Rodney King never set out to be a James Meredith or Rosa Parks.
He was a drunk, unemployed construction worker on parole when he careened into the city’s consciousness in a white Hyundai early one Sunday morning in 1991.
While he was enduring the videotaped blows that would reverberate around the world, he wanted to escape to a nearby park where his father used to take him. He simply wanted to survive.
He did survive, but the brutal beating transformed the troubled man into an icon of the civil rights movement. His very name became a symbol of police abuse and racial tensions, of one of the worst urban riots in American history.
- Joe Mozingo and Phil Willon, Los Angeles Times