Harvard students and professors reacted with anger yesterday to the Wednesday acquittal of four Los Angeles police officers who were videotaped beating motorist Rodney King.
The decision has sparked race riots in south central Los Angeles and isolated incidents of violence in Atlanta, Minneapolis, Oakland and Cleveland.
"Like many people, I was horrified by this decision," said Jessica S. Yellin '93, who is from the Santa Monica area of Los Angeles. "It is the most blatant evidence of the indelible racism... in this country."
"I was utterly shocked," said Alexis Toomer '93, a native of the Los Angeles suburb of Northridge, about 25 miles south of Simi Valley. "If they couldn't conclude that that was brutality and racially motivated brutality..." she said.
Tyler Professor of Constitutional Law Laurence H. Tribe '62 said the verdict was foreshadowed by a judge's decision to move the trial from Los Angeles County to predominantly white Ventura county.
"It was the result of this trial being moved toa county that is so unrepresentative," he said.
"I think the verdict was horrible," Tribe said.
Tribe also criticized the reaction of PresidentBush, who yesterday called for calm and forreliance on the appeals process.
"It's nonsense to talk about the appealsprocess," said Tribe. "I think the Department ofJustice has a responsibility to get involved," hesaid, suggesting that the officers should face afederal trial for violating civil rights laws.
Students from the Los Angeles basin, where theWatts race riots of 1965 remain etched in thearea's consciousness, said they were most worriedabout the riots that have decimated downtown L.A.and forced the city government to shut down manyservices.
"I just got a call from my littlebrother--they've closed the Los Angeles [district]schools for tomorrow," said Charles S. Woo '95,who lives in the San Fernando Valley suburb ofGranada Hills.
"They say the biggest problem isn't so much thefires as the property," Woo said.
And some students said they worried about theeffects the violent riots would have on Southcentral Los Angeles, a predominantly Black andLatino section of the city that has seenwidespread drug abuse and gang disturbances.
"The violence that is going on right now isawful because the people are destroying their owncommunities and it has taken so long to build upSouth Central," Yellin said.
While violence related to the King decision hasbeen reported as far east as Atlanta, Bostonpolice officials reported no violence or riots.
A rally took place at Boston University whichBoston police spokesperson Scott Gillis called"peaceful." Gillis, along with Cambridge policeofficials refused to comment about whether theirdepartments had taken precautionary measures toward off potential violence