This Day in History: 1991-03-03

In one of the earliest instances of a widely-distributed, uninvolved bystander-captured video of extreme police brutality against an unarmed African American, author and activist Rodney King was savagely beaten by four Los Angeles police officers as he lay prone on the ground after having surrendered. The video footage sparked worldwide outrage and condemnations of the officers and the LAPD. Nonetheless, in 1992 a jury acquitted three of the four officers, and failed to reach a verdict on the fourth. Outrage over the officers’ escape from justice despite the widely-viewed video evidence and related longer-term frustrations with LAPD brutality toward the Black population, triggered 6-days of riots in Los Angeles. The federal government subsequently indicted and tried the four officers for federal civil rights violations, securing guilty verdicts and prison terms for two of the officers. In a separate civil lawsuit, a jury found the city of Los Angeles liable for the abuse and brutality inflicted on Mr. King. Learn more.