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TALKING RACE

Will L.A. Explode Again?

March 13, 2005|Charles Duhigg and Michael Soller

In 1965, Watts blew up. The upheaval of 1992 spilled from the nearby corner of Florence and Normandie. In February of this year, an LAPD officer shot and killed 13-year-old Devin Brown as he rammed a police cruiser with a stolen car. The question now in the air: Is L.A. again on the brink of riots?

-- Charles Duhigg and Michael Soller

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"Hell yes. If there's no repercussions for the police that killed Devin, you'll see people in the streets."

-- Artemus Jackson, 37 (speaking two blocks from where the Watts riot began).

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"People are very angry. They are ready to attack."

-- Sara Lopez, 35.

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"It's a lot more mellow now. Back then we thought whitey was against us. I didn't know any police in the '90s. Now they go door to door, introducing themselves."

-- David Shades, 43, (near the corner where a Korean liquor store owner shot an African American teenage girl in a 1991 incident that helped fuel the riots).

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"The police chief gave people a chance to vent, and they talked all their anger out."

-- Debra Steward, 52, a volunteer at one of the 17 "Days of Dialogue" forums following the Brown killing.

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"The supermarket I work at has bought plywood to put across the windows in case of riots. It's to keep out the looters."

-- Johanna Aldana, 18.

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"We are at a worse period than we were back in 1991. You see the energy being stored, kind of like the fault line in an earthquake."

-- Khalid Shah, executive director of the Stop the Violence, Increase the Peace Foundation.

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"A lot of people want free stuff, and they like to fight. If riots start, I'm gonna get me a new stereo."

-- James Hull, 26.

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"After the King riots, all the markets here shut down. It took years for us to get decent stores again. People learned their lesson. That won't ever happen again."

-- Bethorla Walls, 50, a record producer.

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"It seems like people have already forgotten about the Brown death. Most of the tension now is between Hispanic and black gangs. The gangs are killing each other so fast, they don't have time for anyone else."

-- An officer stationed at the 77th Street Patrol Division who refused to give his name.

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"This is a Hispanic and black neighborhood now. Families have moved in, and they thank the police now because they protect them from the crime."

-- Ronnie Love, 51, a baker who has resided near the origin of the 1992 riots for almost four decades.

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"It's better than the past. But I am ready to fight. I have protection ready."

-- Lee Yung, who says his Koreatown store was vandalized during the Rodney King riots.

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