Flashback to 1992: Racism at its core, a plague of centuries.
On April 29 1992, a trial jury acquitted four officers of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) for usage of excessive force in the arrest and beating of Rodney King, an African American man. The brutal act had been caught on videotape and was broadcasted nationally, sparking outrage throughout the country. King's injuries resulted in skull fractures, broken bones and teeth, and permanent brain damage (Adams, 2016). Within LA itself, riots and civil disturbances broke out, in what would later be called the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.
Over a six-day period following the verdict, citizens of the LA metropolitan district rallied together to protest police brutality and racism. Fury erupted in the streets of the city, stoked by years of racial and economic inequality. "When the verdict came out, it was a stunner for people coast to coast. My jaw dropped," says Jody David Armour, a criminal justice and law professor at the University of Southern California (Sastry & Bates, 2017). Widespread looting, assault, arson, and murder occurred during the riots, which required intervention by the US military simply due to the sheer number of rioters. By the end of the riots, 63 people had been killed, more than 12,000 had been arrested, and over $1 billion were recorded in property damage (LA Times Staff, 2012).
Does any of this sound familiar?
We are currently witnessing a literal repetition of what happened nearly 30 years ago, with the death of George Floyd. National outrage has risen, with the same problems and inequalities reinforcing the protest. Only this time, they’re everywhere. Cities such as Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and New York City have seen protests rampage through the streets (VOA, 2020).
Clips of violence-marred protests can be seen broadcasted by news anchors, demonstrating the rage of the people. However, what people don’t see are the countless peaceful acts, too. Videos of police force marching with protesters, protecting the citizens, and listening to the cries of fury are undermined by the clips of tear gas and rubber bullets.
Men and women serving in the police force are the same as those marching in the streets, indignant of the heinous acts committed under protection of an oppressive system. There are clips of police hugging, crying, and consoling protesters, because they feel that pain too. The actions of some misguided officers should not undermine the fact that the overwhelming majority of police stand with the public.
The words of the people have not gone unheard either. On May 29, former officer Derek Chauvin was arrested for the death of George Floyd. Charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, he faces up to 35 years in prison (Mervosh & Bogel-Burroughs, 2020). Protests have been broadcasted nationally, with petitions and organizations gaining massive support from people throughout the nation. Awareness of issues that have plagued the nation are finally coming to light.
“I can’t breathe.”
Words spoken by George Floyd as he was choked to death on the streets of Minneapolis.
These words represent the voice of millions. Those who are subject to racial and economic discussion, to police brutality and unnecessary arrest, and to having their voice unrepresented and unheard. Eric Garner, Micheal Brown, Trayvon Martin, and countless other deaths have been associated with this same problem of injustice and inequality. It is now up to us to uphold the legacy of these victims, to understand how unjust this system is, and to make a difference in society. Sign petitions, raise awareness on social media, and continue to spread what needs to be heard to everyone. Let the voices of victims of these disgraceful acts be heard, once and for all.
Adams, E. (March 3, 2016) "March 3, 1991: Rodney King beating caught on video." CBS News, www.cbsnews.com/news/march-3rd-1991-rodney-king-lapd-beating-caught-on-video/. Accessed 2 Jun 2020.
Sastry, A. & Bates, K. (April 26, 2017.) “When LA Erupted In Anger: A Look Back At The Rodney King Riots.” https://www.npr.org/2017/04/26/524744989/when-la-erupted-in-anger-a-look-back-at-the-rodney-king-riots Accessed 2 Jun 2020
LA Times Staff (April 25, 2012.) “Deaths during the La Riots” https://spreadsheets.latimes.com/la-riots-deaths/ Accessed 2 Jun 2020.
VOA (May 31, 2020.) “National Guard Called Up In 11 States to Handle Protests.”
https://www.voanews.com/usa/national-guard-called-11-states-handle-protests Accessed 2 Jun 2020 .
Mervosh, S. & Bogel-Burroughs, N. “Why Derek Chauvin Was Charged With Third-Degree Murder.” (May 29, 2020.) https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/29/us/derek-chauvin-criminal-complaint.html Accessed 2 Jun 2020.