20 Years After The Rodney King Verdict: What Has Changed?

It's more than 20 years since a recording of police violence sparked riots in Los Angeles. The beating of Rodney King was caught on video and the footage shocked the world. But two decades later how much has changed? To discuss this,

It's more than 20 years since a recording of police violence sparked riots in Los Angeles. The beating of Rodney King was caught on video and the footage shocked the world.

But two decades later how much has changed?

To discuss this, Inside Story Americas, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, is joined by guests: Jumana Musa, a human rights lawyer who is deputy director of the Rights Working Group; Gustavo Arellano, the editor of the OC Weekly, a newspaper that has been covering the shootings; and Raymond Lewis, a retired Philadelphia police captain who was arrested by New York police while taking part in the Occupy Wall Street protests last year.

On Saturday, police in the Californian city of Anaheim shot and killed Manuel Diaz, an unarmed man who they said was running from them, hitting him in the leg and the back of the head.

Police said he and another young man shot dead the following day were both gang members. But local residents say the Latino men were victims of racial profiling and an overly aggressive police force.

"We obtained video showing that in the immediate aftermath of Diaz's shooting, he was there lying on the ground twitching. The police department did nothing for three minutes, instead they were more interested in trying to shoo away onlookers ... blocking people from documenting what was going on .... Unfortunately shootings are going to happen but when you're so cavalier about them, people are going to get upset."

- Gustavo Arellano, the editor of the OC Weekly

A word of caution on the Anaheim video above, it's quite disturbing. The police officer who is in the fenced area with Diaz's body the entire length of the video goes to the front of the fence, on the left of the screen in the beginning, and vomits over the fence as others begin to block the onlookers. I don't see anyone attempt to check to see if Manuel Diaz still has a pulse. Certainly his head wound must have been quite serious, but you still check for signs of life and don't just leave an injured person lying face down like that. I see a total disregard for human life throughout the video.

Inside Story Americas continues:

The community reacted furiously and on Tuesday night, when protesters attempted to attend a city council meeting, they were barred from entering city hall by police who said the meeting room was full.

The protesters reacted by throwing rocks and bottles at the police and setting fire to bins. Hundreds of police in riot gear responded by firing non-lethal rounds at the crowd. At least six people were injured and police made two dozen arrests.

The clashes between protesters and police have now gone on for several days and nights. In one incident, police fired rubber bullets at near point blank range and police dogs attacked protesters. Mobile phone footage of the incident went viral, attracting nationwide attention.

Anaheim's mayor says federal officials have agreed to investigate the shootings. But the city, where there have been six fatal police shootings this year, is now being compared to a powder keg.

So is policing in the US becoming increasingly militarised?

Thoughts on this, anyone?

Related: Trayvon Martin: The myth of US post-racialism

About Diane Sweet

Diane Sweet's picture
Senior Editor, Lives in a gerrymandered district in Michigan.

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