Rally Vents Frustration Peacefully : Reaction: Cal Lutheran University students gather to share opinions, anger and other feelings.
In sharp contrast to the violence-plagued streets of Los Angeles, students at Cal Lutheran University rallied peacefully Thursday to express disappointment, frustration and rage over the acquittal of four Los Angeles police officers in the beating of Rodney G. King.
“I’m very enraged at the decision that was made yesterday,” 22-year-old Reggie Ray told nearly 200 students who gathered in Kingsmen Park in the center of the campus.
“I’m controlling my anger because I don’t feel the violence and looting that’s going on is necessary,” said Ray, referring to angry crowds in Los Angeles who have torched buildings and looted stores in the wake of the Wednesday verdict.
There were no reports of violence at the campus of nearly 3,000 students, Public Information Director Jean Sandlin said. During the 1 1/2-hour rally, students took turns at a microphone, expressing their emotions and opinions about the acquittals.
Freshman James Mason, 18, said he could identify with King. “You feel very violated, very helpless because there’s nothing you can do,” he said, adding that he and his brother have been harassed by police officers. “These are the people that are supposed to help you.”
Claudia Sumaran, 20, said it has become difficult to trust police officers. “I feel helpless and I feel violated,” said Sumaran, who broke into tears as she spoke. “I try to be fair, but how can I go on thinking that I, as a Mexican-American, a minority, am safe?”
As teary-eyed students consoled one another with hugs and comforting words, many speakers urged their peers to register to vote as a way to enact change and prevent future police brutality.
“You can’t complain about the system without changing it,” campus radio station Director Matt Griffin said.
Cheryllynn Carter, 21, called for change in other ways. “It needs to be done with prayer; it needs to be done with legislation.” She said her mother participated in the civil rights protests of the 1960s.
Many speakers called for solidarity among students of different races and ethnicities.
“Maybe we have different cultures, but that is to be expected,” said Cheri Mesar, 20. “We need to bond together instead of being separated.”
Despite their anger over the verdicts, many speakers said it has fostered unity among students on campus.
“I’m so frustrated with what’s going on,” 22-year-old Omar White said as he wiped away tears. “But I’m so glad you’re out here and are aware of what’s going on.”
White said he was surprised by the outpouring of goodwill from his fellow students.
“I was surprised at the number of people who came out and showed affection,” said White, who said friends of his have been harassed by Los Angeles police officers.
“I feel a sense of strength here,” said 21-year-old Gabrielle Boesche as she surveyed the crowd. “I think we all need to stand up and say we don’t think it’s right and we want change now.”
Many speakers also expressed hope for the future.
“I don’t want this to escalate into my nephew’s generation,” said Traci Day, an 18-year-old freshman who said she couldn’t reach an aunt who lives on Normandie Avenue and Florence Boulevard in South Los Angeles, where violence erupted Wednesday afternoon.
As the rally came to a close, participants solemnly linked hands and began singing, “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.”
Meanwhile, in Ventura, Father Dennis Mongrain of Saticoy’s Sacred Heart Church led a short, sparsely attended memorial service recognizing all crime victims, especially those injured and killed in Wednesday’s rioting in Los Angeles.
“In the aftermath of the Rodney King trial and verdict, we ask for peace, calm and order to prevail, and that the violence in Los Angeles cease.”
Mongrain was speaking at the Government Center in connection with Victims’ Rights Week. Because of the riots, a walk-a-thon planned by the victim services division of the district attorney’s office was called off.
“The acts of violence keep us from being able to walk safely,” said Kathleen McGoldrick, victim services director. “That’s sad.” She said she had expected 150 walkers.
Times correspondent Jane Hulse contributed to this story.