Nearly 30 years before the recorded death of George Floyd and an entire generation before the existence of camera phones and viral video, Holiday witnessed a traffic stop outside his San Fernando Valley home, saw four white police officers beating a Black man who was already on the ground and had the foresight to record it on his new video camera, the Associated Press reported.
I spent my childhood in southern Los Angeles and the senseless beating of Rodney King was the first major news story I can remember paying attention to or even knowing about, followed by the news that broke a year later after a jury acquitted all the officers involved, despite the video evidence. That news resulted in riots erupting across the city, including right around the corner from my home at the time.
According to AP, last July, Holiday put the video camera he used to record King’s beating up for auction with bidding starting at $225,000.
It’s unclear if the camera ever sold, but last year, Holiday told the New York Times he never profited much from the video.
“I’m still a plumber, even after all of this,” he said. “I’m working my butt off crawling under houses every day.”
He also said he hoped the auction would “inspire people to use their cameras for everything, the bad and the good.”
“People can accuse other people of doing stuff,” he continued. “But when it’s on camera, it’s different. You just can’t argue with it.”
Today, the convenience of cameras on cell phones has made the recordings of police brutality and instances of racism commonplace. And although video footage still doesn’t guarantee justice, the innovation has changed the game and made it much more difficult for police officers to do whatever they want without fear of being held accountable.
It’s also worth mentioning that Holiday’s video was still helpful in bringing some semblance of justice to King despite all his attackers being acquitted initially. Two of the acquitted officers were later convicted on federal civil rights charges and sentenced to prison. King—who died in 2012—was also awarded $3.8 million in damages in a civil case.