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Gallup Vault: Both Sides Faulted After Rodney King Riots
Gallup Vault

Gallup Vault: Both Sides Faulted After Rodney King Riots

An earlier version of this story originally appeared on on April 29, 2016.

Twenty-five years ago, on April 29, 1992, riots erupted in Los Angeles after four white police officers were found not guilty in the beating of a young black man, Rodney King. The vast majority of U.S. adults believed the verdict was unjustified. But just as many denounced the violence that ensued.

U.S. Public Opinion About the Rodney King Verdict and Riots
Yes, justified% No, not justified% No opinion%
Do you think the verdict finding the policemen not guilty was justified or not justified? 10 76 13
Do you think the violence [post-verdict in LA's black community] was justified or not justified? 16 79 5
Gallup/Newsweek, April 30-May 1, 1992

King's beating came after he had led police on a high-speed chase to evade a traffic stop, and then, according to the police, was volatile during the arrest. However, the severity of the beating -- caught on videotape for all to see -- convinced the vast majority of whites (73%) as well as blacks (92%) that the not guilty verdict against the police was unjustified.

The decision by a largely white jury to acquit the police officers tapped into the Los Angeles black community's broader frustration about police brutality and the criminal justice system's treatment of blacks. Nevertheless, 75% of blacks joined 79% of whites in calling the violence unjustified. This was a case of racial tension and anger where whites and blacks agreed that two wrongs don't make a right.

A year later, two of the officers charged with beating King were found guilty in federal court of violating his civil rights. And a year after that, LA became embroiled in another case pitting a black man, O.J. Simpson, against the police.

These data can be found in Gallup Analytics.

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