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15 years after L.A. riots, tension still high

Promises made in the wake of three days of violence remain unfulfilled, residents tell city officials at South Los Angeles events.

April 29, 2007|Deborah Schoch and Rong-Gong Lin II, Times Staff Writers

Although a 15th anniversary typically does not carry the emotional cachet of, say, a 10- or 25-year milestone, hundreds of residents gathered Saturday at two South Los Angeles events to call attention to a community still racked by the poverty and violence that fueled the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

The message from both gatherings on the eve of today's anniversary was stern and angry: The city's southern neighborhoods are still largely ignored.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday May 01, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 55 words Type of Material: Correction
Riots anniversary: A photo of the Community Coalition's Bettye Draughan that accompanied a story in Sunday's California section about the 15th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots was taken by Gary Friedman, not Carlos Chavez. A photo of City Planning Director Gail Goldberg that appeared in some editions also was taken by Friedman, not Chavez.

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A standing-room-only crowd at the Community Coalition lambasted city officials for failing to close nuisance liquor stores and motels that the nonprofit group has pinpointed as hot spots of illegal drinking, drug dealing, prostitution and violence.

Six months ago, coalition members gave city Planning Director Gail Goldberg a list of the 21 "most egregious" businesses and pleaded for their closure or improvements within six months. They learned Saturday that public hearings have been held or set for only eight stores, frustrating many who said they expected more from the city.

"We have heard this so many times," an angry Manya Anderson, 58, told Goldberg as nearly 200 people looked on at the coalition's offices on South Vermont Avenue.

"We are dying. This community is dying. The bottom line is, this never would have been allowed in any other community."

Resident Jackie Garrett, 60, was equally discouraged.

"I feel like we're living in Iraq," she said. "Tell me we lost the war in Iraq -- we lost the war in L.A."

Across town at First AME Church on Harvard Boulevard, civic leaders warned 70 to 100 listeners that the conditions that sparked the riots still fester, despite the myriad post-riot promises of better jobs, schools and supermarkets. Many promises never materialized, leaving some residents embittered and resigned.

Without a massive effort to undertake these underlying issues, "We're going to be right here after the next riots," said veteran civil rights attorney Connie Rice.

"You don't have racial tensions when there's enough prosperity."

The nation's worst rioting in more than a century began April 29, 1992, lasted three days and took at least 53 lives, injured 2,300 people and damaged more than 1,100 buildings.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said he felt a sense of desperation at the forum.

"The key to our public officials is to go out, learn and listen to voices and offer solutions," he said.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who spoke briefly at the event, cast a more optimistic view of race relations.

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