The protesting and racial tension in Ferguson, Missouri has reminded me of the historic event in 1991 when, after Rodney King was beaten and kicked by Los Angeles police officers, the officers were aquitted and massive rioting ravaged L.A.
King was moved to say, “People, can we all get along? Can we get along?”
On March 3, 1991, paroled felon Rodney King led police on a high-speed chase through the streets of Los Angeles County before eventually surrendering. Intoxicated and uncooperative, King resisted arrest and was brutally beaten by police officers Laurence Powell, Theodore Briseno, and Timothy Wind. The officers were indicted on charges of assault with a deadly weapon and use of unnecessary force.
Within hours of the announcement of aquittal, all hell broke out in Los Angeles. The chaos was called the L.A. Riots, which started at the intersection of Florence and Normandie in South Central Los Angeles. Stores and businesses were wrecked and looted. Reginald Denny, a white truck driver, was pulled from his truck and beaten; scores of fires were set. California Gov. Pete Wilson declared a state of emergency and called in National Guard troops.
I have lived in L.A.’s back yard most of my life. The television coverage of the riots was sickening. People lost their minds over what they considered injustice. All of us living in the surrounding cities stayed away in fear.
No doubt the residents of Ferguson, Missouri are sickened by the shooting death of Michael Brown and its aftermath. Racial tension is likely to burst again, depending on the grand jury’s decision today.
And while officials are calling for peace in Ferguson, the police are gearing up for destruction.
Here’s one report. h/t: Think Progress
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said that he will call the Missouri National Guard, should violence erupt after the grand jury decision in the case of Darren Wilson. During a press conference on Tuesday, Nixon also said that more than 1000 law enforcement officials have completed 5,000 hours of specialized training over the past two months, in preparation for the verdict, which will be announced any day now.
In addition to the use of the National Guard, three police agencies including St. Louis County Police, city police, and highway patrol will follow the same command, if Darren Wilson is not indicted and protesters take to the streets. Many departments have invested in new riot gear.
Nixon also said that law enforcement officials have been in talks with “churches, schools, [and] businesses” to “listen to people’s concerns and develop strategies to specifically address them.”
“These measures are not being taken because we believe violence will occur but because we have a responsibility to plan for any contingency,” Nixon said during a press conference on Tuesday. “Violence will not be tolerated. Residents and businesses of this region will be protected.”
He also explained that he wants to maintain public safety while allowing people to speak peacefully.
But members of the community are interpreting a different message. According to Michael Brown’s cousin, Ty Pruitt, “The police are getting ready for war when they should be getting ready for a trial. That to me means they’ve already made their decision. We still feel terrible. Right now we feel about the same way we felt when [Brown] was lying dead in the middle of the street for four and a half hours.”
Activist Ashley Yates of Millennial Activists United also expressed concerns with Nixon and his plan. “Until the governor chooses to truly address the systemic issues that the murder of Michael Brown brought to the surface for many Americans, no press release or commission board will truly help this community move forward from this tragedy.”
Meanwhile, Brown’s parents, Michael Brown Sr. and Lesley McSpadden, spoke before the U.N. Committee Against Torture on Tuesday, calling for global intervention in America’s policing tactics. The couple asked a panel to recommend that “racial profiling and racially-biased police harassment across the jurisdictions surrounding Ferguson” stops, and for the Department of Justice to “conduct a nationwide investigation of systematic police brutality and harassment in black and brown communities, and youth in particular,” adding that the “methodology and findings of this investigation must be made publicly available.”
Continue reading: http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2014/11/12/3591240/ferguson-grand-jury-ruling-prep/
Just before being beaten by police, Rodney King was drunk and high when he lead police on a high speed chase to avoid arrest for driving while intoxicated. It was imperative to him that he avoid the DUI charge because he was on parole at the time, after serving one year in prison for robbery.
In 2012, at the age of 47, Rodney King died in his home swimming pool. His drowning was caused by his being incapacitated due to a mix of alcohol, cocaine, marijuana and PCP use.