Los Angeles - Rodney King, whose beating by police in 1992 sparked one of the worst urban riots in US history, was laid to rest on Saturday in Los Angeles, two weeks after his death aged 47.
Black rights campaigner the Reverend Al Sharpton called King a “symbol of forgiveness” ahead of his funeral at the Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills cemetery, north of the city.
“People should not be judged by the mistakes that they make, but by how they rise above them,” Sharpton said. “Rodney had risen above his mistakes, he never mocked anyone, not the police, not the justice system, not anyone.
“He became a symbol of forgiveness,” he added before the funeral, also attended by the Reverend Jesse Jackson.
One of his daughters, 28-year-old said Laura Dene King, 28, called her father a “gentle giant”.
“I will remember his smile, his unconditional love… He was a great father, a great friend, he loved everyone. People will just have to smile when they think of him,” she said.
King was found “unresponsive” at the bottom of his swimming pool in Rialto, east of Los Angeles in the early hours of June 17, by his fiancee Cynthia Kelley.
A preliminary investigation showed no signs of foul play, while a full autopsy and toxicology reports are still pending.
In 1991, King was severely beaten by four white police officers who struck him more than 50 times with their wooden batons and used a stun gun following a high-speed car chase.
The officers went on trial for use of excessive force but were acquitted on April 29, 1992, triggering days of deadly rioting in Los Angeles that left more than 50 people dead and caused around one billion dollars in damage.
As Los Angeles was ripped apart by crowds who looted businesses, torched buildings and attacked one another, King made a personal plea for peace.
“People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along?” he asked on the third day of rioting, going off script from the statement planned by his lawyers.
At Saturday's funeral, the words “Can We All Just Get Along” could be seen embroidered on the open lid of his coffin during a pre-funeral service, according to the LA Times.
Speaking ahead of the 20th anniversary of the riots this year, King said racism still has to be challenged. He published a memoir, “The Riot Within: My Journey From Rebellion to Redemption,” to mark the anniversary.
“There's always gonna be some type of racism. But it's up to us as individuals in this country to look back and see all the accomplishments that we have gotten to this far,” he told CNN. - AFP