More than 50 people died in the riots that followed.
The video above shows King pleading for peace, wondering, "Why can't we all just get along?" He spoke those words as the fires raged in Los Angeles.
reports that the first image of him that came to the public was of a black man curled up on the ground by his car while four white officers assaulted him brutally. He was on parole for a robbery conviction, and he had been drinking and was speeding. He refused to pull over. When officers finally got him out of his car they hit him with batons more than 50 times, AP
Fortunately, a man videotaped the incident and it became the vital piece of evidence in his trial. But after a jury acquitted the police officers, L.A. went up in flames. By the time the flames were smoldering, 55 people had died and more than 2,000 injured.
Rodney sued the city of Los Angeles. He was eventually awarded $3.8 million in settlement.
Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson, explains that the angry riots were an "articulation of pent-up rage that had not been heard before. A sense that we do count, a sense that you're going to pay attention to us."
Rev. Al Sharpton said about King on Sunday: "He represented the anti-police brutality and anti-racial profiling movement of our time."
Michael Coard, a Philadelphia attorney who has brought several brutality charges against police comments: "That videotape showed white America what black America already knew. But the sad part is, it showed that white America has been and still is in denial about."
According to Coard, not much has changed. Cases of police brutality involving unarmed black victims continue. Coard lists recent black victims of police brutality since King: Amadou Diallo, Elanor Bumpurs, Sean Bell... He says,"Nothing has changed."
But white America's denial, one of the biggest obstacles to addressing the race problem, continues.
Not even the the election of the first black president of the United States has changed anything, Coard says: "Barack Obama had to get Secret Service protection before any other candidate. He got four times the amount of death threats as George Bush. Why is that?"