riots and  The Rodney King case is almost 20 years old.  King, a drunk pothead, was beaten almost senseless by both black and white LAPD cops after he resisted arrest on March 3, 1991 following a high speed chase. 

King was tasered repeatedly but kept getting to his feet and resisting arrest.  The ensuing beating by the LAPD to get him to cooperate was videotaped by a bystander.  That videotape resulted in the deaths of 53 innocent people in the ensuing riots.

The police officers involved were exonerated by a state jury of their peers but then re-tried in federal court on charges of civil rights violations.  Two of the cops were found guilty and sent to prison and two were acquitted. 

Prior to the federal convictions and following the state exoneration, Los Angeles blacks erupted in what have been called the 1992 L.A. riots during which the Army, the Marines, and the National Guard were called out.  Nevertheless, 53 people died, 2383 were injured, 7000 fires were set, 3100 businesses were attacked, and over a billion dollars in damages resulted.

Fast forward to 2010. 

Rodney King’s famous and impassioned plea three days into that mayhem, “Can we all get along?” had little effect in 1992 and less effect in 2010 as at least 800 protestors in Oakland, CA rioted after the conviction of a police officer in the death of a 22 year old black man, Oscar Grant.

Other riots had previously occurred in 2009 following the incident in which BART police officer Johannes Mehrsele had shot and killed Grant on a BART train platform on New Year’s Day.

Officer Mehrsele, 28, contended Grant resisted arrest and was reaching into his pocket for what Mehrsele thought might be a gun.  Mehrsele said he grabbed for his taser but mistakenly took out his revolver and shot and killed Grant in error.

The verdict of guilty of involuntary manslaughter failed to salve the hurts of Grant’s family and friends who made no comment on the fact that the deceased had just recently been released after 16 months in prison on a gun possession conviction:

As darkness set in, the protests intensified with people using the tragedy as an excuse to loot and pillage in Oakland.  Police believe outside agitators, “anarchists,” were stoking the rioters who attacked innocent shops, but selectively.

Spared was Spoiled, a boutique which featured a sign reading, “Do not destroy. Black owned. Black owned [and] one building was spray painted with the words, ‘Say no to work. Say yes to looting:’ ”

In a fine touch of irony, Attorney General Eric Holder’s Department of Justice issued a statement that, just as happened after the Rodney King police trial, “The Justice Department [Civil Rights Division] has been closely monitoring the state’s investigation and prosecution,” and will conduct an “independent review:”  

The irony rests in the fact that same DOJ has refused to investigate its own biased handling of the Philadelphia New Black Panthers case.  It’s now being alleged that the DOJ was and is engaging in a game of “payback.”

Maybe we can all, blacks and whites, get along even after this tragedy but that would depend on whether blacks demand justice or a pound or two of white flesh as payback.  If Oakland blacks instead opt for the opportunity to continue the mayhem, Oakland police should be prepared for a Rodney King redux.