Anniversary of a riot

Posted: May 03, 2002 12:00 AM

A riot is a strange thing to commemorate. But many in the media and in politics have commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots that erupted after policemen who beat Rodney King were acquitted.

The passage of time gives us all an opportunity to rethink what we originally believed and said. Sometimes the truth comes out in the end. But not this time. Nor was there the slightest indication that most of the media outlets had any interest in doing anything other than repeating the politically correct vision that they presented a decade ago. Once again, an edited selection of the videotape of the police beating Rodney King was broadcast, even though a longer version is available, which apparently they do not trust us to see.

Imagine if creatures in another galaxy developed telescopes which gave them their first view of the earth just as the invasion of Normandy began in 1944. What would they see? Large numbers of Germans on shore, quietly minding their own business, while hundreds of thousands of Americans and Britons came storming in, shooting at them and bombing them. Without knowing what the Nazis had done before then, what was happening on D-Day would seem wholly unjustified.

What happened before that little bit of videotape of Rodney King and the cops that the media kept showing us -- and what was the point of what was happening on that particular segment?

Why were the cops beating Rodney King? The politically correct answer is: Because he was black. But so were the other men in the car with him, when he was leading the police on a high-speed chase -- and none of these other black men was beaten. What was the difference?

Anyone who knows anything about police procedures, even if only from watching TV programs like "Cops," knows that the police often order suspects to lie face down on the ground while they handcuff them behind their backs when they arrest them. That is what the police ordered Rodney King to do. But instead he shook his behind at the cops.

They tried to wrestle him down but he was too big and strong for them. They fired electrified darts into him that were supposed to immobilize him, but that didn't get the job done either. Twice he got up and advanced on the cops. At that point, they had not had a chance to search him and had no way of knowing whether he was armed or not.

Arresting a huge, strong, and defiant man is something that most people have -- fortunately -- never had to do. You might think that this would make observers reluctant to second-guess whatever desperate measures were taken in this situation. But for some people, ignorance simply liberates them from the narrow confines of facts.

Even after Rodney King was finally gotten down on the ground, he would not turn face down with his hands behind him, so that the police could handcuff him and search him. In the edited selection of videotape that shocked so many people, Rodney King was still not complying with these instructions. He was trying to ward off the blows -- and to get back up -- which would have posed a danger both to the cops and to himself. If he ended up succeeding in leaving the police no choice but to shoot him, that would have been the worst-case scenario for all.

Those who have been so quick to condemn the use of force in this situation have not been nearly as quick to suggest an alternative. When the policemen were tried, the jury saw the whole videotape and heard both sides of the story -- and acquitted the police. That is when the riots broke out that the media commemorated a decade later.

More than 50 people lost their lives in those riots. These included Asian American businessmen who had nothing to do with Rodney King -- or with slavery or Jim Crow or any of the other excuses.

None of this is likely to change the minds of those who have followed the politically correct script. If the media had to go back and re-live the events of 1992, they could at least have tried to get at the truth -- if only for the novelty of it.