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Protest, Police, and the Military: The Marines and Army Infantry

Protest, Police, and the Military: The Marines and Army Infantry

Rodney King, the Los Angeles motorist whose beating by police was captured on videotape, in Beverly Hills, on May 1, 1992 during a press conference. (Robert Sullivan/AFP via Getty Images) 

By Wednesday, 08 July 2020 04:43 PM Current | Bio | Archive

The following article is the fourth of six parts.

In 1991, I was living in Los Angeles near the intersection of Olympic and Beverly Glen, when 14 LAPD officers were videotaped savagely beating Rodney King. There was no Facebook Live. There were no bodycams and no dashcams at the time; the witness just sent his tape to local news station KTLA (after LAPD refused to look at it). From there it was circulated to the news media globally. The Rodney King beating "went viral," 1990s-style.

Despite widespread anger about the savage beating, there was no rioting.

Four of the fourteen officers were charged with use of excessive force. However, due to obvious inflamed local sentiment, the trial had to be moved to another venue, in this case, Simi Valley, an all-white area. When the four cops were acquitted, months of racial tension exploded into the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. Those lasted six days.

For many years, the LAPD had notoriously poor relations with L.A.’s Black community, and when South Central erupted, police on the scene were outnumbered and quickly retreated. For most of the first day, it seemed as if they were taking a hands-off policy, letting South Central L.A. just burn. Noticeably, they abandoned Korean-Americans, who were targeted by rioters over other grievances. The National Guard was quickly called in, but were insufficient, given the extent of the disturbances.

At this point, Governor Pete Wilson asked the first President Bush to send in active-duty troops to quell the unrest, and this time, the Insurrection Act was invoked.

The First Light Armored Reconnaisance Battallion Marines from Camp Pendleton and the 7th Infantry from the U.S. Army were called up.

Vast areas of Los Angeles were destroyed, and you could see smoke rising from the fires most of the six days. The riot spread North and West and on the last day, had reached the intersection of Pico and Fairfax, about a mile away from me. There was $1 billion in property damage, and of the 63 killed, nine were killed by police, one by the National Guard, and none by active-duty troops.

Before George Floyd, the pattern was that criminal indictments of police after the killing of Black men were laboriously slow. Investigating detectives protected the police involved, and prosecutors relied on evidence manicured by the detectives. Prosecutors very often punted the investigation to a Grand Jury, which would then fail to indict.

Contrary to the pattern, indictments came down swiftly in both Minneapolis and Atlanta.

This does not mean Derek Chauvin and Garrett Rolfe do not deserve severe punishment.

However, you can't help but suspect that the indictments were announced rapidly in response to massive global protests. Furthermore, the severity of the charges could serve to make convictions more difficult. It came as no surprise that the media repeated that Rolfe might face the death penalty over and over again.

As with the Rodney King beating, both jury trials will have to be moved to different venues in Minnesota and Georgia, where local sentiment is less inflamed than at the scene of the crime. Duluth, Minnesota, is a possibility, and like Simi Valley, very few Blacks live there.

Prosecutor Keith Ellison even said, "Winning a conviction will be hard."

Geoffrey Alpert, a criminology professor who has written on police use of force, says of the Atlanta case "It’s not a slam dunk." The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on qualified immunity remains a strong precedent for acquittals, convictions on lesser charges, or lenient sentences.

Given the 1992 Los Angeles riots, I am very worried that the court outcome will be weak and that there will be a new outburst of unrest, this time on a global scale.

More to follow in Part V.

Henry Seggerman managed Korea International Investment Fund, the oldest South Korean hedge fund, from 2001 until 2014. He is a regular columnist for the Korea Times and has also been a guest speaker, written for, or been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Bloomberg Television, Reuters and FinanceAsia — covering not only North and South Korea, but also Asia, as well as U.S. politics. Read Henry Seggerman's Reports — More Here.

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LAPD officers were videotaped savagely beating Rodney King. There was no Facebook Live. There were no bodycams and no dashcams at the time; the witness just sent his tape to local news station KTLA (after LAPD refused to look at it).
king, floyd, lapd
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2020-43-08
Wednesday, 08 July 2020 04:43 PM
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