To mark the 2oth anniversary of the deadly riots that engulfed Los Angeles following the 1992 Rodney King verdict, civil rights activist Al Sharpton and Trayvon Martin’s parents are urging peace at events. Sharpton spoke to Yahoo News before he and Martin’s family addressed a church on Thursday night.
“Twenty years ago I came out here after that protest after the verdict and tried to discourage the violence, and 20 years later now I’m here with Trayvon’s parents and we’re saying we don’t want violence,” he said. After four white police officers were acquitted in the recorded beating of Rodney King on April 29, the city exploded into one of the deadliest riots in American history, leaving 54 dead and causing $1 billion in property damage.
Sharpton, who now hosts a show on MSNBC, says much has changed since then, and he doesn’t expect the racially charged debate over Martin’s shooting to end in violence if George Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, is acquitted.
“I think even though people are angry and as concerned as I am, we don’t feel like we have no options,” he says. “Unlike [with] Rodney King, there’s defined leadership in Trayvon Martin’s case who have said from the beginning we cannot have violence.”