The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has gathered a coalition of organizations to sign a joint statement of unity and stand together on the 20-year anniversary of the L.A. riots.

Amanda Susskind

“As we commemorate one of the most divisive times in our city’s history, it is of utmost importance to unite against hatred and express our commitment to our work together to create a harmonious community,” said Amanda Susskind, director of the ADL Pacific Southwest Region.

Included in the statement is recognition of what took place 20 years ago, a summary of progress to “build bridges of understanding among our many diverse communities, and to reduce hatred and stereotyping of the communities we represent,” and a pledge to stand up to bigots, haters and xenophobes; denounce hate crimes of all kinds; and work with law enforcement to promote high standards of community policing.

“It was important for us to include LAPD along with key community leaders as co-authors of this statement,” said Susskind. “Once the basic concept was hashed out among the co-authors — taking realistic stock of events as they occurred 20 years ago and acknowledging the work that has been done and continues to be necessary — the statement was distributed to a broader group of community leaders for support.”

Susskind co-authored the statement with Grace Yoo of Korean American Coalition, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, Blair H. Taylor of the Los Angeles Urban League, and Rev. Eric P. Lee of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Blair Taylor

Supporters include:

Hector Villagra, American Civil Liberties Union

Rt. Rev. Alexei Smith, Archdiocese of Los Angeles

Stewart Kwoh, Asian Pacific American Legal Center

Angelica Salas, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles

Linda Akutagawa, Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics

Lorri L. Jean, Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center

John Mack, Los Angeles Police Commission

Leon Jenkins, NAACP of Los Angeles

Roel Campos, New America Alliance

Grace Yoo

Authors and supporters will gather to officially announce the statement on Sunday, April 29, at 1:30 p.m. at Robert F. Kennedy School (former Ambassador Hotel site), 701 S. Catalina St., Los Angeles, at the outset of the reception for the “Diversity Is our Strength” 4.29 Center Essay Contest, organized by Korean American Coalition to commemorate the anniversary.

The timing with the essay contest is relevant as the statement includes a pledge to teach children to understand that “diversity in our community is a strength and a source of pride, not a cause for hatred and division.”

Text of Statement

Whereas, on April 29, 1992, the trial of Los Angeles Police Department officers charged with assault and use of excessive force in connection with the arrest of Rodney King ended with the jury acquitting all four on the assault charge, and acquitting three and deadlocking for one officer on the excessive force charge;

Whereas, following the announcement of the verdicts, the residents of Los Angeles, especially in the African American community, expressed outrage;

Rev. Eric Lee

Whereas, tensions between the African American and Korean American communities were already heightened following the trial of Soon Ja Du, a Korean American shop owner accused of shooting Latasha Harlins, an African American girl, in the back; the trial had resulted in a manslaughter conviction a few months earlier;

Whereas, these and other contributing factors, including decades of discrimination and neglect in the African American community and mutual cultural misunderstandings in the African American and Korean American communities, led to heightened tensions and a riot some described as an uprising;

Whereas, the riot involved looting and arson in the south and central parts of Los Angeles, and had a devastating impact on both the African American community and business owners in Koreatown;

Whereas, a delay in response and a breakdown in communication at the outset of the riots among the Los Angeles Police Department and city leadership led to a perception that law enforcement was unable to keep or restore order;

Whereas, early on the morning of April 30, 1992 a state of emergency was declared to restore peace and order;

Whereas, by May 1, 1992, 30,000 uniformed personnel including police officers, deputy sheriffs, the California National Guard, U.S. Army soldiers, Marines and specially trained federal law-enforcement officers were mobilized;

Police Chief Charlie Beck

Whereas, by May 4, 1992, 53 people had lost their lives, 2,400 were injured and 12,000 were arrested; and an estimated $1 billion in property damage from fires, theft, and vandalism had occurred;

Whereas, all communities suffered profound loss; the Korean American community was greatly impacted, with approximately half of the $1 billion in losses;

Whereas, in the ensuing 20 years, Los Angeles has rebuilt and grown into one of the most diverse major cities in the country, with over 220 languages spoken by residents, hailing from more than 140 countries, and the Los Angeles Police Department has undergone significant reforms;

Whereas, in the ensuing 20 years, the Anti-Defamation League, Korean American Coalition, the Los Angeles Urban League and the Los Angeles Police Department have worked individually and in coalition to build bridges of understanding among our many diverse communities, and to reduce hatred and stereotyping of the communities we represent;

Now, therefore, be it resolved: We the undersigned join together on this day April 29, 2012, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the L.A. Riots, in the following Statement of Unity:

We recognize the tragedy of April 29, 1992, and honor those innocent victims who lost their lives as we pay respect to their families.

We recognize those who lost their property and livelihoods, honoring their efforts to rebuild and regenerate.

We recognize the work our respective civic organizations have done to rebuild and heal our community in the last two decades.

We recognize the work of the City of Los Angeles and LAPD to educate, reform and hold accountable their work force, to work collaboratively with civic organizations, and to implement community policing strategies all to the betterment and reduction of crime in Los Angeles.

We will continue to work together to create a harmonious community.

We will stand up to the bigots, the haters and the xenophobes in our community.

We will denounce hate crimes of all kinds because a hate crime targeting one segment of our community does harm to us all.

We will work together with law enforcement to continue to promote high standards of community policing, including reporting and assisting in the fight against hate and extremism while also holding law enforcement accountable to keep order.

We pledge that our children will understand that diversity in our community is a strength and a source of pride, not a cause for hatred and division.

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