Civil rights leaders, and people who knew and worked with Rodney King, are reacting to his Sunday morning death with shock and sadness, and also remembering King's place in history.
Civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton said in a statement that King's ordeal shed light on excessive use of force by police.
"Rodney King was a symbol of civil rights and he represented the anti-police brutality and anti-racial profiling movement of our time," Sharpton said in the statement. "Through all that he had gone through with his beating and his personal demons he was never one to not call for reconciliation and for people to overcome and forgive."
Kings's former lawyer, Milton C. Grimes, told the Times he was shocked by King's death, and that King had not yet realized the import of his role in the events of 1991 and 1992.
"If you watch that video, you'd say, 'How in the ... did he survive that beating?' And the accidents he's had ... just his life. Then to die from drowning in a pool," Grimes said. "This is not something you'd expect."
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, said in an interview with KPCC on Sunday that King's story was one of "tragedy, triumph, and tragedy" again, and that King seemed like one of the most unlikely people to assume such an important role in the history of race relations in the U.S.
"He struck me as a very unassuming, … kind of naive, but a gentle person. He was the most unlikely person you would ever choose to be a ... focal point of history," he said.
City councilman and former LAPD chief Bernard Parks told CNN he is saddened by King's death, but that his beating shone a national spotlight on issues that the L.A. police department needed to address.
"Although his beating will forever be thought of as one of the ugliest moments in the history of the city of Los Angeles and its police department," Parks said, "the victimization of Mr. King and the circumstances that followed created an atmosphere that allowed LAPD and the city to make historic disciplinary and community-based reforms that have made for a better police department and a better city as a whole."
Mark Tauber, Publisher of HarperOne, which published King's recent book around the 20th anniversary of the L.A. Riots, offered his condolences to King's family.
“We are incredibly sad to hear about the passing of our author Rodney King. Many of us at HarperOne became close to Rodney and his fiancé Cynthia [Kelley], as we worked with them on his recently published memoir, 'The Riot Within.' Our love, prayers and support are with Rodney’s family and Cynthia.”
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