Running sores halt riot city's healing process: Wounds left by the Rodney King case are festering in a scramble to protect individual interests, writes Phil Reeves in Los Angeles

As Americans become engulfed by a cloud of election puffs and promises, a few plaintive voices are struggling to be heard above the din. They belong to the Los Angeles policemen who were videotaped beating up Rodney King, the officers whose acquittal in April ignited the United States' worst urban riots this century.

Far from shrinking from a largely disapproving public, several of the officers have embarked on a campaign to win support for their cause. Among their targets are the men and women who will form the jury when they are tried for a second time next year, on federal charges of allegedly violating Mr King's civil rights.

Dressed in carefully selected soft-toned clothes, they have appeared on air to 'educate' people about their case. They are seeking to show that they were not - as the video suggests - burly white policemen beating the living daylights out of an unarmed black man sprawled across a pavement, but subduing a dangerous maniac who was resisting arrest.

Laurence Powell, the officer who led the beating, appeared recently on local radio with Sir Mix- A-Lot, a popular black rapper from Seattle. It was an unhappy, but telling, pairing. Sir Mix-A-Lot attributed the riots to popular frustration, and felt the rioters should have gone on to attack Beverly Hills. Mr Powell dismissed all the rioters as 'nothing but a bunch of criminals'. A second officer, Theodore Briseno, has also been doing a round of media interviews and a third, Sergeant Stacey Koon, is about to publish a book which attempts to clear his name.

Such blatant attempts to manipulate the course of justice are clearly in the officers' interests, but are doing little to heal Los Angeles' long-standing racial conflicts. These are coming under additional strain from a separate legal issue, which is fast becoming a cause celebre among some inner- city blacks: the case of the so- called LA Four.

These are the four young black men arrested for allegedly attacking a white lorry driver at the start of the riots, a brutal assault which was also videotaped and became one of the abiding images of the unrest. Like the King beating, it has been played hundreds of times on television.

Although there are many differences between the two cases, many inner-city blacks see the treatment of the LA Four as an explicit example of the difference in justice administered to whites and blacks. The four officers were released on dollars 5,000 ( pounds 2,680) bail but the youths' bonds were set at between dollars 500,000 and dollars 580,000, towering sums which have ensured that they remain in custody. The policemen faced assault charges; among the array of charges against one or more of the four is attempted murder, torture and aggravated mayhem. With astonishing insensitivity, the Los Angeles District Attorney heightened the tension still further by exercising his right to challenge the first judge assigned to the case, who was black.

Supporters of the four also have a publicity machine. T-shirts have been printed calling for an amnesty, and a defence fund has been set up. One source of funds is a telephone recording, in which callers can listen to the mother of one of the four giving her views of the case for dollars 2 a minute. Few expect them to escape conviction, but the sentencing will be critical. Some black leaders have warned that if the youths get lengthy sentences, more trouble could erupt.

The two camps have added to growing evidence that Los Angeles' much-trumpeted 'healing process' is fragmenting into a scramble to protect individual interests. Even Rodney King will be seen by some to have joined the fray. Yesterday his lawyers rejected dollars 1.75m offered by Los Angeles City Council to settle a dollars 56m civil lawsuit he filed seeking damages for police brutality.

The rebuilding of Los Angeles is proceeding with limited successes, but amid growing bitterness about the response of the US government. Some merchants who were burned out in the riots have complained that they are being denied assistance, or that their applications for funds are being buried in a pile of red tape. Matters worsened this week when it became clear that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was overburdened by the recent US disasters, especially Hurricane Andrew in Florida. It announced that some public assistance to riot victims would be suspended, until Congress agreed to provide more funds.

(Photograph omitted)

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Travel
travelWhy Japan's love hotels are thriving through an economic downturn
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
Alexander McQueen A/W 2014
fashionPolitics aside, tartan is on-trend again this season
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Sport
Joel jumps over the board...and into a giant hole
footballFrom joy to despair in a matter of seconds
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

MFL TEACHER, SUPPLY VACANCY, LOVELY SITTINGBOURNE SCHOOL

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: The Job We are currently recruit...

NQT Teachers

Negotiable: Randstad Education Crawley: Randstad Education can provide you wit...

MATHS TEACHER, PERMANENT VACANCY, TONBRIDGE SCHOOL

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Randstad Education is currently ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week