June 19th, 2012 11:56 EST
Rodney King's Legacy: Can We All Get Along?
"On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks refused to obey bus driver James F. Blake`s order that she give up her seat to make room for a white passenger."
Rosa Parks, who was a secretary for the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP, was selected and groomed for her pivotal role in the Civil Rights movement.
On March 3, 1991, in Los Angeles, California Rodney King, a convict on parole, was involved in a high speed chase that culminated in his notorious and savage beating by members of the Los Angeles Police Department.
If there had been film footage of the Rosa Parks incident, the demure and dignified Parks would have made a sympathetic figure.
Footage of the Rodney King beating, captured by a bystander, was replayed ad nauseam by the three major networks of that era. The grainy video showing a handful of cops mercilessly beating a helpless Rodney, while many other officers stood by, as if they were watching an incident that was neither uncommon or disturbing.
The beating was so barbaric, that everyone assumed that the video would be incontrovertible evidence that the officers were guilty of police brutality.
"Four police officers from the Los Angeles Police Department who took part in the incident were later tried in the Los Angeles County Superior Court for the beating; the case was given a change of venue to Simi Valley, in nearby Ventura County. Three of the police officers were acquitted, and the jury failed to reach a verdict in regards to the fourth police officer."
The Rodney King verdict confirmed the belief in the African American community that the LA police department was a hopelessly racist and corrupt organization. The absurd verdict sparked the 1992 riots that lasted for days and claimed over 50 fatalities.
In the midst of the deadly riots Rodney King came out of seclusion and in his halting speech pleaded: Can we all just get along? The violence continued unabated, but not even Martin Luther King himself could have soothed the passions of the rioters.
Nevertheless, Rodney King will be forever cherished and remembered for speaking words of peace in the midst of an inferno. King who was lucky to have survived his beating by the cops, didn`t have vengeance but healing and forgiveness in his mind and soul.
"After the riots, the United States Department of Justice reinstated the investigation and obtained an indictment of violations of federal civil rights against the four officers in the United States District Court for the Central District of California. The federal trial focused more on the evidence as to the training of officers instead of just relying on the videotape of the incident. On March 9 of the 1993 trial, King took the witness stand and described to the jury the events as he remembered them.. The jury found Officer Laurence Powell and Sergeant Stacey Koon guilty, and they were subsequently sentenced to 32 months in prison, while Timothy Wind and Theodore BriseÃ±o were acquitted of all charges."
Rodney King received a 3.8 million settlement from the city of Los Angeles, but even though he could now afford to live like a gentleman and a scholar, he still acted like a penniless criminal. King had numerous run-ins with the cops before and after his brutal beating. Police investigating King`s death by drowning discovered marijuana in his home, he was a lawbreaker to the end.
Let me digress by pointing out that I believe marijuana should be legalized, nevertheless it`s illegal now, and we should obey the law.
Rodney King was no Rosa Parks, he was an accidental symbol in the long march towards equality for blacks. But it`s not Rodney King the petty criminal that we should remember, it`s the Rodney King, who with his voice chocking with emotion, pleaded with his brothers and sisters: Can we all just get along?
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Photo Credit: Wikipedia