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Man Who Filmed Cops Beating Rodney King Dies from COVID Complications

George Holliday filmed perhaps one of the most consequential videos in modern history.

Published Sep 21, 2021

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George Holliday, the man who filmed Los Angeles police brutally beating motorist Rodney King in 1991, died on Sept. 19 due to complications from COVID-19, one of his friends told the Los Angeles Times.

Holliday, who filmed perhaps one of modern history's most consequential videos, was still working his long-time job as a plumber at the time of his passing, his friend, Robert Wollenweber, told the Times. Holliday was 61.

In what the Times described as "probably one of the first flickers of the citizen journalist movement to come," Holliday filmed the beating of King, who was Black, with his Sony Handycam from the balcony of his apartment in Lake View Terrace, a neighborhood in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley. He gave the nine-minute-long video, taken in the wee hours of March 3, 1991, to Los Angeles TV news station KTLA, which broadcast it to the world.

The savage beating of King and the widespread outrage it sparked led to charges against the four officers involved. But when those officers were acquitted in 1992 by an all-white jury in Simi Valley, a community outside Los Angeles, the city saw a days-long explosion of fire, protest, and violence in which 63 people died.

Per the Times:

By every possible measurement, Holliday’s video ignited a revolution. It helped usher in an era when police behavior and public accountability were shaped and influenced by even the most casual smartphone users, who could rocket disturbing videos around the globe on Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms.

King, who famously pleaded for peace during the unrest by asking "Can we all get along?," died in 2012 at the age of 47. King was ultimately awarded $3.8 million in damages for the beating from the city of Los Angeles.


Sources

George Holliday, Man Who Caught Rodney King Beating on Video, Has Died at 61. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/george-holliday-man-who-caught-rodney-king-beating-on-video-has-died-at-61/. Accessed 21 Sept. 2021.

“Los Angeles Riots: Remember the 63 People Who Died.” LA Times Blogs - L.A. NOW, 26 Apr. 2012, https://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/04/los-angeles-riots-remember-the-63-people-who-died-.html.

Mydans, Seth. “Rodney King Is Awarded $3.8 Million.” The New York Times, 20 Apr. 1994. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/1994/04/20/us/rodney-king-is-awarded-3.8-million.html.

Marble, Steve. “George Holliday, Man Who Filmed Rodney King Video That Forever Changed L.A., Dies.” Los Angeles Times, 20 Sept. 2021, https://www.latimes.com/obituaries/story/2021-09-20/george-holliday-rodney-king-video-changed-l-a-forever-dies.

Bethania Palma is a journalist from the Los Angeles area who started her career as a daily newspaper reporter and has covered everything from crime to government to national politics. She has written for ... read more