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Longtime activists remember Rodney King case ahead of Derek Chauvin trial

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Posted at 4:42 PM, Mar 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-25 16:42:49-04

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Opening statements are scheduled to begin on Monday in the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former officer with the Minneapolis Police Department who has been charged with murder in George’s Floyd’s death.

The trial comes nearly three decades after a watershed moment in Southern California when a jury acquitted four Los Angeles Police Department officers in the beating of Rodney King.

"People couldn’t believe it. Because people want to believe in our justice system, we want to believe it will work," said Black Lives Matter Los Angeles organizer Akili.

Akili has spent the last 50 years organizing for social justice. He says the video of King's assault affirmed what the Black community already knew.

"This was the first time that we could say, I told you," said Akili. "There were all these incidents of LAPD’s beatings and killings that we’ve been telling people about for many years, and because it was captured in a way that affirmed what we had been saying, it began to at least get people to think.”

“With the Rodney King case, I was optimistic. I felt like, now there is accountability, there is a video," said Black Lives Matter Los Angeles organizer Paula Minor.

Demands for change in 1992 echo those of today.

“We pay a heavy price with our deaths to wake up the rest of America," said Akili.

While hopeful for a different outcome in 2021, he’s doesn't have any expectations.

“If the police officers who beat Rodney King were let off, then that can certainly happen again in Minnesota, absolutely.”

“I would certainly be disappointed, but I would not be surprised," said Minor.

But unlike 1992, those demanding justice, transparency and accountability from law enforcement are more organized.

“It’s our regularity, our consistency, our willingness to keep going," said Akili. “Those demands around justice, inclusion, reparations, are now being pushed forward."

Black Lives Matter is galvanizing people of all races across generations.

"The perception of what policing should be is changing. More and more people are recognizing there are some things that need to be reformed," said Minor. “I think there will be change, but it’s a long ways. I don’t know if I’ll see it.”