It was this week in 1992 that four Los Angeles Police officers were acquitted in the beating of motorist Rodney King. King was black, the officers were white, and so was the jury. Soon after the cops left the courthouse, protests began in front of LAPD headquarters, and there was rioting before the sun went down. In that violent week more than 50 people died, some two thousand more were injured and looting and fires resulted in a billion dollars in property damage.
The incident that made King a public figure occurred a year earlier, after he had led police on a 100 mph pursuit. After getting out of the car, police chased him down on foot. Then they beat him, kicked him and shot him with tasers. The whole episode might have gone unreported had it not been captured on videotape by amateur videographer George Holliday, who sold the tape to a local television station. Then CNN got the tape, and by the next day the world knew who Rodney King was.
After three days of rioting, King and his attorney held a news conference, during which he pleaded for peace. Click on the video and you'll hear King ask, "Can't we all get along?"
Peace didn't come until a curfew took hold, enforced by the National Guard. By then, a smoky haze hung over the city from the many fires set by rioters. To this day there are many vacant lots where businesses once stood.
Eventually, two of the officers in the beating were convicted on federal civil rights charges, and King was awarded nearly four million dollars in damages. The money didn't last long. King said that what he didn't spend on lawyers, he blew on high living. In subsequent years he was in and out of jail and rehab. Then, two years ago, his body was found floating in his Rialto swimming pool. The coroner said drugs and alcohol played a role in the accidental drowning. The self-proclaimed "poster child for police brutality" was 47 years old.
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