A handful of community activists gathered outside a fenced vacant lot Sunday to condemn the failure of commercial developers and government officials to rebuild businesses destroyed in the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
"A lot of promises were made in 1992, 1993 and for years after to rebuild L.A.... Fifteen years later, we have just that, failed promises," Earl Ofari Hutchinson, a commentator on race and justice issues, said at a news conference at the site of a former bookstore on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in the Crenshaw district.
Hutchinson scheduled the event for 4:17 p.m., which is when rioting broke out on April 29, 1992, at Florence and Normandie avenues, five miles away. He had known the owner of the bookshop, which was burned in the rioting.
"It was an African American-owned store, which shows it was indiscriminate," he said of the destruction.
The lot today is a slab of concrete and weeds behind a chain-link fence.
A few blocks away are numerous commercial ventures that have emerged since the riots: among them a Wal-Mart, the Magic Johnson movie theaters, Starbucks, Walgreen's and CVS drugstores, a Big 5 sporting goods store and a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop.
But Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard C. Parks, who attended the event just outside his council district, said progress has been incomplete. Large-scale projects proposed by developers are less of a challenge than finding uses for small lots that once housed mom-and-pop businesses, he said.
Hutchinson said he did not know who owned the lot at which the news conference was held. Parks promised to help Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, locate the owner of that lot and 25 others Hutchinson listed in a report for the riot anniversary.
"We want to help the owners find out what can be done by the city to help them develop something," Parks said.
"It has been a real challenge to bring legitimate businesses back to this community," said Rep. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles). She said federal funds for redevelopment are now tougher to come by because the federal government "is distracted by fighting a war thousands of miles away."