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This Saturday, April 29, the 25th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots will take place, marking a turbulent time in Black American history. The riots were ignited as a result of the acquittal of four white LAPD officers who beat Black motorist Rodney King to a pulp in 1991.

Tensions between the LAPD and communities of color have been high for decades and came to a boiling point in the wake of the trial of Sergeant Stacey Koon and officers Laurence Michael Powell, Timothy Wind, and Theodore Briseno, all of whom were indicted on March 15, 1991 by a city grand jury.

Soon after the trial’s fateful verdict, chaos ensued in the streets and was essentially viewed in live time by most of the world. Media coverage of the riots revealed an especially brutal beating of white trucker Reginald Denny, and Mayor Tom Bradley swiftly called for a state of emergency.

Gov. Pete Wilson called in the California National Guard with assistance from the U.S. Army and Marines. Over 9.000 troops took to the streets on April 30 and instilled an area-wide sundown curfew. The violent clashes and looting continued with King pleading for calm by way of his infamous “can we all get along” statement.

By May 4, over people were dead, thousands injured, and the city suffered $1 billion in damages. Between 11,000 and 12,000 people were arrested with many of those not connected to the riots.

The officers were indicted once more by a federal grand jury in August 1992 for violating King’s civil rights. The trials began in February 1993, ending in April of that year. In the end, Koon and Powell were both given 30 months in prison for their role in the beating. Juries failed to indict 17 other officers who stood by and watched King get beaten.

Although he sought $56 million in damages, the city awarded King just $3.8 million. In later years, King quietly moved into obscurity but resurfaced with a 2012 biography detailing his account of the events. In June of the same year, King was found dead in swimming pool.

He was 47.

Ironically, the anniversary happens as the relationship between police and Black communities across the nation remains strained. The rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and similar groups signal that there exists a wide chasm in the connection between protector and oppressor.

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5 thoughts on “Little Known Black History Fact: The 25th Anniversary Of The LA Riots

  1. stephen on said:

    was a cop in watts at the time and today brings back chilling memories of what I saw and I was a seasoned sergeant who had seen so much violence prior to the worst memory thou was no help was send to us as our command structure had collapsed and all help was sent to a command post where they stayed for 2 days .by then it was to late south los angeles had been destroyed with many deaths and injuries

  2. Chris on said:

    I vehemently condemn the beating of Rodney King. But, so many people have no idea who he was and the events that led up to his arrest and beating. D.L. Chandler is performing a disservice to everyone by not detailing the event.
    July 27, 1987: According to a complaint filed by his wife, King beat her while she was sleeping, then dragged her outside the house and beat her again. King was charged with battery and pleaded “no contest.” He was placed on probation and ordered to obtain counseling. He never got the counseling.

    On November 3, 1989, King robbed a store in Monterey Park, California. He threatened to hit the Korean store owner with an iron bar, then hit him with a pole. King stole two hundred dollars in cash during the robbery and was caught, convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment. He was released after serving one year of the sentence, on December 27, 1990.

    Early on the morning of March 3, 1991, King, with two passengers, Bryant Allen and Freddie Helms, was driving a 1987 Hyundai Excel/Mitsubishi Precis west on the Foothill Freeway (Interstate 210) in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. Prior to driving onto the Foothill Freeway, the three men had spent the night watching a basketball game and drinking at a friend’s house in Los Angeles.[9] Five hours after the incident, King’s blood-alcohol level was found to be slightly below the legal limit. This suggests that his blood alcohol level may have fallen from 0.19% while he was driving, in which case it would have been more than twice the legal driving limit in California. At 12:30 a.m., officers Tim and Melanie Singer, husband-and-wife members of the California Highway Patrol, noticed King’s car speeding on the freeway. The officers pursued King, and the pursuit reached high speeds, while King refused to pull over. King would later admit he attempted to outrun the police at dangerously high speeds because a charge of driving under the influence would violate his parole for a previous robbery conviction. King exited the freeway near the Hansen Dam Recreation Center and the pursuit continued through residential surface streets, at speeds ranging from 55 to 80 miles per hour. By this point, several police cars and a police helicopter had joined in this pursuit. After approximately 8 miles, officers cornered King in his car near the corner of Foothill Boulevard and Osborne Street. The first five LAPD officers to arrive at the scene were Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Theodore Briseno, and Rolando Solano.

    King was twice tasered by Koon. This marks the approximate start of the George Holliday videotape of the incident. In the tape, King is seen on the ground. He rises and rushes toward Powell—as argued in court, either to attack Powell or to flee—but regardless King and Powell both collided in the rush. Taser wire can be seen on King’s body. Officer Powell strikes King with his baton, and King is knocked to the ground. Powell strikes King several more times with his baton. Briseno moves in, attempting to stop Powell from striking again, and Powell stands back. Koon reportedly said, “That’s enough.” King then rises again, to his knees; Powell and Wind are then seen hitting King with their batons.

    Koon acknowledged ordering the continued use of batons, directing Powell and Wind to strike King with “power strokes.” According to Koon, Powell and Wind used “bursts of power strokes, then backed off.” In the videotape, King continues to try to stand again. Koon orders the officers to “hit his joints, hit the wrists, hit his elbows, hit his knees, hit his ankles.” Officers Wind, Briseno, and Powell attempted numerous baton strikes on King resulting in some misses but with 33 blows hitting King, plus six kicks. The officers again “swarm” King but this time a total of eight officers are involved in the swarm. King is then placed in handcuffs and cordcuffs, restraining his arms and legs. King is dragged on his abdomen to the side of the road to await the arrival of emergency medical rescue.

    George Holliday’s videotape of the incident was shot from his apartment near the intersection of Foothill Blvd and Osborne St. in Lake View Terrace. Two days later Holliday contacted the police about his videotape of the incident, but they ignored him. He then went to KTLA television with his videotape, although the station edited out ten seconds of the video, before the image was in focus, that showed an extremely blurry shot of King charging at the officers; the cut footage would later be cited by members of the jury as essential to the acquittal of the officers. The footage as a whole became an instant media sensation. Portions of it were aired numerous times, and it “turned what would otherwise have been a violent, but soon forgotten, encounter between the Los Angeles police and an uncooperative suspect into one of the most widely watched and discussed incidents of its kind.

    • CalmItDownABit on said:

      I don’t think anyone is saying in this post that Rodney King is an angel. In fact, there’s no praise of him at all. The facts are the facts. He was beaten by police 25 years ago and that started the riot so why bring up King’s criminal past or the facts leading up to it? The post isn’t solely about King. It’s about the riots. Stop conflating issues and focus on what’s in front of you.

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