Excerpts from U.S. Editorials With LA Riot, Bjt
The Associated Press
May. 01, 1992
Undated (AP) _ Here are excerpts from editorials in newspapers across the nation on the Rodney King case:
Two things need to be done rapidly in the violent aftermath of the astounding acquittal of four Los Angeles police officers who had been charged with the beating of Rodney King.
- The U.S. Justice Department should move swiftly to file federal criminal charges against the four officers in the King case, for violation of King's civil rights.
-L.A. Police Chief Daryl Gates, who is a symbol of widely perceived racism in his department and of police disregard for community concerns, should resign immediately.
Both of these actions would hasten a cessation of the intolerable acts of violence and criminality that have swept Los Angeles, inflicting the most damage on the city's poorest neighborhoods with the highest concentration of minority citizens, who are especially outraged by the infamous jury verdict.
The immediate resignation of Gates and the filing of new, federal charges against the L.A. four would do much to speed the end of this deplorable reign of terror and lawlessness. It also would raise hopes for a brighter day in the nation's criminal justice system in regard to racial minorities.
The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Pa.:
The history of such riots is that they leave communities poorer, more wretched, more outside the pale of the American mainstream.
And there is no reason for anyone to believe that torching LA will do anything but pile one more oppressive burden on a community that finally snapped when it was wronged one more time than it could bear.
The Cincinnati Enquirer:
As if to make the Rodney King case an even greater tragedy, hundreds of Los Angeleans took to the streets Wednesday night and converted the acquittal into a license to shoot, burn, loot and kill.
It did not occur to them that ... they were strengthening the hands of those who advance the perverse argument that our urban centers have become so overwhelmed with danger that the police are justified in using whatever countermeasures they choose. If that notion becomes widely accepted, there will be no end to the cycle of violence.
Every American needs to re-ponder the Rodney King case. In particular, every police officer must weigh the responsibility he carries. For if he cannot be an exemplar of restraint in the interests of common decency, he must make way for someone who is.
The Plain Dealer, Cleveland:
Editorial pages don't often second-guess juries because the system usually works. But it boggles the mind that the suburban Simi Valley jury, in good conscience, could reach a not guilty verdict after repeatedly watching King's videotaped beating. And it surely causes many to wonder if the verdict would have been different had the case not been transferred from Los Angeles to predominantly white Ventura County.
The King verdict was clearly a travesty. Now the administration of President George Bush, Los Angeles officials and clear-headed residents of the city must work together to see that order is restored. They must also work together to retrieve whatever justice can be salvaged from the ruins.
Beacon Journal, Akron, Ohio:
The acquittals say in effect that the incredibly violent beating captured on the videotape was within the limits of reasonable police conduct.
As reactions to the verdicts show, that conclusion goes down hard. If this beating does not define the outer limits of force, what then are the limits?
Disquieting as the outcome of the trial should be for every American, this is time not for intemperate words or actions but a determined effort within the judicial system to deal with the raw emotions that the whole Rodney King case has spawned in Los Angeles and across the nation.
Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail:
A few white cops in Los Angeles have confirmed the worst fears that black Americans have about white Americans. Black parents, seeing that videotape, fear for their children's lives.
Black rioters in Los Angeles - rioters came in every color, including black - have confirmed the worst fears that white Americans have about black Americans.
It's going to take more than the mighty Justice Department to undo that kind of damage.
The overwhelming majority of Americans, black and white, do not think in stereotypes. Most Americans would treat each other fairly and resolve problems peacefully.
Color isn't the great divide. Violence is the enemy here, and it is violence that must be condemned.
(Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:
Home television screens brought Americans a lurid menu of violence, looting and arson Wednesday night direct from Los Angeles. The city was being wracked by the kind of violence most of us had hoped could be safely consigned to the history books under Watts, circa 1968. Surely nobody had to be told the cause of this rampage: A court earlier in the day had freed four policemen accused of what has to be the most witnessed beating in recent videotaped history: the pulverization of Rodney King, a once obscure black motorist whose treatment horrified a nation.
The news sent rioters raging through the city's predominately black south- central section, assaulting pedestrians and motorists, torching and looting more than a hundred buildings, and in one instance charging a police station. Justice denied is injustice loosed. Many of the innocent victims doubtless were as outraged at Rodney King's treatment as the rioters claimed to be. When law fails, chaos begins.
Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch:
If our system of justice required juries to follow public opinion, mob rule would prevail. Emotions rather than objective, dispassionate consideration of all the evidence would determine the fate of all accused individuals.
Fortunately, juries have not only the freedom but also the obligation to exercise their own judgement in assessing facts and evidence to make their own independent decisions. Consisting of imperfect mortals, juries will not always achieve perfect justice. But they are to be trusted far more than mobs.
Popular opinion had convicted the four Los Angeles police officers who had been charged with using excessive force against black motorist Rodney G. King. A sickening videotape of the incident, telecast nationwide over and over, showed the officers repeatedly beating Mr. King with their truncheons and kicking him with their feet. Clearly, said popular opinion, the officers and committed grave offenses for which they should be severely punished.
But in the course of the trial, the jury in California's Ventura County had more evidence than the videotape to consider. It had testimony to the effect that Mr. King's reaction to the policemen who had stopped him was uncooperative, belligerent, and even threatening. The jury heard testimony from experts who said the policemen's use of force was within acceptable limits given the fact they believed Mr. King showed signs of becoming dangerously violent. People who viewed the case from afar may not have been impressed by these arguments, but they had to be carefully considered by jurors bound by the rules of a system of justice that requires guilt to be established beyond the shadow of a doubt.
The Miami Herald:
Lamentations for an age gone mad: The police beating of Rodney King still churns the stomach. It haunts decent people's sleep. It shakes an already weakened confidence in authority. Yet a California jury that included no blacks says that the beating of Mr. King did not exceed the limits of law. If that is the last word on the matter - and it must not be - then heaven have mercy on the law.
The ensuing violence in the streets of Los Angeles throughout Wednesday night - part public outcry, part lawless rampage - has brought death to at least nine people, injury and mayhem to countless others. Yesterday, racial violence broke out in other cities. Evidently many of those responsible view mayhem as their only way to air grievances and be heard. Were they right - and they are not - then heaven have mercy on the innocent.
The process by which four police officers were tried for beating Mr. King awakens distant nightmares in Miami. Like the 1980 trial of four Metro-Dade officers for the beating death of Arthur McDuffie, the Los Angeles trial was moved to an insulated community and heard before a wholly nonblack jury. As in 1980, the result seems to vindicate repugnant behavior. If that were the normal and proper route to justice - and it is not - then heaven have mercy on the judicial system.
It has been 27 years since the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles ushered in an era of massive race riots. If the next decade ends up learning nothing from the past three, then heaven have mercy on America.