March 3 1991, Rodney King after leading police on a car chase was stopped and then severely beaten by 4 officers. This event was video recorded by a spectator very unusual at the time. The media went crazy the video it was played worldwide. Public reaction to the video was strong, excessive force by the police seemed to be clear.
The 4 officers were charged a few days later of excessive force and faced a Grand Jury. 3 were acquitted of all charges while the 4th was charged with assault but escaped charges of excessive force. This acquittal sparked the LA riots. By the end of the riots 53 people had been killed and $1 billion lost. Rodney King himself tried to subdue the riots by asking ” Can’t we all just get along?”
After the riots a federal trial found 2 of the 4 officers were guilty of violating King’s civil rights. King successfully sued the city of LA for $3.8m but King continued to suffer from demons and addictions. He continued drinking and driving and had several run ins with the police. He died of drowning in 2012.
In many ways this story changed race relations in the US. The excessive force by the police was considered at the time less about race and more about the police. He was probably driving drunk in the first incident as well. Video has become more widely available to everyone we see excessive police force often. This has sadly dived many people into camps those supporting the police and the supporting black lives. Why can’t we answer Kings call and just “all get along”?