L.A. Lawless

The violence sparked by the King verdict reveals racial divisions that have plagued the city for years

IN THE BEGINNING, THERE WAS RIGHTEOUS indignation. Just three hours after the King verdict was announced, thousands of shocked black residents of South Central Los Angeles gathered at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church. Speaker after speaker denounced the injustice and alienation that are part of their everyday life. Each community leader acknowledged that institutions designed to protect law-abiding citizens had failed them this time, but still some appealed for calm. "Look beside you," said Los Angeles city council member Mark Ridley-Thomas. "These young African Americans are not in the streets."

But it was already too late. By the time the...

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