Rioting to be heard

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 24, 2014

During the past two weeks the events in Ferguson, Mo. have brought to the fore my memories of the Los Angeles riots of 1992.
I was a senior in high school taking a U.S Government class when the riots started on April 29, after a jury acquitted four Los Angeles Police Department officers of assault and use of excessive force on black motorist Rodney King. Violence erupted in South Central Los Angeles near the corner of Florence and Normandie when an angry mob began attacking cars and people. A news helicopter hovered over the intersection as a white truck driver stopped at a traffic light and was dragged from his vehicle and severely beaten by a mob of local black residents. That man was Reginald Denny.
Until that moment the struggle of equal rights had been something that happened a long time ago somewhere I had never been. To me the civil rights struggle was something that occurred in the Deep South and hadn’t plagued the sunny skies of Southern California. What I hadn’t realized was that Los Angeles had seen its share of inequality and racial tensions over the years.
I was blissfully unaware of any of this, as my days until that moment had been spent worrying about the next set of waves and the dings in my surfboard. What an education I received over the course of the next several weeks as my classmates and I struggled to understand the plight of the disenfranchised. Those riots of 1992 would become known as the Rodney King Riots but at the heart of the matter was a police force unsympathetic to those it was sworn to serve and protect. There was a community who felt they could not turn to the police for help nor would the police understand their concerns.
People turn to violence when they feel they have exhausted all other options. When speeches and marches no longer get anyone’s attention then violence bursts forth.
Could riots like those in ’92 and those in Ferguson happen here in Vicksburg? I believe they could under the right conditions. However, I don’t think those conditions currently exist in our community. We have a police force and sheriff’s department here with programs and personnel in place to work closely with the residents of our city and county to listen to their concerns and problems. Yes, we have problems just like any community, but we also have a giving heart. The people of our community give more of themselves and their money to charities that strive to make Warren County and Vicksburg a better place to live. I am proud to live and work in our community.

Paul Barry is the managing editor and can be reached by email at or by phone at 601-636-4545 ext. 123.

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