Rodney King

On March 3, 1991, Los Angeles police officers severely beat and then arrested Glen "Rodney" King after pulling him over for a traffic violation in a residential area of Los Angeles. King, an African American man, was intoxicated at the time and had disobeyed police orders when ordered to stay on the ground. Even after receiving two shocks with a taser, King continued to stand up, which led police to beat him with batons for nearly two minutes. An amateur cameraman caught the beating on tape and sent it to CNN. News stations across the United States played the video repeatedly.

Police involved in the apprehension of Rodney King argue that they sought to incapacitate King without the danger of using firearms. During the incident, King repeatedly attempted to stand up, rather than submitting to the police officers. Officers who testified in court argued that they believed King was under the unfluence of pain-numbing and strength enhancing drugs such as PCP, and that they feared he would overtake them.

As awareness of the event spread, many people argued that the incident was racially motivated and called for an indictment of the officers involved. On March 15, the officers were indicted on charges of assault and filing false police reports. Their trial one month later in the
predominantly white suburban county of Simi Valley led to the acquittal of three officers and disagreement concerning the fourth. Following news of the acquittals, massive rioting in Los Angeles left 55 people dead, 2,383 injured, and 8000 more arrested. Rioters, largely from the African American community, destroyed over $1 billion of property mainly in the Korean American community.

The Rodney King assault caused a significant uproar regarding race relations in the United States. Groups decrying
police misconduct called for reform of the police system, while others called for a retrial of the Rodney King case and the purging of racism from the Los Angeles Police Department. Other observers criticized African American rioters for racism towards the Korean American community during the Los Angeles riots and called for further efforts towards racial justice and reconciliation.

"Rodney King Beating." Issues: Understanding Controversy and Society. 2009. ABC-CLIO. 19 Apr. 2009 <>.