist in the area, leaving 34 people dead and over 1,000 injured. Nearly 3,800 people were arrested, and property damages were put at $40 million. An official report criticized by black leaders placed some of the blame for the riots on the growing civil rights movement. Two more people were killed when disturbances flared again in Watts in early 1966.

Although the Watts riots of 1965 was a pivotal point for the Army as a whole, only California National Guard troops were utilized in quelling the unrest in Watts. The employment of federal troops during the Detroit riots of 1967 was the transitional point for the Army.

Demographic changes have caused significant stratification of Los Angeles by neighborhood. The areas of South and Central Los Angeles, overwhelmingly populated by African Americans and Hispanics, have experienced despairingly high unemployment-20 to 40 percent of the residents live below the poverty level. By contrast, several of the communities on the west side remain fairly homogeneous white neighborhoods with minimal levels of poverty. These circumstances have contributed to strong economic and social tensions, the most notable being the conflict in South Central between African Americans and Korean Americans. The two groups have lived alongside one another for the past decade but have experienced dramatically different economic changes.

By 1992 Los Angeles was in the midst of a spiraling economic downturn. Although the strain of the deepening recession had been hard on the entire city, it was especially severe on the African-American community. The disproportionately high levels of unemployment and poverty in the African-American neighborhoods were, by most accounts, giving rise to growing levels of tension, frustration, and anger that contributed to a tense atmosphere.

African Americans, especially young males, felt they were frequently the victims of police mistreatment, racism, and abuse, a feeling also shared by leaders of the Hispanic communities, Korean Americans held a similar view and believed that they did not receive adequate protection from the LAPD. In general, there was a widespread perception within the minority communities that the police gave priority to protecting affluent white neighborhoods over minority communities such as South Central, the Pica-Union area, and Koreatown

On the afternoon of 29 April 1992, the worst civil unrest since the riots of the 1960's erupted in the streets of Los Angeles (LA). The civil unrest in Los Angeles followed a California jury's acquittal of the Los Angeles policemen accused of using excessive force in the beating of Rodney King. The case had received heavy media coverage dating from before it even went to trial, when a video of the beating hit the national airwaves. It came as a surprise then, as the verdicts were read: One of the officers was found guilty of excessive force; the other officers were cleared of all charges. The verdicts were broadcast live, and word spread quickly throughout Los Angeles. At various points throughout the city that afternoon, people began rioting. Riots erupted on the streets of south central Los Angeles and soon expanded to disrupt and threaten lives and property in much of the city and county of Los Angeles.

In South Central Los Angeles, crowds began to congregate almost immediately to protest the verdicts. The street corner protests began to grow in number and size-first angry and then violent - a situation dramatized by the beating of a white truck driver four hours after the verdicts were announced. During the next six days, the reaction escalated into a terrifying reign of violence, widespread looting, and mass destruction of property in many communities across the city. The swiftness and ferocity of these events stunned the entire city and nation.

The first incident, which occurred within an hour after the verdicts were announced, took place in the Hyde Park neighborhood of the 77th Street Police District. The intersection of Florence and Normandie, considered one of the "flash points," was the scene of repeated violent activity beginning before 4:00 p.m. The events there were covered by live television and reached their peak at approximately 6:45 p.m., when several young African-American males dragged Reginald Denny, a passing motorist, from his truck and beat him close to death. The violence and lawlessness escalated and spread to the north and west.

By 6:30 p.m., a crowd had gathered outside Parker Center, Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) headquarters, which had been stormed and vandalized within the hour. This incident gripped the attention of police commanders. Firefighters were being attacked-one was shot and hospitalized in the early evening while responding to a call.

The lawlessness involved physical violence, looting, and arson, which resulted in massive destruction of property. According to the City in Crisis, the rioting was cyclical in nature and occurred with equal intensity in daylight hours and during the night, unlike past civil disorders. Disturbances which began in the morning gathered momentum during the day and reached a high point in the evening, declining during the early morning hours. Destruction was most severe on the second day and tapered off only on the fourth and fifth days.

At least forty-four [possibly 58] people died and hundreds [possibly more than 2,000, or even 4,000] were injured before order was restored Property damage reached the billion dollar mark because of rampaging looters and the thousands of fires that they set. It began as a small disturbance in south central LA, but quickly escalated and spread rapidly throughout the city and country. Arsonists set over 4,600 fires that at least partially burned a reported 10,000 businesses. Reports on the number arrested ranged from 12,000 to 17,000. Emergency workers were soon stretched to the limit in their efforts to cope with the crisis. The violence initially overwhelmed law enforcement agencies, resulting in the burning of large areas of the city. The LA riots of 1992 were unquestionably the most costly civil disturbance in US history.

The initial response of many city officials was marked by uncertainty, confusion, and lack of coordination. Within the LAPD, there was no meaningful integration with any other arm of government. The LAPD was uncharacteristically hesitant in responding to initial incidents of disorder - which later would be considered a major factor in their inability to control the unrest.

As the fires spread across Los Angeles beginning in the late afternoon of Apri1 29, 1992, unprecedented demands were placed on the Los Angeles City Fire Department, in particular, because it was forced to respond to calls for assistance while confronted at times by hostile individuals and crowds armed with assorted weapons. The fire fighters were severely hampered by the response time and level of escort support which the Los Angeles Police Department was able to muster.

Both the state and federal governments responded quickly to the crisis. The governor of California committed the state police and two thousand National Guard soldiers to assist in restoring law and order on 30 April. At 2230 on 29 April 1992, as part of the response to this disorder, the 3d Battalion, 160th Infantry (Mechanized), 40th Infantry Division, California National Guard, was ordered to mobilize. CANG's initial response was slow and somewhat disorganized. Its troops did not arrive in the streets until 17 hours after Wilson's order or not until the evening of April 30. Between 2100 and 2400 the following day, all 3d Battalion companies deployed to their assigned areas. It was the first tactical battalion to be mobilized, the first to deploy to the streets of LA, and the last to redeploy. By the early morning of 30 April, the Governor of California had ordered state police and about 2,000 guardsmen into the area to restore order. The first of the National Guard units, the 670th Military Police Company, traveled almost 300 miles from its main armory and arrived the same afternoon to assist local police.

Lacking proper warning by LAPD, CANG loaned out to local agencies key items of riot control equipment such as face shields, riot batons and lock plates for their M-16 rifles. Logistics failures included ammunition shortages and transportation and communications snafus. Training was inadequate and predicated on the mistaken belief that the troops would face only a riot and not "low-intensity conflict (or urban warfare)" Training before and during the crisis was based on out of date "crowd control" techniques prescribed in the 1985 Army Field Manual 19-15, Civil Disturbances. Absolutely no one, civilian or military, expected a situation where the National Guard would be needed on the streets in a matter of hours.

The federal response was timely. SecDef Richard Cheney put 4,000 Army and Marine troops on alert on 30 April 1992. President Bush invoked the Insurrection Act via Executive Order 12804 [not Executive Order 6427] of 1 May 1992, federalizing elements of the California National Guard and authorizing active military forces from the Army and Marine Corps to help restore law and order. Following this Presidential Executive Order on 1 May, JTF-LA was formed. The Executive Order federalized unit of the California Army National Guard (CAARNG) and authorized active military forces to assist in the restoration of law and order. JTF-LA formed and deployed within 24 hours. It operated in a unique domestic disturbance environment while working with city, county, state, federal agencies, and the CAARNG. JTF-LA was completely successful in meeting the three objectives defined in its mission statement, which were-assume command and control of federalized National Guard and AC Marine and Army forces, establish liaison with local law enforcement agencies; and conduct civil disturbance operations to restore order in the greater LA area.

As DOD's executive agent for the crisis, the Secretary of the Army activated a civil disturbance plan, called GARDEN PLOT, to help orchestrate the callup and deployment of the military forces. Joint Task Force Los ANGELES consisted of about 10,000 guardsmen, nearly 1,500 marines from Camp Pendleton, and 2,000 soldiers from the 2d Brigade, 7th Infantry Division (Light), at Fort Ord. Virtually the entire 40th Infantry Division was mobilized. The military personnel were supposed to protect specific areas of the city, patrol neighborhoods after the police had restored order, and protect the fire fighters who were being attacked by mobs. Army troops showed restraint and discipline in handling a touchy situation. During the riots, they worked in areas of the city without electricity, where many buildings had been destroyed by fires, and resolved several potentially dangerous confrontations. The military would also provide some logistical support and supply riot gear, helicopters, tentage, and Meals, Ready-to-Eat (MRE). DOD estimated the final cost of the operation at about $15 million. A full complement of intelligence analysts was required to support the assault command post (ACP) during Operation Garden Plot. Law enforcement agencies generally have adequate data collection capabilities, but lack the ability to perform detailed intelligence analysis. Considerations for the G2 (S2) in an operation such as Garden Plot may include points similar to the following:

In Operation Garden Plot, military forces established intelligence exchange with suburban police departments, local city command post, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), the LAPD emergency operations center, the city command center, the sheriffs office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Close and effective liaison must be established with all potential sources and agencies. Local law enforcement agencies have access to HUMINT, often unavailable to the military. The intelligence staff of the law enforcement agencies have unparalleled expertise in civil disturbances and gang behavior, while military analysts are in the best position to apply this experience to civil-military operations. During Operation Garden Plot, units used a variety of government-owned, off-the-shelf purchased, and personally owned equipment to effectively conduct operations. Additional communications equipment included such things as cellular phones, faxsimile machines, and police scanners.

For many days after, it was impossible for people living in South Central and Koreatown to purchase the minimum necessities. The city's mayor lifted the curfew on 4 May, and troops departed Los Angeles by 6 May.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:29:58 Zulu