The voice was a tad hoarser than usual, but the controversial views of community activist Celes King were at full strength during his first public appearance since being sidelined by a mugging five weeks ago.
The 70-year-old bail bondsman addressed about 50 members of the Consolidated Realty Board in Baldwin Hills at a breakfast meeting Wednesday sponsored by the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper.
The topic was fitting--urban violence and what to do about it.
King, a staunch Republican, has not softened his tough views on solving the crime problem in Southwest Los Angeles.
Although his assailant disarmed him, King still proclaims the right of individuals to bear arms to protect themselves. "I'm in the process of getting another (gun) right now," said King, who years ago sued former Police Chief Daryl F. Gates and other city officials to obtain a concealed-weapon permit.
Criminals are winning the war against Los Angeles citizenry, King warned. Instead of depending on police, he said, businesses and homeowners should hire private security, install burglar alarms and take other anti-crime measures.
"We have to begin to spend the bucks in the private sector," he said. "Willie Williams is a great police chief, but we've sent him to do war with a cap pistol."
King was kidnaped, robbed and assaulted before dawn April 21 near his Country Club Park residence in the Mid-City area. An assailant beat King and stole an undetermined amount of cash before dropping him off on Ardmore Avenue in Koreatown. King sustained a concussion, broken bones in his right hand and puncture wounds during the attack.
"If you wonder why I speak so radically, it's because I was so recently a victim," he said. "Our criminal justice system no longer protects us. And I know from personal experience it's going to get worse."
Though the audience was generally supportive of King, some took issue with his views. Consolidated Realty Board member Marvin Jackson suggested that King focus more on the root causes of crime, such as poverty and racism.
"I've invested much of my life in looking at those root causes," replied King, who co-founded the city's Human Relations Commission and chairs the state Congress on Racial Equality. "And I don't know if we're moving in the right direction now."
Although espousing the need for Los Angeles residents to dig in and fight crime, King admitted caving in himself, at least in part. Although his bail bond business will remain on King Boulevard at Denker Avenue, he is planning to move to the suburbs. He said he had considered moving well before the mugging.
"I've lived here 37 years. I've watched kids grow up in my back yard," he said. "But things have changed significantly. . . . I've seen a guy who owned a doughnut shop near my house get killed. Someone put a bomb in a dumpster. Now is the time to go."