The Media Impact on the Rodney King Verdict Essay Sample

The Media Impact on the Rodney King Verdict Pages
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Introduction

            The mass media is known for its massive influence and power. They have played significant roles in the nation’s histories. They also play important roles such as informing the populace of the ongoing events around us.

            People turn to the print media for updates on special events or issues. When the newspapers are not enough, they turn to regular updates on television or the radio. The media will continue to play a vital role in our lives.

Rodney King

            Rodney Glenn King is a black American man who plummeted into the national spotlight after his violent encounter with Los Angeles police officers was videotaped by a bystander, George Holliday.

            Jacobs (2000) reported that the incident garnered massive public uproar among people who considered the incident as racially motivated. In an atmosphere of growing tension between the African American community and the Los Angeles Police Department as well as increasing anger over police brutality and more general issues of unemployment, racial tension, and poverty facing the African American community in South Central Los Angeles the acquittal in a state court of the four officers charged with using excessive force in subduing King afforded the seed that led to the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

The Incident

            The verdict led to massive riots in Los Angeles, which lasted for 3 days, making it one of the worst civil disturbances in Los Angeles history. Koon (1992) reported that the incident brought with it damages amounting to at least $1 billion, killing more than 50 people, injuring over 2,000 and more than 8,000 were arrested. Similar riots also took place in other US cities. What brought the house down was when King made an appearance before television news cameras to appeal for peace, saying, “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?

            The video of the incident is a vivid example of inverse surveillance. Due to the notoriety of the incident, several Copwatch organizations were established nationwide to safeguard against future abuses. Counter-police-abuse organizations and justice committees for victims of police violence increased after the 1992 incident and a national umbrella group known as the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality was established. African American community and civil rights leaders have repeatedly used the Rodney King incident in analogy along with other incidents of police violence against black suspects.

            The 1992 Los Angeles riots, also known as the Rodney King uprising or the Rodney King riots, became more celebrated on April 29, 1992 when a mostly white jury acquitted four police officers accused in the videotaped beating of King, after he fled from police. Thousands of people in Los Angeles, mainly young black and Latino males, joined in what has often been characterized as a race riot, involving mass law-breaking, including looting, arson and murder. In all, 50 to 60 people were killed during the riots.

            In addition to the immediate trigger of the Rodney King verdict, there were many other factors cited as reasons for the unrest, including the extremely high unemployment among residents of South Los Angeles at that time, which had been hit very hard by the nationwide recession; a long-standing perception that the LAPD engaged in racial profiling and used extreme force, supported by the Christopher Commission, an investigation led by Warren Christopher; and specific anger over the sentence given to a Korean shop-owner for the shooting of Latasha Harlins, a young African-American woman. Additionally, in the time between the public revelation of King’s beating and the trial verdict, the two largest L.A. street gangs, the Crips and the Bloods, agreed to a truce with each other, and began working together to make political demands of the police and the LA political establishment.

Conclusions:

            Since the 1991 incident, Rodney King has been arrested several times for attempting to run over an undercover police officer, drug violations, domestic violence, soliciting a prostitute and other motoring offenses. Although he reportedly received $3.8 million in a civil suit against the LAPD, he reportedly went bankrupt and living in a drug rehab center. To quote BBC news, “much of it went to pay his lawyers, but he used the rest to found a rap record business, the Straight Alta-Pazz Recording Company”.

            The media played a huge role in the King verdict as they depicted the incident in various colors. Had the media not covered the incident, people would not have been aware of the real situations why the incident led to the riots. The mass media taught us that the incident was indeed a case of racial discrimination. Now, more than ever, cops are more careful when dealing with suspected criminals.

            The mass media can make or break a person. During the Rodney King trial, it has played an influential role. People across America were kept updated and the issues were known to them. Whether it became a trial by publicity, it is a fact that the media still played a pivotal role to it.

            As a final note, the King affair is just one of the many media frenzies which made headlines and which media decided to participate. We should at least be grateful that the mass media is around to keep our eyes and mind open with everything.              

References:

Koon, Stacy. Presumed Guilty: The Tragedy of the Rodney King Affair. Regnery Publishing. ISBN 0-89526-507-9. (1999)

Jacobs, Ronald, N. Race, Media and the Crisis of Civil Society, From Watts to Rodney King. Cambridge University Press, New York, 2000.

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