Thirty years ago, on May 1st, Rodney Glen King called a press conference and called for calm. On March 3, 1991, he was the victim of police brutality. It had been recorded by a neighbor in a nearby apartment— before the recording of unarmed African American people during traffic stops was a thing. I was eleven years old at the time and had never seen anything like it. Now, it happens all too frequently.
We say their names religiously.
Early on a Sunday morning, he and his friends Bryant Allen and Freddie Helms led the police on a high-speed chase, reaching 117 mph, from Interstate 210 in the San Fernando Valley to residential streets. Once the men were cornered by police, Allen and Helms exited the vehicle, but both claim that they were still manhandled and hit. King did not exit the car initially.
Though the officers would later claim King was on drugs, a toxicology report came back negative. He was intoxicated. A drunk driving charge would have violated his parole. But a violation of his rights and personhood were soon to follow.
Officer Melanie Singer drew her weapon. She later claimed King had a weapon. Later, King was found to be unarmed.
Ordered to the ground, King was tased by Officer Koon. The officers had holstered their weapons but drew their batons. Officers Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Theodore Briseno and Rolando Solano were ordered to subdue King, which ultimately resulted in 33 strikes and seven kicks. The officers claimed that he resisted arrest, but witnesses said that King complied. King also testified under oath that he responded affirmatively to the officers’ commands.
Still, King suffered a fractured skull, broken bones, and shattered teeth. It is referred to as the “Rodney King beating” for a reason. Afterwards, King is restrained with handcuffs and cord cuffs for his arms and legs. He is then dragged on his abdomen to the side of the street until emergency personnel arrive.
After the video, the trial and witness testimonies for the prosecution and the defense, the officers are found not guilty. Caught on camera and in the act, the Simi Valley jury refused to prosecute. Within matter of hours, the L.A. riots began. There was looting and instances of arson and assault, which left 63 people dead and neighborhoods destroyed.
Thirty years ago, King asked at that press conference, “Can we get along? Can we stop making it horrible for the older people and the kids?”
And there’s even more video camera footage to prove it.