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Rodney King anniversary: 20 years after LA riots, have race relations improved?

Twenty years after his almost-deadly beating, Rodney King reflects on the LA riots and gives his perspective on the killing of Trayvon Martin.

Twenty years ago this weekend, riots broke out in Los Angeles – and spread to other cities – after a California jury acquitted three white and one Hispanic Los Angeles police officers in the videotaped beating of black motorist Rodney King.

The riots that erupted on April 29, 1992, were among the most lethal in U.S. history. By the time order was restored, 53 people had died, nearly 3,000 people were injured and thousands of businesses were damaged or destroyed.

In one of the most searing images beamed into living rooms across the country from the disturbance, a mostly black mob enraged by the acquittal dragged white truck driver Reginald Denny from his cab at a south Los Angeles intersection and beat him unconscious while news helicopters hovered overhead.


Nearly a year later, a federal jury convicted two of the police officers of a federal charge of violating King’s civil rights and sentenced them to 30 months in prison. Two other officers were acquitted. King eventually received a $3.8 million settlement from the city, and the case led to sweeping changes in LAPD.

More recently, King has been promoting his just-published memoir, "The Riot Within: My Journey From Rebellion to Redemption."

AP Photo/George Holliday/Courtesy of KTLA Los Angeles

The beating of Rodney King by a group of Los Angeles police officers was captured on videotape by a citizen.

As Los Angeles, and the nation, reflects on the anniversary this weekend, many are asking the same plaintive question King uttered on the steps of city hall during the riots two decades ago: "Can we all get along?"

Many seem to agree that the city is safer today and relations between ethnic groups have improved. A recent poll of Los Angeles residents by the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University found that most say L.A. is unlikely to see a repeat of such riots in the coming years.

KNBC's Lucy Noland talks with three people whose lives were deeply affected by the 1992 LA riots.

NBCLosAngeles.com has a special package of stories and videos about the 20th anniversary of the riots here.

Do you think race relations have improved? Take the poll below and then join the discussion on Facebook.

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