Four white police officers surround a Black man as he is harmed. An amateur video is shot of the encounter. The footage goes viral, prompting massive unrest and calls for social reforms.
Three decades before George Floyd died under the knee of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, whose trial is underway, a similar recorded moment unfolded in Los Angeles as police batons rained down on Rodney King, 25.
The beating of King 30 years ago this month, captured on a Sony Video8 Handycam by a plumber named George Holliday, was a watershed moment in the nation’s fraught history of race relations, one many assumed would lead to guilty verdicts for the officers. Black Americans were familiar with police brutality, but now the rest of the nation could see it with their own eyes.
A year later, the trial was moved from racially diverse downtown Los Angeles to the primarily white suburban enclave of Simi Valley. The mostly white jury acquitted the officers, and largely Black South Los Angeles exploded in violent uprisings that claimed more than 60 lives, injured nearly 2,400 and caused about $700 million in damage.
For those who lived through the King trauma – a mix of activists, politicians and attorneys reached by USA TODAY – there is a deep concern, not only that the intervening years have brought little change to policing practices but also that the Chauvin case could offer a painful repeat of the past.
“When I look at what’s happening in Minneapolis, I see LA in…