S1: Rodney King was looking to celebrate. It was Saturday night, March 2nd, 1991, and he’d just gotten a new job. King was a high school dropout and had spent time in prison for armed robbery. He didn’t have an easy time finding work
S2: where he was. Turn his life around. He was in the union during construction.
S1: That’s Johnny Kelly, one of King’s best friends.
S2: So he had a good thing going. He was looking forward to that. He loved construction.
S1: Johnny Kelly didn’t make it up that night, so King got together with two other friends. Freddy Helms and Bryant down there watched basketball and drank malt liquor. Just another slow evening in Altadena, a quiet area north of Los Angeles. Around midnight, King decided he wanted to take his friends to a park. It was a spot where he used to hang out with his father. So he got behind the wheel of his four door Hyundai Excel. Helms sat shotgun. Alan was in the backseat. There were still buzzing off their Ford, being headed west on Interstate 210, picking up speed as he drove
S3: westbound 210 approaching 118.
S1: A few minutes later, the white Hyundai caught the attention of two California Highway Patrol officer, husband and wife Team Tim and Melanie Singer.
S3: We’re at about 65 on how all approaching
S4: for fingernail going about 60.
S1: That’s Tim calling in to police dispatch. Melanie was driving that patrol
S3: car with three male, black and white Hyundai.
S1: I believe the singer saw king driving erratically, apparently speeding. Also noted that the two passengers weren’t wearing seatbelts.
S4: Ninety six year old, that’s affirmative, but they did return. Claire returns to an 88 on a four door to a party out of Altadena.
S1: Kristen King didn’t pull over or even slow down. He exited the freeway in. The singers followed soon after the highway cops were joined by cars from the Los Angeles Police Department. This was not what she.
S4: Somebody is just her brother trying to get a hold of an air unit now.
S1: A police helicopter hovered overhead, Melanie Singer clocked King’s car at 115 miles an hour on the freeway in 85 when the pursuit moved to the street. The police raced after King and his friends for almost eight miles until abruptly King’s Hyundai stopped at a dark remote intersection in Lakeview Terrace, a suburb in Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley.
S4: I asked you to be making this up this morning with LAPD,
S1: Tim Singer ordered the men to exit the car. King’s friends got out first and laid face down on the ground. King struggled to unbuckle his seat belt, but then he got out too. There were now more than 20 officers surrounding the Hyundai. Most of them white. Most of them from the LAPD. But the singers had gotten their first. So they were in control of the scene. King’s hands were on the roof of the Hyundai. The officers kept telling King to get on his stomach and to put his hands behind his back. He didn’t listen. King ambled over to the front of an LAPD car and got down on all fours. Melanie Singer shouted at him to show his hands. Instead, he put them on his butt and wiggled it. At this point, Melanie Singer escalated things. She pulled out her gun and ordered King again to lie down and show his hands. Finally, he complied. She moved in to put him in handcuffs. But as she approached King, a voice from behind her, barked out a command, get back, the voice said, We’ll handle this.
S3: I ordered her back until we’re not going to do this.
S1: This is LAPD Sergeant Stacey Cone talking about the arrest a year later. Melanie Singer had thought everything was under control. Coon disagreed, and he outranked her following protocol. Singer deferred to him. The LAPD was now in charge. Stacey Coon was a 41 year old white man, he’d worked at LAPD for 14 years when he took charge of the arrest. He told the other police officers at the scene to shut up. He then started yelling orders at Rodney King, who was on his stomach.
S3: I make a command decision. I command Rodney King to get down on the ground.
S1: King didn’t respond.
S3: I command the officers to swarm Rodney King
S1: at six foot three and about 225 pounds. King was much bigger than the cops. At first, he used that size to shake them off.
S3: I ordered the officers back. They comply. I paid him 50000 volts of electricity.
S1: The Taser darts hit king in the back, dropping him to his knees. King tried getting to his feet and turned toward Coon, who fired the Taser again and hit King in the chest. Rodney King groaned loudly and fell. Across the street, a plumber named George Holliday was standing on the balcony of a second story apartment at that moment as King struggled to regain his balance. Holiday press record on his home video camera. This is slow burn season six. The L.A. riots. I’m your host, Joel Anderson. Over the next eight episodes, you hear about the moment that Los Angeles erupted into fire and chaos, and you’ll learn about everything that led up to that bloody reckoning. How did one video expose a crisis in policing? How did Los Angeles respond to a justice system that didn’t value Black lives? And did Ellie and the nation ever really deal with the roots of the unrest? This is episode
S5: one. The tape?
S1: George Holliday woke up to the sounds of police sirens and a helicopter. It was just before one a.m. He was still groggy when he rolled out of bed and looked out the window.
S6: I saw cars coming to a stop and dust in the air and stuff and the big light from the helicopter shining down. And my first thought was, Oh, the camera
S1: holiday pulled on a pair of pants and grabbed his new Sony camcorder. He’d only used it once camera in hand holiday stepped onto his balcony to get a better look.
S6: So I’m picking up the camera and lifting it up to my eyes and turning it on. And it was an autofocus camera, something that I’d never had before. So the camera’s trying to focus, and I’m trying to think it’s not focusing. How do I turn off the autofocus? I can focus manually, but eventually it focuses on what’s going on.
S1: About 90 feet away from his apartment, roughly the length of a basketball court on the day saw a group of four police officers. Those officers had surrounded a black man who was on his knees. VIDEO That Holiday took that night is in black and white. Figures at the centre are illuminated by the helicopter above the surrounding police cars. Holidays tape starts with King trying to get off the ground. He’s been tased twice at this point. Suddenly, King is clubbed near the shoulder with a baton. King falls on his face. On the tape, you can see several officers standing around watching the arrest escalate. You can also hear shouting, but it’s hard to make out what’s being said. For the next 10 seconds, the video is out of focus. The camera settles, it’s just king and four LAPD officers in the glow of the spotlight. Fingers on all four. She stumbled officers take turns, beating him with batons and kicking him with their boots. It’s one blow after another for the next nearly one percent. King tries to shield himself. There are too many officers, too many clubs, too many. George Holliday saw all of this in his camera. His wife, Maria, joined him on the balcony.
S6: We’re asking each other. Wow, what’s going on? Why? Why is this happening? You got to remember that I come from a different culture, you know, growing up in Argentina. You know, I’ve seen a couple of military coups take over the government. I’ve seen people abducted by military personnel right in front of me. Cars pull up. Guys jump out, grab somebody, throw them in the car and the car takes off and nobody asks anything. Nobody says anything.
S1: The beating lasted for 81 seconds. After it was over, the officers swarmed King on the ground and put him in handcuffs. Georgia Maria Holladay went back inside their apartment, trying to make sense of what they had seen. They took the tape out of the camera and played it on their TV to get a better look.
S6: Rewind the tape and we watched it once, and that’s one more of those. You know, those kind of questions were coming to our minds. You know, what did he do, that kind of stuff?
S1: King was hog tied with cuffs around his wrists and ankles and placed under arrest. Another LAPD officer, one who hadn’t participated in the beating, stepped on King’s face and dragged him along the road. Face down. It was clear to everyone on the scene that King would need medical attention. Here’s Tim Singer of the Highway Patrol calling in to dispatch
S3: about to be hospitalized for centuries. The tremendous amount of
S1: injuries termination of pursuit. That’s how Singer described the beating. King later said he thought he might die right there with blood leaking out all around him. His head was swollen and his right leg was broken. In that moment, he was worried about all the blood in his mouth. He didn’t want to spit and get the splatter on any of the officers. If that happened, there was no telling what they might do. King eventually passed out and woke up in an ambulance with a sheet over his head. He was later treated for injuries at L.A. County USC Medical Center, which had a Joel ward. King’s friends got abandoned on the side of the road when Bryant Allen made it home. He told King’s brother Paul what had happened following that conversation? Paul King went to LAPD’s Foothill Division. He said he wanted to file a police brutality complaint on behalf of his brother. The story of that night in Lake View Terrace could have ended here. This would have been a fairly ordinary brutality claim, a Black victim accusing white cops of excessive force. The complaint almost certainly would have gone nowhere, but the story of that night wasn’t over how they couldn’t get what he’d seen out of his head the next afternoon. He and his wife went to a friend’s wedding,
S6: and so we were telling their friends about this beating that we saw. But I didn’t have the camera to show them the tape, so they weren’t as impacted. That’s a word. They weren’t very impacted by what we were telling them because they didn’t have a visual like we had seen.
S1: The next day, Monday, the holidays tried to figure out what they had recorded.
S6: That’s when we actually called from my office, the local foothill division, which is the police office that covers that area. And the sergeant at the front desk answered the phone and we said, Look, we live at this address and, you know, Sunday morning, one, 1:00, 1:30, we saw this happening or whatever time it was. And we just wanted to find out, you know, if what happened would happen to that gentleman and you know what happened that night? And she immediately said, Oh, we don’t give out any information. And hung up the phone.
S1: Holiday wasn’t satisfied with that answer. He thought about who else might be able to help him out.
S6: So right after that, we said, why don’t we call, uh, the local Channel five, which is the news that we used to watch at night and 10 o’clock at night every night and ask them, see if they know anything.
S1: Channel five is KTLA, one of the top rated TV stations in Southern California.
S7: We always kind of were the the leaders. We were often the first on the stories.
S1: Frankie Sims was the assignment manager at KTLA. Phone calls to the newsroom usually ended up at her desk.
S7: So Jorge Holiday calls up, calls me up and says that he has this video of a man being hit by police. And I said, OK, well, why don’t you bring it by and we’ll take a look at it.
S6: So we were all excited here. We’re going to go to the news, you know, Channel five TV station news department. It’s much better than having lunch.
S1: Frankie Sims was one of the first two people at KTLA to watch the tape,
S7: and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing other stringers that had brought in tape. I mean, some tapes we had used to people being arrested, but none were nearly as drastic as visual as horrendous, just as big as what this was. It was different. It was different than what we had ever seen before quickly.
S1: The news breaking machinery of KTLA kicked into gear. The station brought in its star reporter, Stan Chambers.
S6: He’s the guy that actually we like the most, so we were totally, you know, fascinated
S1: chambers and a cameraman went to the holidays apartment that same day. The interview only took a few minutes.
S6: So as soon as they left, we started calling all our friends, Hey, we’re going to be in the news tonight. Remember, we were telling you the other day at the wedding.
S1: The holidays weren’t thinking about the consequences of their video getting broadcast all over Southern California. They were just excited to be on TV. But the leaders of KTLA his newsroom. They had to think about what they had and how it might be received. Here’s KTLA News director warned Sara Gina.
S3: You know, we wanted to be very careful with this thing. And we just didn’t want to stir the pot too much. You know, nothing’s perfect. And there sure as hell is no roadmap for this kind of thing.
S1: On Monday, March 4th, 1991, George Holiday’s video aired for the first time on KTLA is 10 O’Clock News.
S3: Dramatic videotape obtained by Channel five news shows what appears to be a group
S6: of LAPD officers beating a suspect
S3: late last Saturday night and early Sunday morning. There was a police pursuit here in the Lakeview Terrace area. It came to an end at the eleven thousand seven hundred block of Foothill Boulevard. George Holliday lives across the street. He had his video camera out and it recorded what happened as the suspect was being arrested.
S1: Clearly didn’t know the identity of the man being beaten and George Holiday’s video. An LAPD spokesman told the station that it was impossible to look at a videotape until precisely what the justification was. The department said the incident was under investigation and offered no further comment.
S3: Once we aired, it all hell broke loose.
S1: Phones immediately started ringing Ethan KTLA as newsroom, many of those calls came from local competitor.
S3: All the other stations asking, Where did you get that? Who shot it? We never been confronted with something like this before. This is way outside the norm of breaking news that we, as we knew it up to that.
S1: And George Holiday, he got hounded to
S6: people just calling, calling, calling, calling on and to the point that they eventually had. Unplug the phone.
S1: Oh, they went to bed while he was asleep. His video became national news.
S8: That night was a pretty dramatic night, as you might imagine.
S1: That’s Van Morrison. In 1991, he was a supervising producer at CNN at the time. CNN was coming into national prominence for its minute by minute coverage of the Gulf War that turned the cable network into a news leader almost overnight. Morrison worked the late shift at CNN with an executive producer and an assignment desk manager. Their job was to get news reports ready for the channel’s morning broadcast. KTLA was one of many stations that had arrangements to share video with CNN. Morrison saw the beating video at the same time it aired in California.
S8: The video was quite long, and it was hard to watch, and it was really pretty unimaginable. And I think that was our discussion was what to do with this.
S1: It was the middle of the night, so the LAPD wasn’t available to provide comment. Morrison and his co-workers debated how much of Holiday’s video to play on air
S8: concerns were there about well, how much is gratuitous or how much would exceed the level of violence that would be appropriate for a news network and for a news program balanced against, Oh my god, we need to inform the public. And at that is where we came down. You know, just the feeling that the only way to really grasp the enormity of this was to watch it.
S1: And for CNN first aired the video at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 5th. That broadcast it changed everything.
S8: I went to bed, and by the time I got up late that afternoon, the news was everywhere and the reaction was, yeah, just skyrocketing. You know, the story had really exploded.
S3: Police in Los Angeles have begun an investigation into why some of their own man severely beat a man they had just pulled over. What those doing the beating apparently did not realize is that they were being videotaped.
S7: A number of officers can be seen standing by as others hit the suspect across the legs. The kidney area, the neck and the head.
S1: The back in Los Angeles, George Holliday woke up and got ready to go to work. It was a little more than 48 hours after he hit record on his video camera.
S6: I opened the front door to get out of my house, and it was just a sea of reporters, just all piled up against the door, going down the stairs, down into the parking lot, all waiting for me to come out.
S1: So now millions have seen what George Holliday saw from his balcony. In one sense, the video told those viewers everything they needed to know that four LAPD cops hit, savagely beaten and kicked an unarmed black man. But Holiday’s tape also raised a lot of questions. Who was the man being beaten? Who are the cops? What happened after the cameras stopped rolling? We’ll be right back. Katie Allays first new segment on the beating reported only what was obvious from the video and from an interview with George Holliday, the LAPD had not released an official incident report. The station couldn’t tell viewers who the man on the ground was or what had happened before holiday started recording. By the next evening, more facts had come out. The man in the video had been identified as Rodney King. Journalists at the L.A. Times learned of the beating the same way everyone else did. They saw the tape on TV.
S9: This video is circulating on cable news like crazy around the country. Also on local news in Los Angeles.
S1: Sector towbar. He was a reporter for the metro section of the L.A. Times. The day after George Holiday’s tape aired on KTLA, Towbar was assigned to the story. He first saw the video in The Times’s newsroom, watching on the little TV that set atop a cubicle he shared with two other reporters.
S9: You know you’re a reporter. Your first instinct is to be precise, as much as precise as you can. And so we started counting the blows 10, 15, 20 30. He was almost like a sacrificial lamb. Somebody be sent to the slaughter
S1: towbar was a 28 year old Los Angeles native who’d only been at the paper for a couple of years.
S9: I handled weather stories that were big and know I once wrote, you know, we all had of his. We had the mother of all traffic jams once in downtown Los Angeles because the subway was being built and it caused part of the freeway to collapse. And that was a pretty big story. But nothing like this.
S1: Towbar started reporting from the downtown newsroom on Tuesday afternoon, March the 5th. He made calls to his own sources and pulled together notes from a handful of other reporters. The story would run on Page one. The world had seen the video of Rodney King’s beating Tobias job was to start the process of understanding what those images meant. His deadline was five p.m..
S9: You know, the biggest, the most important thing when you write that story is the lead. You know, how am I going to write the lead to the story? And so I started with something like the brutal beating of a black man by a group of mostly white police officers set off a national Furor
S1: towbar was only saying what was obvious from the video. The man on the ground was black. The men hitting him were not, but he was saying it in the first sentence, putting it at the center of the paper’s account. After Towbar submitted his draft, the city editor suggested a few changes
S9: and he says, Hector, I changed your lead and he had taken out all references to race in my lead. It was no longer the brutal beating of a black man by a group of mostly white police officers. It was, you know, a video of police officers striking a prone and apparently defenseless man and no references to race. And in fact, he he tells me, Look, I cut out the black and the white from the lead. And now we have we mentioned Black that Rodney King is black and it’s down in the 11th paragraph towbar.
S1: His memory is a little off. It was actually in the 12th paragraph.
S9: When I look at that story as the first draft of history, I think, oh my God, we got it so wrong. You know, we missed. We missed the essence of the story and that it’s the stories place in American history.
S1: The L.A. Times story identified Rodney King as an unemployed, 25 year old married father of two. The article said that King had pleaded guilty to second degree robbery the year before. The LAPD told the L.A. Times that the incident was under investigation. The Times didn’t interview George Holliday, but the article did include quotes from three other witnesses who lived at Holidays apartment complex. They watched the beating from their own units and told the Times King never resisted during the traffic stop the Times. The story also mentioned that a number of organizations, including the NAACP and ACLU, were calling for the suspensions of the officers. Those groups also wanted an independent investigation of the Los Angeles Police Department for the LAPD. This kind of scrutiny was unwelcome and unusual.
S9: The LAPD officers who live that moment were people who were going through a transition. They lived in an old Los Angeles. They lived in. They were members of an old LAPD. And they were the first members of the LAPD to be thrust into this new reality, where their actions were going to be subject to more public scrutiny than ever before.
S1: Let’s take a quick break.
S3: What happened beyond that? Do you have any idea at all how many times you were hit by a club? What do you remember about that at the time?
S10: Several times. And then Stones and kicked
S1: on the night after the Times published its front page story about his beating, Rodney King was finally released from the county jail. He’d spent the previous four days in custody getting treated for his injuries. King had a fractured facial bone and a broken right ankle, and when he emerged, his face was on the front pages of newspapers around the world outside of the jailhouse. In a wheelchair and flanked by an attorney, King met the public for the first time.
S3: Do you remember resisting at all or no? Striking back?
S10: No. No, you wouldn’t. I don’t. It wouldn’t strike, and no one would strike back against four or five guys, you know, aimed at him.
S1: King waved and smiled at the small crowd of reporters. But underneath the genial demeanor, he was in a lot of pain. His speech was slurred, and at times he still seemed dazed.
S10: I could say after the first three good licks with you, no one with that shocker and the next with the Billy Club across the face. I was scared. I was scared. I was scared for my life.
S1: The local district attorney’s office announced that it wouldn’t be filing charges against King. Instead, the criminal investigations turned toward the LAPD officers involved in the beating.
S3: At home video showing a black motorist being beaten by a white Los Angeles policeman has triggered investigations now by the FBI. The district attorney there and the police department itself.
S1: The mayor of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley, had already come out strongly against the officers.
S3: I am as shocked and it’s as outraged as anyone,
S1: Bradley, LA’s first black mayor and a former LAPD officer himself called for a broad investigation. He described the LAPD as having a pattern of police abuse, particularly against minorities. The mayor also vowed that justice will be meted out to those who deserve punishment. The L.A. Times kept digging into the case.
S11: Luckily, I had done some reporting up there before and I knew some of the cops in Foothill.
S1: That’s Richard Serrano, the paper’s LAPD beat reporter.
S11: And I had some inroads into the police union, a little bit of the Protective League.
S1: Serrano was a stereotypical old school newsman. He had high ranking sources within the police department who considered him a fair reporter. A few days after the king beating, Serrano met with one of his LAPD sources at the source’s house.
S11: We had a glass of wine or whatever, and yeah, he said. Here’s the deal. Yet there’s boxes of documents at some of the original police case. These cops here are the names here. Know who they are. And here’s here’s what they’ve set their initial report and stuff you hear. And then there’s a knock on the door and in walk. Stacey Coon and I’m like, Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.
S1: Stacey Coon was the LAPD sergeant who supervised the arrest of Rodney King. Coon Koonin Serrano had never met before that day.
S11: And I had a convertible. Then I had a yellow, beautiful yellow Mustang convertible and was parked up front. And he says, Hey, there’s some, there’s some guys out there. He didn’t say Guy, so OK. He didn’t say guy.
S1: In fact, Serrano says Coon used the N-word.
S11: But he said, I saw a guy said, to look good, right? You run your car. I said, Oh, did I leave the top down? No, no. These guys did these ends. We’re out there doing this.
S1: Stacey Coon was already at the center of a national scandal. Serrano couldn’t believe that he was brazen enough to just drop a racial slur.
S11: I’m a reporter, you know, and he doesn’t know me, even though I said, Yeah, we won’t. You know, I won’t. This is all off the record. But he sent it to me anyway.
S1: We invited Coon to talk to us for this series, but he hasn’t gotten back to us. Surprisingly, Serrano Sauce handed over some of the first police reports following King’s arrest. It’s unclear if he was trying to get the department out in front of the story or felt that there wasn’t any reason to hide the information. Regardless, the documents were full of statements that anyone who had seen the videotape would immediately know were false.
S11: They said King only suffered some minor scratches and a couple of bumps, and that he was very aggressive against them and they had to fight him down.
S1: And Coon wrote in his report. The King suffered several facial cuts due to contact with the asphalt of a minor nature, a split inner lip suspect oblivious to pain. In fact, a doctor later said King had suffered a dozen broken bones. Later, Serrano met secretly with another LAPD source. This meeting proved to be as fruitful as the previous one. Serrano left with a Manila folders worth of evidence, including the LAPD’s Internal Affairs report. The documents disclosed that at least 24 officers were at the scene that night, but only four were identified as primarily responsible for the beating.
S11: And it was, you know, four or five inches thick. It was big. It was, you know, several hundred pages and came back in the office. And we knew then that they had lied, really lied and how they were trying to defend themselves. And the end they couldn’t break ranks. They couldn’t one go against the other. Now they were locked in together.
S1: Or March 14th, less than two weeks after the beating, a Los Angeles County grand jury returned indictments against the four officers Stacy Koon, Lawrence Powell, Theodore Pacino and Timothy Wind. All four face charges of assault with a deadly weapon and unnecessarily beating a suspect under color of authority. Koon and Powell were also charged with filing a false police report. A few days later, Serrano’s reporting let the front page of the L.A. Times, the headline read. Police documents disclose beating was downplayed. Other documents released by the LAPD also revealed the messages two of the officers had exchanged the night of the beating.
S3: Transcripts of computer messages among the policemen that night involved joking about the incident, one officer claiming I haven’t beaten anyone this bad in a long time. That quote came from a car in which officers Lawrence Powell and Timothy Wind were riding. Each has been indicted for assault. Earlier, the pair had investigated a domestic dispute involving a black couple and had reported it was right out of gorillas in the mist. A policeman from another patrol responded, Ha ha ha. Release of the transcript has renewed speculation the beating was racially motivated.
S1: Melanie Lomax, the first black woman to lead the civilian only Los Angeles Police Commission, had no doubts about the motivations of the officers.
S7: Anytime you have 15 white police officers engaging in this kind of animalistic behavior against a black man, the question of race has to come up.
S3: Police Chief Daryl Gates has to me.
S1: Then a 12 year old black kid living 1500 miles away in Texas, it seemed obvious that what happened to Rodney King was wrong. I would have never imagined that anyone could disagree. I was so naive, which isn’t surprising, I wasn’t even a teenager yet. But I was also angry. I talked to my friends and family about the case, and they were angry too. If that’s how we felt in Texas, imagine how Rodney King’s friends in L.A. felt.
S2: Yeah, when I first saw the video, I mean, I don’t want to say what I was thinking at the time, but I thought it was screwed up. It was bad.
S1: That’s Johnnie Kelly. Rodney King’s friend, who you heard from briefly at the beginning of this episode,
S2: not even knowing that it was him. I was like, They beat the out this person, you know, it was bad.
S1: And then when you found out it was Rodney, like, what did you think about it?
S2: When I found out it was Rodney? It is set me on fire. We were thinking of ways of getting back at the police. You know, that’s how bad it was when, you know, when I found out it was him, we was actually kids on a suicide mission, wanted to kill police. That’s how bad it was. Yeah. And a lot of people felt that the same way that grew up in the neighborhood I grew up in when they found out it was him, you know? But during that time, yes, it was all about revenge by killing cops. And no matter who used around who use talking to everybody felt the same way.
S1: Watching that tape was a formative moment in my childhood. It has stayed with me over the past 30 years when I’ve been pulled over while driving holidays, tape played on a loop in my mind. Nowadays, everyone carries a camera in their pocket. It feels like there’s a never ending stream of videos of police abusing civilians, usually non-white civilians. Every time I watch one, I’m reminded of being 12 years old and watching Rodney King get beaten on the evening news. But that’s just me. There were lots of people who saw something else when they watched George Holiday’s video, they saw police officers doing what they had to do. This is how law and order was maintained in L.A. and in cities across the country. But it wasn’t just law and order types who saw the Rodney King tape differently than I did. So did George Holliday himself.
S6: If the media would just show the tape and not say anything and let the people make their own decisions and their own opinions. But I think it was when when they show this videotape and then they start talking. They make people lean one way or the other. And I think that’s. That’s where things are going wrong there.
S1: In recent years, how did they came to distrust the news media and what he saw as the media’s insistence on using his tape to stoke racial discord? In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Holliday said he didn’t know why people turned it into a racial issue. When I spoke to Holiday this summer, he was working as a plumber in Southern California, hoping to make enough money for a down payment on a new home.
S6: Now I really would love to have that day, I guess for sure.
S1: The FBI took holidays tape during its own investigation 30 years ago and has held on to it ever since. Even so, Holiday felt his place in history was secure.
S6: You know, one day my son comes home from school. I don’t know it was fourth, fifth grade or something like that. And he says, Dad, your names in the history books. That was that was surreal.
S1: As far as we can tell, our interview with George Holliday was one of the last he ever gave. He died of complications from COVID 19 in September. He was 61. I mean, you’ve had a lot of time to think about this. You’ve talked to a lot of people. What do you think people forget about this story
S6: more than what did people forget about it? I think it’s more what did we not learn about it? I don’t think it has changed that much. There are still beatings going on out there. We’re not really learning much from it. I would say.
S1: Next week on Slow Burn, a community already on edge after the king beating season, another blow almost two weeks later,
S12: they were some rude assholes and I got to admit it. You know, the couple of times I did go on air, I just refuse to go on air again because you’re not going to stereotype me and take my money.
S1: Slow burn is a production of Flight-Plus Slate’s membership program. You can sign up for Slate Plus two here, a bonus episode of the show this week and every week for the next two months. And in this week’s bonus episode, you’ll be hearing more from George Holliday, his personal background, his memories of recording the king beating and the legacy of his Videotape. Head over to Slate.com slash slow burn to sign up and listen now. It’s only a dollar for your first month. We couldn’t make slow burn without the support of Slate Plus, so please sign up if you can head over to Slate.com. Slash Slow Burn Slow Burn is produced by Jayson de Leon Ethan Brooks, Sophie Summergrad, Jasmine Ellis and Me Joel Anderson Editorial Direction by Josh Levine and Gabriel Roth artwork by Jim Cook. Our theme music was composed by Don Will, mixing by Merritt Jacob. Some of the audio you heard in this week’s episode comes from Voltaggio special thanks to K. UCR Radio at UC Riverside. Devin Schwartz, Stan Mizrahi, Tanya Mosley and Rico Benjamin, Jared Holt, Alicia Montgomery, Allison Benedict, June Thomas, Derrick John, Derrick Johnson, Willa Paskin, Evan Chung, Jeanette Desmond Harris, Meredith Moran, Amber Smith, Bill Carey, Seth Brown, Rachael Strong Child to Usher Saluja and Katie Rayford. Thanks for listening.