Reader roundup: Rodney King's death draws comments on his legacy
A day after news broke that Rodney King, the man whose beating by LAPD officers and the officers' subsequent acquittal in the incident helped spark the 1992 Los Angeles riots, had died in his Rialto swimming pool at age 47, The Times' coverage of King continues to draw high readership online.
Readers are sounding off on King's death and his legacy, many criticizing King for his criminal record prior to his brutal beating and the troubled life he led afterward, marked by arrests and a struggle with drug addiction.
"Symbol of Police Brutality? How about a symbol of life long drug addiction, bad choices and anti-social behavior. He will NOT be missed," wrote reader Pedro Goldstein.
Others defended King as an unlikely hero who was pulled into the heated fray of race relations by chance.
"No Rodney King was not an ideal role model. I hear people mentioned how bad a person he was yet never mentioned the police who beat him for 10 minutes. For us Black men who have be innocently abuse by police, we finally had a avenue to get our cries heard," reader Gordon Marble commented.
"The point about Rodney King was not that he was a saint--he most assuredly was not--but that he was a symbol of police brutality," commenter James Craft wrote on Times reporter Kurt Streeter's piece.
A reader named My-Hispanic-opinion, commenting on reporters Joe Mozingo and Phil Willon's article on King, said King left a different kind of civil rights legacy than traditionally celebrated figures, but his actions put the spotlight on social injustices nonetheless.
Rodney King's personal mishaps left a legacy of social awareness. His personal behaviors caused everyone to become more aware of the social injustices that exist in society. He didn't do it like Martin Luther King, Jr. He did it just by living life by his personal experiences and skills.
A reader named KingSheáAujanè tweeted that black history would have been very different without King.
For others, King's death brought back memories of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, just months after the 20th anniversary of the destructive event.
"That was a scary time for a lot of us, I had just become a Police Officer (retired now) and I was bussed in with hundreds of others, it was apocalyptic! No one deserves to be beaten like that but none of us who tried to bring back peace deserved to be shot at!" John Powell wrote on the L.A. Times Facebook page.
-- Kate Mather and Samantha Schaefer
Photo: Rodney King in 2008. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times