'Can we ever hope to get any justice?' Community leaders remember aftermath of LA riots

SOUTH LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- John Mack, former head of the Los Angeles Urban League, recalls his reaction the night of the Rodney King verdict.

"The disappointment, the hurt," Mack said. "Seriously I began to question, 'Can we ever hope to get any justice?'"

That night, as they gathered at First AME Church, Mack said they were stunned but had no time to think about it.

A short time later the community exploded.

"We spread out. We hit the streets trying to do the best we could to help the people," Mack recounted. "On the one hand understanding the frustration and the anger and the rage that many of the people were feeling, but trying to make them understand that that was not going to solve the problem."

MORE: See all of ABC7's coverage marking 25 years since the LA riots

Walking along South Figueroa Street, Danny Bakewell, civil rights activist and former president of the Brotherhood Crusade said 25 years later there is still a lot of frustration, no jobs and little investment in South Los Angeles.

There was such a frustration in the community," Bakewell said. "We didn't call it a riot. We called it an explosion, a civil unrest, because basically what happened was it brought the community to its brink."

"If you look around the surroundings here, you have one refurbished apartment building but you look around and it's still the same neighborhood," Bakewell said. "There has been no real economic development."

Mack, who for years served on the police commission as its president, believes there has been some progress.

"Frankly, while we have incidents, the LAPD has changed institutionally. I firmly believe there has been true reform," Mack said.
Copyright © 2021 KABC Television, LLC. All rights reserved.