A gang unity meeting at a South-Central Los Angeles park turned into a tense confrontation with riot-ready police Saturday night when bystanders tried to stop what officers described as a routine arrest nearby.
No violence broke out and no one was injured in the standoff, which began about 5:30 p.m. near Orchard Avenue and 88th Street.
As many as 500 gang members had gathered earlier for a picnic, dance and gang truce talks at Algin Sutton Recreation Center, one block away on Hoover Avenue. As the crowd began to leave, officers making a routine stop called for backup when several people "began advancing on them in a threatening manner," said Cmdr. Ron Banks.
Six men were arrested before the crowd was dispersed about 7 p.m. One man was arrested for interfering with the officers' investigation, three were arrested on misdemeanor warrants, one was arrested for public drinking and one for carrying a concealed weapon.
As several squads of officers stood nearby wearing riot helmets and carrying rifles, youths worked the crowd hawking "Stop the Violence" T-shirts and collecting donations for riot victims.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) and Police Commission President Stanley K. Sheinbaum, who were driving past the neighborhood, stopped to talk to the crowd. City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas soon joined them.
Waters, who said she has attended several of the gang gatherings during the last week, said: "We cannot simply have an inability for people to peacefully assemble because somebody suspects something might happen."