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Rodney King - Miracle Worker
The Maundy Monday Newsletter - This Week in History April 24 - May 1.
Happy Monday, friends! Thanks for spending the beginning of the last week of April with Okay History.
We jump right into commemorating the 30th anniversary of a Los Angeles jury acquitting four L.A. police officers of assault and excessive force in beating Rodney King. On April 29, 1992, riots immediately ensued, and anyone alive then has this event seared into their brains.
King was with two friends who had left a party and driving a Hyundai down the freeway when they were caught speeding by the California State Highway Patrol. Miraculously, King was able to get this car to go 117 mph. His goal was to ditch the officers because he was drunk, and it would violate his parole from an earlier robbery conviction.
Finally caught up by the L.A. police department in cars that were not Hyundai's, King was the last person to exit his vehicle. Allegedly King grabbed his ass, and cops immediately felt he was reaching for a gun. Four officers used a "swarm technique" that affectively beats one's ass and subdued King.
King was handcuffed and, according to officers, resisting arrest, which led to the cops beating, kicking, and a move that was later described as a power stroke. Somehow King managed to get up a few times, which led to the later testimony that they believed King to be on PCP.
Somehow it never crossed the cops' minds that King had gotten this car up to 117 mph. This guy wasn't on PCP; he was a miracle worker.
After the arrest, King had a broken face, right ankle, and bruises. His blood alcohol content was .075%, and the legal limit at the time was .08%. He had traces of weed in his system but no PCP.
He was a guy driving fast after a few beers from a party.
George Holliday lived in an apartment nearby and began recording the incident on his camcorder in the middle of power strokes moves. Two days later, he called the L.A. police department to tell them that he had a recording if they wanted to see it. They weren't interested, so of course, George called up the local news, and just like a 1987 Hyundai Excel going 117 mph, the video was all over the news in a flash.
The four officers were arrested and charged, and the case moved to Ventura, CA, where the jury of twelve was made up of ten white people. We presume you read the third sentence of the newsletter, so we will skip to the aftermath of the riots.
It lasted six days. 63 people died, thousands of people were injured, and over 3,000 businesses were looted and burned. On May 1, 1992, King stepped up to the camera and asked, "Can we all get along?"
King would win a civil suit from L.A. that netted him $3.8 million and a wife, Cynthia, who sat on the jury for that case. On the tenth anniversary of his beating, cops pulled him over for reckless driving, but this time the cops kept their power strokes to themselves and simply issued him a ticket.
Sadly, King was found unresponsive in his swimming pool by his wife on June 17, 2012. It was 28 years to the day his father was found dead in his bathtub in an unbelievable twist. King was 47.
Wait, what? 47? Yikes.
Okay, let's highlight what else happened this week. Here's what we got:
Ulysses S. Grant was born on April 27, 1822. The 18th president (#17 in our presidential power rankings) hails from Ohio, who Anonymous thinks will end up number #1 in our state rankings. Could it end up happening? Why don't you lobby us and find out?
Muhammad Ali refused to be inducted into the U.S. Army on April 28, 1967. Ali was immediately stripped of his heavyweight title, convicted of draft evasion, and sentenced to five years. Ali never served a minute behind bars. Legend.
3. Louisiana became the 18th state on April 30, 1812. Almost ten years earlier, The U.S. bought Louisiana for about $5 and an edible fruit basket. We haven't ranked the Pelican State yet, so maybe you could lobby us on where it should be.
We have a very specific memory of the L.A. riots in 1992. We were a month away from finishing our sophomore year of high school, and we remember distinctly arguing with a black classmate about how racism was over because we were all sitting in the same all-boys Catholic prep school.
Our friend pointed out that the riots were built-in frustrations of the black communities due to racism. Racism demonstrated itself when four white officers swarm and power stroke a troubled but buzzed black man for driving a car that has no business ever going faster than 55 mph. We didn't get it then, and we were wrong in a rare moment of our lives.
Our older brother drove a 1980-something Hyundai Excel when we received our driver's license that year. He picked us up and let us drive after we aced our driving test. The car was a standard transmission, and of course, we never got it to 5 mph, let alone 100, because we kept stalling it out.
Instead, we opted to learn how to steer with an automatic, which seems to have worked out just fine.
We got rankings coming up on Friday! Until then, have a great week!