Wednesday, August 6, 2014

April 29th, 1992

So as I was out of town today, I found myself listening to 2Chainz' Riot, and everybody should know that song. It was the version in which DJ Drama spoke at the beginning and he mentioned a very important (believe it or not) date in African-American & American history.

"...feel like LA, April 29th, ' don't know? Look it up!"

Yes and of course you could look up April 29th, 1992 but here, I'll tell you about it.

Read: The 80's Drug Epidemic

America has a long, dark history of violence between races; this is the truth without a doubt. America also has a long history of injustice, especially racial injustice and it continues today. Many of today's issues have been shaped by America's racial history. Race riots are also not new to America. Well. . .

Anyway, on to the story. . .

The Background

On the night of March 3, 1991, you and two friends are at another friend's house in Los Angeles, California, enjoying a basketball game while having a few drinks. Everything is cool, game is going well, the smell of brotherhood and basketball is in the air. Let's say you, you are the protagonist by the name of Rodney King and the two friends who tagged along were Bryant Allen and Freddie Helms. You, Rodney King and friends have just left the other friend's house and begin driving down the freeway, speeding under the influence.

All of a sudden, the police are behind you and soon ensues a high-speed chase down the freeway. King refused to pull over; he had already served prison time for a robbery that occurred just two years prior. An arrest would violate his probation. As the pursuit continues, more police cars along with a helicopter get involved, chasing King and friends from the freeway through residential streets. Soon King was cornered in and five officers arrive to the scene. Their names were Stacey KoonLaurence PowellTimothy Wind, Theodore Briseno, and Rolando Solano.

King's friends were taken into custody without any issue, any incident.

But you, you

So what does King do? He resists arrest, and of course officers had to subdue him with force.

It turned out to be excessive force.

This turned out to be one of the more violent uses of police brutality since the Civil Rights era.

Caught on the camera of witness George Holliday was King being beaten helplessly by officers with no remorse. Beating a man to a pulp with a family of three daughters as if he had just committed the most heinous crime known to mankind.

King was struck with a Taser twice, then beaten with batons from the officers multiple times. Imagine that you're drunk, struck with a Taser and then severely beaten with batons until officer Stacey Koon ordered the others to stop, citing that he had enough. King rose to his feet and was beaten again, nearly killing him. The beating went on for 89 seconds and later Holliday turned the tape over to popular local TV station KTLA who then gave it to national news program, CNN.

Rodney King was later taken to the hospital after his arrest where doctors said he suffered broken bones and other lacerations. He was later released with no charges filed against him for driving under the influence, evading police and resisting arrest.

So then what?

In a California courtroom, on April 29th, 1992 sat the police who brutally beat Rodney King just a year earlier. In front of a mostly white jury but featuring an African-American lead prosecutor the policemen told their story.

The outcome? Acquittal. The judge claims that race played no factor in the decision, but the facts were clear, the video did not lie, Rodney was clearing getting the shorter end of the stick though he evaded crimes of his own. That still didn't justify the acquittal of the men who excessively beat him as if he were nothing, beating him just because they thought they could. Imagine if Holliday, the witness hadn't been there. The policemen would've gotten away, probably laughing, while King lay there helpless with multiple injuries.

What happened next was simple, all hell broke loose on the streets of Los Angeles.

The acquittals touched off rioting and looting in Los Angeles that grew into the most destructive U.S. civil disturbance of the 20th century. The riot claimed over 50 lives with over 2,000 more injured and over 11,000 residents arrested. Streets were blocked by rioters who proceeded in beating innocent people out of spite, out of frustration. The people who were rioting were said to be mostly African-American, who were probably acting the way the police did when they nearly killed one of their own. If I had to predict, I would say the riots were between races, but no race, and no one period was safe. Twenty-four hours of rioting, twenty-four hours of destruction, twenty-four hours of hatred towards innocent people who had nothing to do with the decision in the case for Rodney King's justice.

The rioting didn't cease until President George H.W. Bush sent in troops and riot-trained officers to wipe the streets of looters and others who had no intentions of stopping their atrocities.

Property damage was high (over 1 billion in damage, 4,000 buildings damaged), and tensions remained at-large. The Los Angeles Riots of 1992 due to the beating of Rodney King and the acquittal of the officers involved caused many political changes in the city, but like I said, police brutality has not ceased to this day. The Los Angeles riots serve as an example of what can happen when one is treated unfairly in the court of law.

Luckily, a riot as huge as ones in LA has not been duplicated.

Let's hope it stays that way.