Students at Mission College discussed the Rodney G. King beating trial verdict, and the riots that followed, with civic leaders this week and suggested that protests take place in the voting booth.
The forum was part of a campuswide effort aimed at bringing students together after last week's anger and violence, campus leaders said. A variety of multicultural events also were held.
At the forum, which attracted nearly 75 students, faculty and civic leaders, many students appeared to be struggling to understand the violence. Even so, they emerged with a clear message about how to deal with the anger that sparked the riots.
Encouraging students to vote was a theme throughout the forum, which lasted more than an hour. Some students called for canned food drives to help those left homeless and jobless by the riots.
Several students warned that patchwork solutions will not solve the problems that caused the violence.
Robert E. Hardy, 20, a sophomore and former gang member from South Los Angeles, likened the King beating and subsequent riots to a woman he said was beaten by authorities prior to the Watts riots in the 1960s. "If these beatings don't stop, these riots are going to continue," he said.
Avis Ridley-Thomas, wife of Los Angeles Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose district was hardest hit in last week's riots, told the students that their efforts to understand and heal represents what is needed in Los Angeles.
Coincidentally, prior to the riots, Mission College had scheduled a cultural awareness week on campus this week. Despite some bad weather, a few hundred students and community members were drawn to Tuesday's Cinco de Mayo festivities and a food fair held by the Black Student Union on Thursday.
Earl Caillovet, 48, whose roots are in the Deep South, was one of those lured to the Cinco de Mayo festival. He said he was pleased that the college did not cancel the event because of the riots.
"It helps," he said. "You come to these kind of events, it makes you understand that other people are not that different.