The lasting effect of video capturing the beating of Rodney King

Twenty-six years ago today, Rodney King was brutally beaten by Los Angeles police officers. Upon hearing the commotion from his apartment, a concerned citizen went to his balcony with a Handycam, filmed the incident and turned over the footage to the local TV news. Promptly, the video was broadcast across the US and the world, sparking public condemnation about the realities of racism and police violence it showed. As many noted at the time, while the brutality of the incident was tragically common, what was uncommon was that it was captured on tape and became the subject of global outcry, showing the unique power of video to bring the truth to light.

That next year, as the importance of eyewitness video was elevated to the national conversation, WITNESS was founded with the mission of equipping communities on the frontlines of abuse with cameras and training to help expose violence and work for justice.

Today, eyewitness videos continue to be at the heart of the global conversation about police violence, and WITNESS remains committed to standing with those working to document and end this abuse. We know that awareness does not always lead to justice. Through our Caught on Camera: Police Violence in the United States project we worked to challenge assumptions about the role of video in attaining accountability for abuse, and point to ways filmers, advocates, journalists, and the justice system can use video effectively for change. And we are partnering with communities from Ferguson to Rio de Janeiro to create multilingual resources to equip people anywhere to document police abuse safely and effectively.

As we mark the 26th anniversary of this brutal incident, and the struggle against police violence continues, we are reminded of the crucial role of eyewitness video as a tool to expose abuse and demand accountability.


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