IRVINE — The cause of the Los Angeles riots can be traced to 200 years of racial injustice and the severe economic inequality that exists in the country today, panelists at a UC Irvine forum said Thursday night.
The public forum, sponsored by the University of California Humanities Research Institute and other campus groups, attracted a racially diverse group of more than 500 people.
The Rev. Cecil L. Murray, pastor of the First AME Church in Los Angeles and one of the panelists, said the killing, burning and looting were a form of rebellion by disenfranchised residents.
"We regret the burning, but they were not accidental," he said. "They were burned by the people who burned the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. . . . We regret the lootings, but the greatest lootings were done by the S&Ls that took the poor people's money and not just a ham or a stereo or TV."
Los Angeles Police Commissioner Michael Yamaki said that although the rioting that followed the verdicts in the Rodney G. King beating case seemed to be mostly a black versus Korean dispute, race was just a small factor behind the violence.
The violence was more a battle of "haves versus have-nots," Yamaki said. Korean store owners seemed to be attacked only because they were a visible target, he said.
Panelists at the forum included representatives from the news media, religious leaders, the Police Commission and academia. The Humanities Research Institute sponsored the panel as part of regular programs on minority issues because the severity of the violence needed to be addressed, institute director Mark Rose said.