Latino-on-black violence in Los Angeles
It took political officials nearly a month to respond to the slaying of Cheryl Green. Since then, the 14-year-old African American girl has become the face of brown-on-black violence in this city.
The FBI has joined the Los Angeles Police Department in cracking down on gangs. The Police Department, breaking with tradition, has publicly named the city's worst 11 gangs.
And a city-sponsored report has called for an anti-gang Marshall Plan, a reference to the post-World War II strategy of making massive investments to win the peace in former enemy territory.
The racially motivated shooting of the eighth-grader, which occurred Dec. 15 in broad daylight as she chatted with friends, was one of 269 gang-related murders citywide in 2006.
Outside the African American community, widespread outrage that a schoolgirl could be killed because of her color was muffled by the cacophony of the holiday season.
"She was my baby," Charlene Lovett said recently of the youngest of her four children. "She wasn't raised to see colors. I couldn't understand how everyone wouldn't be horrified by this."
African American activists came to her aid, holding rallies to call attention to similar attacks in South Los Angeles neighborhoods where Latinos have supplanted African Americans as the dominant group.
Hate crimes rose 34 percent in 2005 in Los Angeles, the latest year for which statistics are available, and African Americans were the main target. Overall crime is down in the city for the fifth straight year, but gang crime rose 14 percent in 2006.
On Jan. 18, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa held a news conference near where the teenager was killed to announce a plan to "dismantle" the Latino gang blamed for the girl's slaying. He was joined by Police Chief William Bratton and FBI Director Robert Mueller.
By then, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had delivered his second inaugural address, which he began by boasting that "people from all over the world live in harmony" in California.
In an interview with The Bee two weeks later, the governor conceded "we have a big gang problem." But he said the girl's death did not represent a larger problem in California.
"No matter which country you go to, you always have some instances like that," he said. "You know, the Russian mafia or some kind of gang violence in some country.
"Or if it is soccer fans going crazy and trying to kill each other on the soccer field. ... You know, there's crazy things all over the world."
Members of the California Legislative Black Caucus responded to Schwarzenegger's comments with dismay.
The governor, said state Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas, needs "to raise his IQ about the problem."
"This is an urgent matter and it needs to be addressed," the Los Angeles Democrat said, adding that the Senate Public Safety Committee on which he sits would take up the issue.
Assemblywoman Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, said that during town hall meetings she held in black communities around the state she collected "anecdotal" evidence that brown-on-black crime is on the rise elsewhere.
"We know that every time there is a study about hate crime, that African Americans are the No. 1 figure," she said when the caucus recently released its "State of California" report. "I think it's absolutely important that we address that."
Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, D-Los Angeles, told the caucus that racial violence is escalating in other cities as well and will require a unified response.
"We've got to put our heads together and work hard to eliminate what we're seeing in places like Oakland, San Diego, Fresno, Santa Ana and Los Angeles, where we see far too much brown-on-black crime," Núñez said. "We have to put an end to that."
Cheryl Green was gunned down in a hail of bullets while standing near her scooter in the Harbor Gateway area of Los Angeles, east of Torrance.
She was with a group of friends when they were approached by two men. Witnesses and police said that without a word, one man pulled a gun and opened fire, killing Green and wounding three others.
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