Beating victim eulogized during public memorial service
Chris Levister Rodney King, whose beating by police in 1992 sparked one of the worst urban riots in US history, has been laid to rest in Los Angeles. The Reverend Al Sharpton who delivered the eulogy called King a "symbol of forgiveness” ahead of his funeral on Sunday at the Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills cemetery, north of the city. "People should not be judged by the mistakes that they make, but by how they rise above them," Reverend Sharpton said.
"Rodney had risen above his mistakes; he never mocked anyone, not the police, not the justice system, not anyone."
One of King's daughters, 28-year-old Laura Dene King, called her father a "gentle giant". "I will remember his smile, his unconditional love ... He was a great father, a great friend, he loved everyone," she said.
"People will just have to smile when they think of him." Several donors helped defray the funeral costs including a reception that followed the service. Television producer Anthony Zulker, creator of the CSI series donated $10,000. “We lost a symbol, they lost a loved one,” he said in support of the King family. King was found unresponsive at the bottom of his swimming pool in Rialto, in the early hours of June 17, by his fiancee Cynthia Kelley. A preliminary investigation showed no signs of foul play, while a full autopsy and toxicology reports are still pending.
Video footage of King being beaten by four white police officers in 1991 sparked deadly riots in Los Angeles and prompted a national debate about police brutality and race relations. Police struck him more than 50 times with their wooden batons and used a stun gun following a high-speed car chase.
The officers went on trial for use of excessive force but were acquitted on April 29, 1992, triggering days of riots that left more than 50 people dead and caused around $1 billion in damage. As Los Angeles was ripped apart by crowds who looted businesses, torched buildings and attacked one another, King made a personal plea for peace. "People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along?" he asked on the third day of rioting, going off script from the statement planned by his lawyers. Two of the officers were later convicted on federal charges of violating King's civil rights and were sentenced to prison.
At Saturday's funeral, the words "Can We All Just Get Along" could be seen embroidered on the open lid of his coffin during a pre-funeral service. Speaking ahead of the 20th anniversary of the riots this year, King said racism still has to be challenged.
He published a memoir, The Riot Within: My Journey From Rebellion to Redemption, to mark the anniversary.
"There's always going to be some type of racism. But it's up to us as individuals in this country to look back and see all the accomplishments that we have gotten to this far," he told CNN.
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