John Hope Bryant
People have said they expected the four officers involved in the Rodney King beating to be set free. What were you thinking at the time?
I was going with my girlfriend to Palm Springs that day. She said she thought there would be a not guilty verdict. I said nonsense, there is rule of law, there is evidence. Despite the change of venue, the tape (of the Rodney King beating) was the kiss of death. I thought there would be a guilty verdict, but the officers were acquitted. I felt fooled because I thought discrimination had been solved and there was justice.
Many remember where they were and what they were doing when the riot started. What was the situation for you?
Well, I'm standing in my office, the verdict comes in and at about 4 p.m. I start to see smoke breweing from the east side of my window view which was East L.A. Out of guilt I shut down my office and went to First A.M.E. Church. The gentleman who who spiritually raised me, Rev. (Cecil) Murray was there. As I walked in the door Pete Wilson was on one side of me and Jesse Jackson was on the other side.
So all this caught you off guard?
The only person that I knew who was surprised was me. I thought it would all work out. But many said the officers would get off, and said we'll have to do the best we can to keep everyone calm.