LA riots mark 20-year anniversary this week


102.3 KJLH FM will have special programming for the next two weeks focusing on different aspects of the riots. Monday morning, Aqeela Sherrills and Cornell Ward, two of the men who helped broker the Watts Peace Treaty, were featured as special on-air guests to discuss gang violence. Gang members signed a cease-fire agreement that helped ease tensions between rival neighborhoods.

Sherrills reflected on what it was like during that dark period in L.A. history.

"I remember, you know seeing the city going up in flames, I remember going up to Jim Brown's house and rallying up the troops and going into different neighborhoods throughout the city and trying to encourage people not to loot the stores, not to burn down the whole neighborhood," said Sherrills.

The six days of violence and looting were triggered by the acquittal of four police officers charged in the Rodney King beating. Hours later, violence and civil unrest filled the streets of South L.A. 53 people died, nearly 2,000 were injured and property damage totaled about $1 billion.

Sherrills and Ward say the occurrence of gang violence has decreased over the last two decades. But while the police take most of the credit for the improvement, the two men say the unprecedented treaty also played a significant role in the reduction.

"We have better, effective communication with cross-town rivals, folks that you normally wouldn't communicated with that we're communicating with now. We have communications with law enforcement, LAPD, the sheriff, county folk, and we know that it's important that we have to do it in a unified state of mind," said Ward.

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