Thursday, April 30, 2015

From Rodney King to Freddie Gray

From Jonathan Capehart, at WaPo, "Two riots, 23 years apart: From Rodney King to Freddie Gray":

On this day, 23 years — April 29, 1992 — the City of Angels erupted in what would be six days of rioting after four police officers were acquitted of charges of assault and excessive force against Rodney King.

In March 1991, King was in a car with two other men on a Los Angeles freeway when they were stopped by police. But they then led the cops on a high-speed chase that ended with King being viciously beaten by five white police officers. What made the attack a national story was that it was captured on videotape. For the first time, we saw with our own eyes what African Americans had been protesting for decades: excessive force by police.

And still, those officers were set free, which proved too much for the community to take. Fifty-three people died and as many as 2,000 people were injured during the Rodney King Riots, including Reginald Denny whose vicious bearing after being pulled from his truck was caught on camera. There was an estimated $1 billion in property damage. Thank God that was not the fate of Baltimore on Monday. But there is a straight line that connects Los Angeles 1992 to Baltimore 2015.

The sense of oppression and injustice at the hands of police that sparked the Rodney King riots are at the root of the Freddie Gray riot. Gray died on April 19, one week after suffering a nearly severed spine while in police custody. How it happened remains unexplained. An investigation is underway, but the excesses of the Baltimore Police Department are well-known. That’s why Gray’s mysterious death was a spark that ignited kindling that had piled up for years. Nothing excuses the violence that happened in Baltimore, but knowing this history certainly explains the anger that fueled the riot and the peaceful protests that preceded it...
Whatever pervasive injustice blacks face in America (real or imagined), it never justifies the kind of anarchy and evil wanton violence that inevitably accompanies the rioting. Just ask Reginald Denny.