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

1992 – The Rodney King trial verdict results in widespread rioting in LA

It’s hard not to think that something may have gone wrong with the American justice system at times. For example, when several police officers (Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Theodore Briseno, and Rolando Solano) are caught on video beating a suspect, when those same police officers are later heard boasting about the injuries they dealt out, well, you’d expect that convicting them of the crimes that they very clearly committed would be a straightforward matter.

Unless, of course, all the cops were white while the suspect was black. Unless the jury consists of ten whites, an Asian and a Hispanic. Unless the trial is held in a jurisdiction notably more conservative than the one where these events took place. Then the complete acquittal of all four officers should be expected as a matter of course, because as we all know, justice is less important than the good name of the Los Angeles Police Department, and anyway, Rodney King must have had it coming, right?

So later that day, after the verdict is announced, these same police officers and jurors claiming to be stunned that anyone could possibly disagree with the verdict is completely believable. If you’re an idiot, that is.

The riots in Los Angeles (which lasted a week and caused 53 deaths, a thousand injuries, somewhere in the region of a billion dollars worth of property damages and kicked off sympathetic riots in other cities), while not in any way justifiable, were certainly both an understandable and a predictable response.

Referenced in:

Anger — Downset
I Wanna Riot — Rancid
Rioting — The_Rugburns
Recipe for Hate — Bad Religion
Livin’ on the Edge — Aerosmith
Don’t Pray on Me — Bad Religion
Say Goodbye — Black Eyed Peas
April 29, 1992 (Miami) — Sublime
Black Tie White Noise — David Bowie
The Day tha Niggaz Took Over — Dr. Dre
Forgotten (Lost Angels) — Lamb of God
Down Rodeo — Rage Against the Machine
We Had to Tear This Motherfucka Up — Ice Cube
Peace in L.A. — Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Stuck Between a Rock and a White Face — One Minute Silence