The voice was a tad hoarser than usual, but the controversial views of community activist Celes King III were at full strength during his first public appearance since being sidelined by a mugging five weeks ago.
The 70-year-old bail bondsman addressed about 50 members of the Consolidated Realty Board in Baldwin Hills at a breakfast meeting Wednesday sponsored by the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper.
The topic was fitting--urban violence and what to do about it.
King, a staunch Republican and brigadier general with the California military reserve, has not softened his tough views on solving South Los Angeles' crime problem.
He proclaimed the right of individuals to bear arms to protect themselves, though his assailant disarmed him. "I'm in the process of getting another (gun) right now," said King, who years ago sued former Police Chief Daryl F. Gates and other city officials to obtain a concealed-weapon permit.
Criminals are winning the war against Los Angeles citizenry, King warned. Instead of depending on police, he said, businesses and homeowners should hire private security, install burglar alarms and take other anti-crime measures.
"We have to begin to spend the bucks in the private sector," he said. "Willie Williams is a great police chief, but we've sent him to do war with a cap pistol."
King was kidnaped, robbed and assaulted before dawn April 21 near his Country Club Park residence in the Mid-City area. An assailant beat King and stole an undetermined amount of cash before dropping him off on Ardmore Avenue in Koreatown. King sustained a concussion, broken bones in his right hand and puncture wounds during the attack.
"If you wonder why I speak so radically, it's because I was so recently a victim," he said. "Our criminal justice system no longer protects us. And I know from personal experience it's going to get worse."
Though the audience was mostly supportive of King, some took issue with his views. Consolidated Realty Board member Marvin Jackson suggested that King focus more on the root causes of crime such as poverty and racism.
"I've invested much of my life in looking at those root causes," replied King, who co-founded the city's Human Relations Commission and chairs the state Congress on Racial Equality. "And I don't know if we're moving in the right direction now."