This day in history — April 30, 1992 — Los Angeles Police Officers Acquitted in Rodney King Beating, Sparking Riots

In March 1991, Los Angeles, California, police officers stopped Rodney King for driving under the influence and evading arrest and severely beat him with batons, causing broken bones and other significant injuries. A bystander recorded the violent assault on video and public outcry in response to the graphic video led many to demand that the officers face criminal charges. Mr. King, a black man, soon became a polarizing symbol of racialized police brutality.

LAPD Sergeant Stacey Koon and officers Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, and Theodore Briseno were charged with excessive force and, after a change of venue, were tried in Ventura County. On April 29, 1992, more than a year after the beating, a jury of ten whites, one Latino, and one Asian acquitted Sergeant Koon, Officer Wind, and Officer Briseno, but deadlocked on a charge against Officer Powell. Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley expressed disbelief at the verdict and forcefully declared the officers “did not deserve to wear the uniform of the LAPD.” Thirty minutes after the acquittals, a crowd of 300 began protesting at the Los Angeles County Courthouse. Additional protests at the police department and other locations escalated to looting, vandalism, and violent assaults, including mob beatings of passing motorists.

On April 30, 1992, widespread fires and heavy looting continued throughout Los Angeles. In the absence of police, armed Korean American storekeepers engaged in shootouts with looters. Police and the state national guard organized a response by the afternoon, and Mayor Bradley imposed a city-wide dusk-to-dawn curfew. Several more days of riots lay ahead.

From the Equal Justice Initiative’s A History of Racial Injustice – 2018 Calendar.

“The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) is proud to present A History of Racial Injustice – 2018 Calendar.  America’s history of racial inequality continues to undermine fair treatment, equal justice, and opportunity for many Americans.  The genocide of Native people, the legacy of slavery and racial terror, and the legally supported abuse of racial minorities are not well understood.  EJI believes that a deeper engagement with our nation’s history of racial injustice is important to addressing present-day questions of social justice and equality.


About William Eric Waters, aka Easy Waters

Award-winning poet, playwright and writer. Author of three books of poetry, "Black Shadows and Through the White Looking Glass: Remembrance of Things Past and Present"; "Sometimes Blue Knights Wear Black Hats"; "The Black Feminine Mystique," and a novel, "Streets of Rage." All four books are available on
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