Rodney King

From Academic Kids

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Rodney King

"Rodney" Glen King (born April 2, 1965 in Sacramento, California) was an African-American motorist who, while videotaped by a bystander (George Holliday), was struck repeatedly by Los Angeles police officers (LAPD) during a police stop on March 3, 1991. The incident raised an outcry, as many people, both within and outside the African-American community, believed that the beating was racially motivated, excessive and an example of police brutality. The acquittal in a state court of four officers charged with using excessive force in subduing King led to the 1992 Los Angeles riots and mass protest around the country.


History of the event

King had been pulled over for driving recklessly through Lake View Terrace, a residential neighborhood. When police ordered him out of the car, he refused, charging one of the police officers and throwing other officers on their back. Twice, the police attempted to subdue him with 50,000 volt tasers, such high voltage was considered to be enough to put any man down, but these did not succeed. (King was thought to be on pain numbing drugs, such as PCP.) Next, the police kicked King and struck him 56 times with night sticks, first to knock him down, then to keep him there as he attempted to lift his head while he lay on the ground.

In addition to the three officers personally involved in delivering blows, 24 other law enforcement officers allegedly watched the beating; some of them were said to have assisted in holding King down by placing their feet on his back. Two other African-Americans who were in the car with King cooperated with police and were not harmed.

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Police caught on amateur videotape beating King
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King shows his injuries from the beating.

Indictment and prosecution

Three officers and a sergeant were indicted on March 15 for "assault by force likely to produce great bodily injury" and with assault "under color of authority," and two were charged with filing false police reports. Three of the men charged were non-Hispanic whites, and one was Hispanic.

The defense successfully filed for a change of venue away from Los Angeles County, where the incident occurred and where, it was argued, the policemen could not receive a fair trial, to suburban Ventura County (Simi Valley), whose population is more affluent, contains a much smaller proportion of African-Americans, and contains a disproportionately large number of law-enforcement officers. At trial, the defense argued that the officers had legitimate reason to believe King was extremely dangerous and possibly on a mind-affecting drug such as PCP and that the force used was justified by that threat.

On April 29, 1992, three of the officers were acquitted by a jury of 10 non-Hispanic whites, one Hispanic, and an Asian. The jury could not agree on a verdict for one of the counts on one of the officers.

Verdict, LA Riots, and aftermath

The verdict shocked much of the country. The President of the United States, George H. W. Bush, made a rare statement on a trial, saying that the verdict "has left us all with a deep sense of personal frustration and anguish." The verdict triggered massive rioting in Los Angeles, which left hundreds of buildings severely damaged or destroyed and dozens dead. Smaller riots occurred in other U.S. cities. King made an appearance before television news cameras to plead for peace, saying, "Can we get along here? Can we all get along?"

On May 1, as the unrest continued, President Bush announced that he would most likely charge the officers with violating King's civil rights. King testified in this Federal trial on March 9, 1993. Then on August 4, a federal judge sentenced LAPD officers Stacey Koon and Laurence Powell to 30 months in prison on this charge. The other officers were not convicted, and there was no rioting.

Since the 1991 incident, King has been arrested several times for drug infractions, spousal abuse, violence, and motoring offenses. Although he received $3.8 million in a civil suit against the LAPD, he is currently bankrupt and living in a drug rehab center.

Analysis and cultural impact of the event

The video of the incident is an example of inverse surveillance (i.e. citizens watching police).

African American community and civil rights leaders have repeatedly used the Rodney King incident in analogy with other incidents of police violence against black suspects.

Trivia: King's real name

King's actual first name is Glen, not Rodney. The media referred to him as "Rodney King" because in either initial police reports or initial news reports, he was mistakenly called Rodney King, and as the news was rebroadcast, the error was rebroadcast as well. The name "Rodney" was not associated with Glen King (Glen being King's birthname) until after his 1991 car stop by police.

External links

no:Rodney King


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