California Today: California Today: Chasing Justice in L.A., 25 Years After Riots

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Part of an exhibit at Community Coalition in South Los Angeles commemorating the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Credit Community Coalition

Good morning.

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Let’s turn it over to Jennifer Medina, a correspondent based in Los Angeles, for today’s introduction.

The shelves are mostly bare, save for a few rolls of toilet paper and Campbell’s soup. Paper strewn all over the floor, shopping baskets knocked over in a rush. “Rodney King We Love You Brother,” is scrawled in black spray paint on a wall.

Normally, the small room at Community Coalition, a nonprofit organization in South Los Angeles, is filled with computers available for local residents. This month, it has been transformed into a looted store, as part of the organization’s “Re-Imagine Justice” exhibit commemorating the 25th anniversary of the 1992 riots.

Los Angeles has gone through significant changes since the four white police officers who beat Mr. King were acquitted by an all-white jury in Simi Valley. Murder rates have plummeted and the Police Department is widely credited for adopting more community-oriented tactics.

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Still, the area remains one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, there are frequent complaints about the lack of grocery stores with fresh food and the police have shot several unarmed residents. To many people here and around the world, South Los Angeles (or South Central as it was known then) is still a symbol of racial violence and poverty.


A work by the artist Enkone symbolizes a peace treaty between gangs during the riots. Credit Community Coalition

“The anniversary of the L.A. uprising should really serve as a kind of temperature check for the city,” said Alberto Rentana, the executive director of Community Coalition, which commissioned works from dozens of artists for the exhibit. “South Africa reminds folks of apartheid, Germany reminds people of the Holocaust and we have a responsibility to remind people that South L.A. still illustrates the inequity that the city continues to tolerate.”

Like other activists, Mr. Rentana eschews the term riots. He calls it an uprising, he said, because more than a dozen local organizations started after 1992 and have pushed for significant policy changes, including a $15 minimum wage, eliminating questions about criminal history on job applications and making college prep classes more widely available.

“Those are victories that were given birth by the ashes of the unrest,” he said. “We don’t mean to romanticize the burning and looting. It was a painful time for the city. But to ignore the progress that it has led to would do the anniversary and people a disservice. Now we ask what does it mean to really fight for justice 25 years later?”

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The Mexican border wall in Calexico, in Imperial County. Credit Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

• Where the border is more marker than barrier — California’s Calexico is in some ways a suburb of nearby Mexicali in Mexico. [Los Angeles Times]

• San Diego school leaders are facing a backlash after pushing a plan to teach students about Islam. [San Diego Union-Tribune]

• The National Rifle Association is rolling out a series of legal challenges to California’s new gun laws. [Los Angeles Times]

• More than 40 youths stormed a BART train in Oakland and robbed passengers. [East Bay Times]


The Kitty Hawk Flyer is one of several prototypes being designed by Kitty Hawk, a start-up based in Mountain View. Credit Kitty Hawk

• This isn’t science fiction. Start-ups as well as big aerospace firms are trying to build personal aircraft you could fly around town. [The New York Times]

• According to new federal guidelines, a six-figure household income is considered “low income” in parts of the Bay Area. [The Mercury News]

Marissa Mayer largely failed to restore Yahoo to greatness. But she’ll have a big payday with the company’s sale: $186 million. [The New York Times]

• An advertising executive in Oakland has reached the pinnacle of a tough industry for female leaders, black ones in particular. [The New York Times]


Each teddy bear cholla is unique. This species of cactus releases pads and barbs that are carried on the wind to patches of soil where they will take root and grow. Credit Caity Fares for The New York Times

• Never has there been a better time to appreciate the bizarre charm of California’s cactuses. [The New York Times]

• Chinese investors are pouring money into Temecula’s wine region in the belief that it’s poised to break out as a big time destination. [Los Angeles Times]

• “This was a display of power.” The Warriors swept the Trail Blazers to advance to Round 2 of the N.B.A. playoffs. [The Mercury News]

• Show business inched closer to a production shutdown. Hollywood writers voted to authorize a strike. [The New York Times]


The sisters Victoria Echeri, 8, and Meztli Kali, 5, posed for a portrait at the fourth annual Selena Fan Gathering in Los Angeles. Credit Emily Berl for The New York Times

• Photos: Fans of Selena, who was murdered in 1995, have never stopped celebrating her life and music. [The New York Times]

And Finally …


Nicholas B. Dirks, the U.C. Berkeley chancellor, has defended the campus’s commitment to First Amendment rights. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

It’s been a rough stretch for U.C. Berkeley.

The university has been criticized, mocked and now sued over its cancellation of an appearance by the author Ann Coulter scheduled for this week.

Willie Brown, the former San Francisco mayor, wrote in a column that while the free speech movement was born in Berkeley, “now, it seems, it’s being buried in Berkeley.”

The satirical newspaper The Onion served up ridicule with the headline: “Berkeley Campus on Lockdown After Loose Pages From ‘Wall Street Journal’ Found on Park Bench.”

And on Monday, two conservative groups filed a lawsuit that accused administrators of discriminating against right-wing speakers.

The university is in a difficult position.

As the reporters Thomas Fuller and Stephanie Saul wrote in The Times, the university has become something of a destination for malcontents looking to express their political views with violence.

Nicholas B. Dirks, the chancellor, said the Coulter event was canceled because of specific threats to public safety by anarchist groups. (Ms. Coulter has said she will appear on Thursday anyway.)

What’s your take? Could Berkeley administrators have handled the Coulter situation better? If so, how? Please tell us, and include your full name and city of residence, here: We may publish your reply.

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The California Today columnist, Mike McPhate, is a third-generation Californian — born outside Sacramento and raised in San Juan Capistrano. He lives in Davis. Follow him on Twitter.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

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