Rodney King: We still hear the echoes 20 years on

Has it really been 20 years since Rodney King was almost beaten to death by LAPD officers after a 100mph car chase?

Still on parole for a robbery case, he’d had a few beers to drink, so when he saw a police checkpoint in place to carry out standard highway patrol checks, King drove at high speed to evade them, knowing that he wasn’t supposed to have had the alcohol.

He knew he couldn’t outrun them so he pulled up outside some apartments where the officers, instead of cuffing and cautioning, set about him for around 90 seconds of constant pummelling with nightsticks and tazers.

King’s beating was videotaped by George Holliday from his apartment across the street from the incident and although submitted as evidence in court the tape was not made public until after the case.

He was worked on by surgeons for five hours as they attempted to save his life, such was the severity of his injuries.

That event was a squib which set of a series off explosions that brought LA to its knees in April 1992 as black citizens ran riot through the streets in a violent rampage that lasted six days, killing 55 people, injuring thousands and running property damage to over $1 billion.

The massive civil unrest flared up due to the four police officers in question, Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind and Theodore Briseno being acquitted on all charges after a jury ruled they had acted with their duties as police officers.

After a few days King emerged into the public arena in a bid to quell the flames engulfing LA where he implored the rioters to stop asking, “People, I just want to say, can we all get along?” he said. “Can we get along?”

[adsense]We live in an age where just about everything is caught on camera by someone with some gadget or other, but in 1992 it was still a novelty to own video equipment, and Holliday’s recording of King’s brutal beating became the catalyst for racial improvements in a country severely lacking equality at that time.

Bill Hicks frequently commentated on the riots and the event that led to them, highlighting the irony of one officer having the name ‘Koon’ and how the defence for the officers came to their conclusion: “It’s how you look at it, okay? For instance, well, if you play it backwards you see us help King up and send him on his way!”

Since then racial relations in the US have improved dramatically and although King looks back on a nightmare he also sees the good that’s come of his misfortune.

See the video footage here with commentary by Bill Hicks:

Please share your thoughts on Rodney King, the LA riots of ’92 or police brutality by leaving a comment.

Read more about Bill Hicks, his view on pop stars, the JFK assassination and Glenda Cleveland who tried to warn the police about Jeffrey Dahmer.

images: guardian.co.uk; dailyraider.com

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