The Los Angeles City Council dropped plans Tuesday for a symbolic moratorium on killing, deciding instead to use the upcoming anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination to promote peace.
Council members had been asked by a handful of activists to declare a 40-hour ban on murder and other violence, a concept one critic quickly derided as "silliness."
After a 45-minute debate, the council reworked its resolution, saying the city's opposition to homicides should last more than a single weekend.
"A moratorium on violence and killing is something we should support 365 days a year and every minute we live," said Councilman Richard Alarcon, who represents part of the San Fernando Valley.
The symbolic ban on homicides had been proposed by Los Angeles author and political commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson, who had urged the city to make a bold statement about the recent increase in homicides.
"If this works, then the next logical thing is: If a city like Los Angeles can go 40 hours without one homicide, then why not 40 days?" said Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable.
Others called the ban a hollow gesture, saying the council should focus on more substantive anti-crime proposals.
"I'm sure that the people who are doing the killing will hear that the council is calling for a moratorium and then cease and desist," said a sarcastic Joe Hicks, a former executive director of the city's Human Relations Commission. "It's more silliness from our wonderful City Council."
Councilman Tony Cardenas responded angrily, telling his colleagues that a murder moratorium is not silly at all.
"That's the kind of attitude that Martin Luther King had to step over and step across to get the job done," he said.
Ten of the council's 15 members discussed the proposed ban, giving their views on such issues as interracial violence and the federal government's war on drugs. Councilman Ed Reyes used the issue to denounce homeowner groups that have opposed affordable housing and high-density residential projects.
"This moratorium, I hope, allows those who choose to prioritize property values over human values . . . to look ourselves in the mirror every time we demonize our kids," Reyes said.
Despite the expressions of support, council members voted only for a resolution that promised to build awareness and dialogue about "the root causes of violence and killing."
That period of dialogue is scheduled to begin at 6:01 p.m. Friday, the 40th anniversary of King's death, and end at 10:01 a.m. Sunday.
At Hutchinson's urging, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors had passed its own resolution, declaring a moratorium on violence during the same 40-hour period.
Times staff writer Jean-Paul Renaud contributed to this report.