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Groups Plan to Make Anniversary of Riots a Healing Event


A year after smoke filled the skies over Los Angeles and angry residents took to the streets, groups throughout the city will hold meetings, conduct prayer services and get together this week to mark the anniversary of the civil unrest that started April 29, 1992.

"The 29th means a celebration," said Tony Thomas, a former gang member and co-founder of Hands Across Watts. The nonprofit group was started last year to establish a truce between the Bloods and Crips and defuse rivalries between gangs in Watts.

"The rebellion in the city brought a whole lot of change. It wasn't just about some brother that was mad, and that woke up a whole lot of people," Thomas said.

The group is sponsoring a Town Hall meeting Thursday at 12:30 p.m. to mark both the anniversary of the civil unrest and peace among some gang members. The meeting at the Westin Hotel on Century Boulevard will include a satellite link with former Kansas City gang members who will talk about ways to help maintain the truce. Organizers said they want to discuss ways of bringing businesses and money into communities such as Watts.

Church groups throughout the city will also mark the day by dedicating services to the anniversary, while others are inviting residents to attend panel discussions.

The First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles, 2936 W. 8th St., will mark the anniversary with a fund-raiser Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The event will include a debate on the problems facing poor communities and will be dedicated to the late Rev. Stephen Fritchman, a former minister at the church. Church leaders said Fritchman, who died in 1979, often spoke about the need to help inner-city youths and establish programs to deter violence. Actor Edward Asner is scheduled to host the event.

The First AME Church, 2207 Harvard Blvd., will host a program at 6:30 p.m. Thursday entitled "A Call to Oneness." Representatives from the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Korean and Latino communities are slated to take part, according to Timolin Langin, who hosts a talk show, "Candidly Speaking," on local cable television. Langin, who is producing the program at First AME, said the discussion will focus on how to prevent a similar uprising from occurring as well as what residents want from local leaders.

Also on Thursday, a 7 p.m. service will be held by the Koreatown Assn. and several Korean-American religious councils at Ardmore Park, at the corner of San Marino Street and Irolo Avenue.

The group will present scholarships of $1,000 to 11 college students, including African-Americans and Koreans. The scholarships are named for Edward Lee, a Korean merchant killed in last year's civil unrest, and students were selected on the basis of their community involvement and academic merit.

In Pico-Union, the social services agency El Rescate will hold a vigil at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Angelican Lutheran Church on Burlington Avenue, said El Rescate spokesman Jaime Flores.

Although most of the events will recall the riots that broke out following the not-guilty verdicts in the first Rodney G. King beating trial, many participants mentioned a second reason: to prepare communities for the upcoming trial of the three men accused of assaulting truck driver Reginald O. Denny.

"The Denny case is coming up, so we're still in a tense situation," Langin said. "A lot of the root problems aren't being addressed, and we still don't understand others."

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