Rodney King: The Riots, The Movement, And What Eventually Killed Him

By Karen Harris
Activist Jasmine Cannock addresses a crowd of reporters and listeners at a memorial for Rodney King on June 19, 2012. (Neon Tommy/Wikimedia Commons)

In the early '90s, you couldn't own a mobile phone unless you also owned at least one diamond mine, and phones that could record video were a science-fiction fantasy. As a result, police brutality and wrongdoing often went undocumented and unpunished, as it was the (often viewed as uncredible) victim's word against the officer's. That's why the beating of Rodney King, which a bystander miraculously did manage to capture on video, became such an incendiary moment in history. For the first time, the national spotlight was on the use of excessive force by police, particularly when dealing with black suspects.