The 25th anniversary of the 1992 L.A. riots just passed. The riots began after four White police officers were acquitted for beating Black motorist Rodney King. The incident was videotaped, and once it made the national news the recording became the Zapruder film of Black America.
Zapruder’s film recorded JFK’s assassination, the crime of the century, but the Rodney King recording captured, once and for all, the treatment Black Americans have endured from law enforcement for an entire century. It was a blow-by-blow demonstration of police brutality. Even LAPD’s police chief said, “I stared at the screen in disbelief …I see them beat a man with their batons 56 times, to see a sergeant on the scene who did nothing to seize control, was something I never dreamed I would witness.”
Black America was outraged by the beating, but the recording gave America an opportunity to recognize a problem that couldn’t be legislated away with civil and voting rights acts. There was hope invested in the Rodney King footage, because, in the ‘60s, the footage of high-pressure fire hoses and police dogs attacking civil rights demonstrators forced America to confront the tyranny its southern states inflicted on Black Americans.
Black America felt the Rodney King footage confirmed America’s “policing problem” and the conviction of the officers would serve as a deterrent and begin the overdue process of reform.
But the jury didn’t convict.
Black America felt betrayed, the opportunity was lost, the police officers in the Rodney King recording escaped like the conspirators in the Zupruder film, and during the rioting a White truck driver named Reginald Denny was pulled from his vehicle by Blacks and beaten nearly to death, an image that counteracted the Rodney King footage, and provided the necessary confirmation bias for Whites that made excuses for the police officers.
All of this could have been prevented by the jury.
Every other aspect of the system succeeded. The officers were charged and brought to trial. It was the jury that failed the system and altered race relations for that decade.
Now, Loyola Marymount University has surveyed L.A. residents every five years since the failure of the Rodney King jury. The researchers inquired about the likelihood of another civil disturbance, and their latest poll indicates a 10 point increase from 2012. That’s higher than in any year except 1997, the first year the survey was conducted, but I doubt if that fear of new riots is confined to just L.A.
That same fear exists in every major city.
The researchers theorized that the increase is linked to a polarized nation concerning race, the tension over the presidential election, the Baltimore riots, and the police shootings in Ferguson and elsewhere.
These explanations just touch the surface. The new fear of rioting comes from an ideology that had no influence in 1992.
In 1992 the riots occurred after the verdict. The system operated accordingly. The violence erupted because the outcome wasn’t accepted. The recent riots occurred immediately following the incidents, before any legal proceedings began, because the new rioters are driven by an anti-capitalist ideology and they use police shootings to camouflage their mission, which is to destroy business districts in as many cities as possible because they represent the free market system that exploits them.
This theory explains why the recent riots occurred before the legal system played out, and why after an acquittal, which was the reason for the 1992 riots, these new rioters were silent. The five year Loyola Marymount poll shows an increased fear of riots, but it’s really a new fear of the people that will lead them.
When asked why he thought the revolutionary writer Thomas Paine was dangerous, the second President of the United States said, “He’s a man that will tear down the house, but he lacks the skills to rebuild it.”
(J. Pharoah Doss is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier. He blogs at email@example.com)
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