The Rodney King trialsThe Videotape that Marked HistoryAt 12:45 am on March 3 1991, George Holliday heard the sound of police sirens and a commotion outside of his apartment building in Lake View Terrace. From his second-floor bedroom window, about ninety feet away, he saw a man with his hands on the roof of a car, surrounded by police officers. A police helicopter hovered overhead.Holliday grabbed his new camcorder, went out on his balcony and began to videotape the confrontation. For nine minutes and twenty-two seconds, Holliday kept his camera trained on the scene, but it was just one minute of footage that would shock the world and spark 'the Handicam Revolution'.By the time Holliday started videotaping, LAPD officers were already beating King. His tape begins when King charges officer Laurence Powell, who knocks King to the ground with a blow from his baton. Three other officers hit and kick King, who tries to rise several times, until he is taken into custody just over a minute later. In total, officers swung at King fifty-six times, delivering a beating that required hospitalization. King suffered facial injuries including fractured bones, and one of his legs was broken.Realizing the significance of his footage, Holliday phoned the local police station, but claims that the person who answered the phone 'blew him off'. Next, he tried CNN, but no one was there to take his call. Finally, Holliday took his tape to local Los Angeles station KTLA. They edited out the blurry first 13 seconds of the tape showing King charging Officer Powell, and broadcast the last 68 seconds of the beating. The next day CNN and NBC obtained copies, and the tape was seen around the world.Public reaction to the Holliday video was immediate and strong. Viewers responded to what they perceived as irrefutable evidence of extreme police brutality. The fact that King was black and all the officers involved were white also drew attention to perceived racism on the part of the LAPD. Within 24 hours of the tape being shown for the first time, the FBI opened an investigation, the LAPD ordered and Internal Affairs investigation, and L.A.'s Mayor Tom Bradley promised "appropriate action" against the officers.
- Spring '11
- Rodney King, George Holliday, Stacey Koon