Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: King documentary provides food for thought

Many eyes and ears and minds and hearts were set on Minneapolis, Monday, March 8. Jury selection should have started for the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. He is being charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter of George Floyd.
(An aside: I recently listened to Dalia Landau’s TED talk about meeting Bashir Al-Khayri, a Palestinian man who once lived in the house that her parents bought from the state of Israel. Dalai grew up, since infancy, in the same house in which Bashir spent part of his childhood. Bashir’s family was not “allowed” to stay. Dalia explains how acknowledgement expands the heart.)
I want to acknowledge some history. Thirty years ago, March 3, 1991, Rodney Glen King had been speeding on the freeway. He had been drinking. The police chased him. The police caught up with Rodney Glen King in a Los Angeles neighborhood. Rodney Glen King was unarmed and initially kneeling on the ground after he got out of his car. There were four policemen on the scene. The police proceeded to tase him, beat him over 50 times with batons, and stomp and kick him. A man, George Holliday, who lived across the street, noticed what was going on and decided to videotape the abuse, from his apartment balcony. The graphic footage aired on television globally.
Rodney Glen King suffered broken bones, a fractured skull, damaged kidneys, and burned skin. He was left with permanent brain damage.
Over one year later, the state trial of the four police officers ended on April 29, 1992. The officers responsible were found not guilty of the crime of assault by force likely to produce great bodily injury and with a deadly weapon.
After the verdict came out to the public, riots initially broke out in South Central Los Angeles. The rioting lasted for six days and spread to other districts in Los Angeles. After three days, Rodney Glen King called on the public to stop rioting. Here are his words. (I just took notes from the documentary “LA 92,” made by National Geographic.)
“People, I just want to say, you know, can we, can we, all get along? Can we, can we get along? Can we stop making it horrible for the older people and the kids? And, I mean, we’ve got enough smog here in Los Angeles, let alone deal with these fires being set, and things. It’s just not right. It’s not right. And it’s not gonna change anything.
We’ve got to quit.
We’ve got to quit.
You know, after all, I mean, I can understand you being upset the first two hours after the verdict, but to go on, to keep going on like this and to see the security guard shot, on the ground.
It’s just not right.
It’s just not right.
Because those people will never go home to their families again. And, I mean, please, we can get along here. We all can get along. We just got to. I mean, we are all stuck here for a while, you know.
Let’s try and work it out.
Let’s try and work it out.”
The riots resulted in 58 deaths; 2,383 injured; 11,000 arrests; and damages exceeding $1 billion.
A federal trial happened in 1993. Six weeks of testimony and argument happened. The jury spent seven days weighing the evidence. On April 18, 1993, two officers were convicted of violating Rodney Glen King’s civil rights. The judge decided to give the officers a sentence of 2.5 years in prison.
After I viewed the documentary “LA 92,” I was moved by the pain, anger, sadness, violence and frustration exhibited in the film. This history is not new. If we, as a culture, understood what it is like to stand in the other’s shoes, then I think our behavior would change. We must learn to know what it means to have community and take care of each other in our community, the best we can. We must NOT derive our place in society, by having the ability to put down someone else. That is called a caste system. Isabel Wilkerson wrote a book entitled “Caste, The Origins of Our Discontent.” Consider reading it and learning.
Patricia Heather-Lea
Bristol

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