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Gang Truce Has Brought Little Aid, Watts Leader Complains


A Watts community leader who helped forge a truce among area gang members nearly two years ago complained Wednesday that much of the support promised from the private and public sectors has yet to arrive.

Fred Williams, the founder of the Common Ground Foundation, a program for school dropouts, said many of the gang members are still looking for the jobs and educational opportunities promised in the wake of the riots that charred South-Central Los Angeles and other parts of the city.

Standing at the site of a burned-out market on 103rd Street, accompanied by about 20 formerly warring gang members, Williams accused NAACP Executive Director Ben Chavis and others of having slighted those trying to hold the truce together.

"We're sick and tired of black leaders from Ben Chavis to Jesse Jackson to Maxine Waters to Danny Bakewell saying they're going to help us and doing nothing," Williams said.

"We're tired of having our brothers being used as people's political and economic steppingstones, of them coming in here taking pictures with us and then leaving us with nothing."

Last April, before the verdicts in the second Rodney G. King beating trial, Chavis spent five days visiting the Imperial Courts housing project. He pledged to fund a leadership program proposed by Common Ground, but the help has not materialized, Williams said.

Chavis, who is in Los Angeles this week for the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People's Image Awards, could not be reached for comment. But Don Rojas, head of communications at NAACP national headquarters, said the organization has given about $7,000 to Williams to support the Los Angeles gang truce.

In addition, the organization is helping the gang truce movement nationwide, Rojas said.

Efforts to get gang members to put aside traditional rivalries has been credited with reducing violence in some areas of the city, even while it flares in others.

Even with the truce among Bloods and Crips factions in the Watts area, 21 men were killed in "personal conflicts" there in 1993, mostly because of longstanding tensions, Williams said.

The Common Ground leader said the truce effort has received substantial support from some groups, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

"All they're asking for is a better education, a job, basically, a better chance so they can move away from this life," Williams said of the gang members involved in the truce. "But instead all they hear are talks for more gun bills and crime bills and toys for guns, which won't do anything."

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