News And Politics

South LA responds: The death of Rodney King

June 18, 2012, 4:58 p.m.

Thaeus Douglas (pictured above) said he thinks that things have become worse, not better, since the 1992 L.A. Riots. (Credit: José Martinez/OnCentral)

In "OnCentral on Foot," we approach people at random in the streets of South L.A. and ask them their thoughts on the world and community in which they live. This time, we asked about their reaction to Rodney King's death. The beating of King by the Los Angeles Police Department helped spark the 1992 LA Riots and brought into question police treatment of minorities. He was found dead in his swimming pool early Sunday morning. His death is being investigated as an accidental drowning.

Morris Mccloud, 51

Where were you when you found out Rodney King died?
Right here. I just found out. I didn't even know he was dead.

What is Rodney King's legacy to you?
He didn't do nothing for me. I guess he got beat up by the cops. That's all I know about him.

People say the fact that he got beat up and the events that ensued changed the LAPD and Los Angeles. Do you think things have changed?
Nothing got better. They didn't fix these streets. Nothing improved.

Thaeus Douglas, 36

What is your reaction to Rodney King's death?
That's shocking to me. How sad. From his actions, that kind of opened society's eyes to the law. I don't think things have changed in the last 20 years. I think things have gotten worse. What happened to Rodney King shows how the law really can be and how it is and how we would like for it to change.

Where were you during the riots?
I was kind of in the crowd right there on Normandie and Florence. I was right there watching. Not participating, but I was watching.

Odell Hodges, 16

How did you react when you found out that Rodney King passed away?
It was pretty shocking but I guess the biggest shock was how he died just because it was a couple of months after Whitney Houston died and he basically died in the same manner.

What does his legacy mean to you?
I'm not really too sure what his legacy means to me. He was a vital part of the L.A. Riots and the police brutality and us speaking against it but, I mean I can't really say.

Where were you when you found out that he died?
I was at home and I just happened to log on to TMZ on my phone and it was there that Rodney King died at the age of 47.

Do you think much has changed since the riots happened 20 years ago – particularly for the minorities in South L.A.?
I think things have changed since the L.A. Riots. For the most part things have died down. It isn't as aggressive anymore but there are things that I wish that would change in our society.

Irene Douglas, 66

What was your reaction to Rodney King's death?
I felt that he is better off now because what he has been going through ever since the beating. He's been arrested several times so he's better off, really.

Where were you when you found out that he died?
My friend texted me that Rodney King passed away.

Do you think things have changed in the last 20 years?
Things haven't changed. It just seems like it's the same. The police still kill people for no reason. They'll shoot someone without realizing that the person doesn't have a gun. They're shooting them for nothing.

Amanda Demacias, 29

How did you react to the news that Rodney King died?
How did he get in the pool? That was basically my reaction, like how does a grown man drown? But I'm just surprised since we just hit the 20 year anniversary of the whole incident.

Do you think things have changed in that last 20 years?
To this day it is still disturbing because it is still like that and you would think that after 20 years of something like that happening, that it wouldn't be as common. But it seems like it is even more common for a racial thing happening. Not just with cops and stuff, just with the public in general. Like with the Trayvon Martin case, that was completely, in my eyes, a racial thing. Everything is racism and it's pretty sad after all of these years.

All photos by José Martinez.

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