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The Inconvenient Truths of South Central 1992

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Most of the widespread commemorative discussion of South Central's 1992 has missed three very important lessons:

First, the Crips-Bloods truce occurred before the April 29 Simi Valley not-guilty verdicts in the Rodney King beating case. Helped along by Jim Brown, as many as 200 young men boarded buses and traveled to City Hall, where they testified to a nervous City Council that they were trying to end their feud, and asked for city resources to rebuild the communities they had damaged. The Council brushed them off. On the following day, April 29, the upheaval began after the jury verdicts came down. At the time, the LAPD falsely accused street gangs for causing the rebellion, a claim refuted in Lou Cannon's book several years later. It became illegitimate for city officials to work with gang members or reforming gang members, at the very moment that a historic gang peace process needed to be nourished.

Second, America's urban policy agenda shifted to private market-driven notions in place of government-sponsored programs, and the corporate agenda ended in utter failure without the slightest public reflection. "Rebuild LA" was launched by Republican Orange County businessman Peter Ueberroth with the state goals of $6 billion in private investment in South Central, and 74,000 new jobs, in five years. The privatization scheme closed its doors two years later. Instead of 50,000 new jobs in rebuilding, South Central lost a net 55,000 jobs between 1992 and 1999. The promised $6 billion in new investment turned out to be $389 million five years later, most of it outside the riot-zone.

Third, despite the abandonment by city developers, the gang truce resulted in a reduction in South Central homicides from 466 in 1992 to 223 by 1998. As it was forgotten, a new cycle of violence began. Sixteen years later, on February 13, 2008, the City Council and ,ayor acted to adopt a community-based intervention model for curbing gang violence, drafted with the input of many survivors of 1992.