Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Poster of the Week for Nov. 25

"I Don't See an American Dream, 
I See an American Nightmare"
                                   Malcolm X

Scott Braley
Fireworks Graphics
Prairie Fire Organizing Committee
Offset, 1992
Berkeley, CA

Ferguson, Missouri continues to burn after a grand jury decided not to indict police Officer Darren Wilson who killed Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teenager last August 9. CSPG's Poster of the Week reminds us of another act of police violence 22 years ago, when rioting and burning took place throughout Los Angeles and other cities after an all-white jury acquitted the four police officers on trial for brutally beating Rodney King, an unarmed African American motorist. But at least there was a subsequent federal trial about the police actions regarding Rodney King. In Ferguson, following a highly criticized grand jury process, no charges were filed.

This poster was produced in Berkeley, California and shipped down to Los Angeles, while Los Angeles was under curfew during the 1992 uprising. It was going to be distributed at a demonstration held in front of LAPD headquarters at Parker Center, downtown L.A. As hundreds of protesters arrived, the LAPD rescinded the permit and declared the demonstration to be an illegal assembly.

Rodney King background:
Glen 'Rodney' King, an African American motorist, was beaten repeatedly by Los Angeles Police officers on March 3, 1991. Unbeknownst to the police, a bystander, George Holliday, videotaped the beating and it aired on television throughout the world. The incident raised an outcry, as many people, both within and outside the African American community, believed that the beating was racially motivated, excessive and an example of police brutality. Although 27 officers were witnesses and/or participants, only 4 were brought to trial. The trial was moved from Los Angeles to Simi Valley, because the defense argued that it was not possible to have a fair trial in Los Angeles. The defense team also preferred Simi Valley because its population is more affluent, contains a much smaller proportion of African Americans, and contains a disproportionately large number of law-enforcement officers.

The April 1992 acquittals in a state court of the four officers triggered massive rioting in Los Angeles, which left hundreds of buildings severely damaged or destroyed and dozens dead. Smaller riots occurred in other U.S. cities. King made an appearance before television news cameras to plead for peace, saying, "Can't we get along here? Can't we all just get along?"

On May 1, 1992 as the unrest continued, President G. H. W. Bush announced that he would most likely charge the officers with violating King's civil rights. King testified in this Federal trial on March 9, 1993. Then on August 4, a federal judge sentenced LAPD officers Stacey Koon and Laurence Powell to 30 months in prison on this charge. The other officers were not convicted, and there was no rioting.

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