1991 – Rodney King is beaten by five members of the LAPD

Even for the LAPD, an organisation that has rarely covered itself in glory, the beating of Rodney King was a notable low.

The incident began when King, somewhat drunk and driving at illegally high speed, panicked when the police began to chase him, leading to a pursuit across Los Angeles. (King later testified that he had run because a conviction of driving under the influence would violate the terms of his parole.) When he was finally caught, the first five officers on the scene were Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Theodore Briseno, and Rolando Solano.

What happened next was captured on film by George Holliday, a local resident. (See it here.) King was tasered twice, and beaten with batons by Officers Wind, Briseno, and Powell, who hit him a total of 33 times, and kicked him 6 times too. King was hospitalized and later successfully sued the LAPD. The video went viral, becoming one of the most iconic images of the early Nineties. The Los Angeles district attorney charged officers Koon, Powell, Briseno and Wind with use of excessive force, but they were acquitted at their trial, leading to a week of rioting in LA and elsewhere.

If you ever go to Los Angeles, don’t let the LAPD treat you like king.

Referenced in:
Mrs. Officer — Lil Wayne
Like a King — Ben Harper
Shock to the System — Billy Idol

1965 – Hurricane Betsy hits New Orleans

Hurricane Betsy was the most destructive hurricane of its day, the first in history to cause more than a billion dollars of property damage in the Atlantic region. It developed on August 27 the east of the Windward Isles, and finally dissipated on September 12, four days after making landfall in New Orleans.

The storm made landfall in the Bahamas, narrowly missed the southern tip of Florida, and hit New Orleans on September 9. Much like Katrina, forty years later, the storm destroyed many houses in the poorer more low lying regions, and breached the levees, leading to extensive flooding. A total of 76 people were confirmed killed in Hurricane Betsy, although the full toll may be higher.

Referenced in:

Hurricane Betsy — Lightnin’ Hopkins
Georgia… Bush — DJ Drama & Lil’ Wayne