Controversy over Trayvon's killing brings back memories for Rodney King

  • @guyadams

Two decades after he pleaded "can't we all just get along?" Rodney King has re-visited the scene of the Los Angeles riots, speaking publicly about his many brushes with the justice system and discussing the latest racially sensitive court case to divide America.

In a series of interviews to mark the publication of his autobiography, Mr King, whose beating at the hands of three white and one Hispanic police officer led to 1992's Los Angeles riots, has said that ongoing controversy over the shooting of Trayvon Martin has "brought back memories" of his legal struggle.

"I hope [Trayvon] gets justice for his family, because he's no longer here," Mr King said, when asked about the black teenager's shooting by an armed neighbourhood-watch volunteer in Sanford, Florida. "So for his family, I'm just hoping everything will turn out OK, you know?"

Asked to compare Trayvon's killing with the beating that placed him at the centre of an explosive public debate over race relations and police brutality, Mr King told reporters he has been fortunate to have concrete evidence of it. "Luckily got [my attack] seen on tape," he said.

Video footage of a group of officers repeatedly kicking and beating Mr King, who had drunkenly led them on a high-speed car chase, was revealed first by news outlets before being presented at their trial in 1992.

On 29 April, moments after the officers were acquitted of using excessive force by a mostly white jury, riots broke out in black neighbourhoods of Los Angeles.

Over the following week, unrest saw thousands of buildings set on fire and widespread looting from businesses; 53 people died, including 10 who were shot by law-enforcement officers. Sporadic violence didn't end until Mr King appeared on TV to request calm.

Months later, Mr King was awarded $3.2m (£2m) in damages by a civil court. But a large portion of that money went to legal fees and the rest was squandered as he struggled with drug addiction. Now aged 47, he is unemployed and claims to be broke.

No video exists of the confrontation that led to Trayvon's death in February. But it has raised similar allegations of institutional racism by police who initially failed to even arrest his killer, George Zimmerman.