Could Ferguson happen here? It already has

When police officers who beat Rodney King were acquitted in April 1992, a spasm of anger and violence quickly metastasized across the country, reaching downtown Atlanta that afternoon.

Hundreds of black youths smashed windows, looted stores and attacked whites on the day after the verdict. In one case, a white Stone Mountain businessman was hospitalized with brain damage after being beaten and robbed near CNN Center.

Four hundred people were arrested and 50 people required hospital care for injuries over the two days. Then-Mayor Maynard Jackson imposed an 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, and some 600 National Guard troops were placed at the ready.

Many of the same conditions that people point to when asserting that racial unrest could not happen here today, were in place then. Atlanta had a black mayor, a black police chief and black members of the City Council.

“It could happen anyway,” Eldrin Bell, who was Atlanta’s police chief, said last week. “It made me know these kinds of situations are unpredictable.”

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