Rodney King is probably still most associated with the race-based riots that broke out across Los Angeles in late April of 1992, after officers filmed beating him on a surveillance tape (widely played across the US and internationally) were acquitted.
The trial of the officers accused of assaulting Rodney King was also a major media event, before anyone even knew the outcome of the trial would involve the deadly riots. But the resultant riots- stretching on for several days, causing a billion dollars in damage and spreading in smaller scope to cities including San Francisco, Vegas and Atlanta- are certainly what most Americans associate most closely with Rodney King’s name.
It seems a bit strangely coincidental that just on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the race riots that broke out after the acquittal of the officers in the Rodney King case, America was again embroiled in racial disquiet- and it was posited a few times that during the Trayvon Martin case, people believed “race riots” would once again break out should shooter George Zimmerman not be held accountable for the murder of Martin.
At the time, King himself spoke out on the Trayvon Martin case, urging folks to trust in the same justice system he’d had to wait on for justice just 20 years ago. And while many Americans still associate the case with the understandable bitterness that flowed out of black communities, King has mellowed in recent years as well.
In an interview with the AP to mark the 20 year anniversary of the riots, Rodney King reflected upon where he is now versus twenty years ago. He says:
“America’s been good to me after I paid the price and stayed alive through it all… This part of my life is the easy part now.”