City Forced Cancellation of Laurence Powell Event, Backers Allege : King case: Fund-raiser was to be held at a Police Academy site. But the club that manages the facility backed out of agreement.
A group planning a fund-raiser for Laurence M. Powell complained Wednesday that pressure from City Hall caused the Los Angeles Police Revolver and Athletic Club to cancel the “welcome home” event for the officers convicted in the beating of Rodney G. King.
“We think this is outrageous that [city officials are] depriving us of our constitutional rights,” said Richard Delgaudio, president of a group called the Legal Affairs Council, backing the Powell banquet. “Right now we are in the process of hiring a lawyer to investigate what happened. We would love to sue the city of Los Angeles over this.”
Delgaudio said an agreement to hold the Dec. 14 event was breached by the Revolver and Athletic Club, located at the Police Academy, because of the pressure.
During the past two weeks plans for the fund-raiser have generated growing opposition, first from community and civil rights groups and more recently from the City Council and Police Commission.
Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas was prepared Wednesday to introduce a motion that the city look into ending its various leasing agreements with the private, nonprofit Revolver and Athletic Club. The city owns the academy property but leases space to the club.
The threat of council action, said Ridley-Thomas, was a factor in the club’s Tuesday evening decision not to permit the event.
“It was a warning to [the club] to use good judgment, and to get this situation cleaned up, or else we would subject the whole lease to review . . . if not cancellation,” Ridley-Thomas said. “It’s not good for the club, it’s not good for the city, it’s probably not good for Powell. Let him raise money, but not in our faces.”
In a two-page statement, the Revolver and Athletic Club’s board of directors wrote that it “carefully considered the many issues raised by the sponsors of the banquet, the members of the Los Angeles City Council, the members of the Los Angeles Police Commission and its own members” and decided that it would not be in the club’s best interests to hold the banquet at the Police Academy.
Capt. Richard Wemmer, board president of the club and commanding officer of the Van Nuys Division, refused to comment further.
Civil rights groups opposed to the fund-raiser greeted news of the cancellation with relief, but were still critical of the involvement of several conservative lawmakers in the event, including Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich.
“It is very good news that the Police Academy will not be used to have an event for an officer who has brutalized a young African American man,” said John Mack, president of the Los Angeles Urban League. “The event should be canceled period, and public officials who claim to be responsible people should in no way lend credibility to this type of thing.”
Antonovich had signed on as the event’s “homecoming chairman,” and others, including Rep. Howard P. (Buck) McKeon (R-Santa Clarita), state Sen. Richard Mountjoy (R-Arcadia) and Assemblywoman Paula Boland (R-Granada Hills) had agreed to serve as committee members for the dinner to help Powell retire his legal bills.
“Mike had no involvement in selecting the academy club as the dinner site,” said Steve Herbert, a spokesman for the supervisor. “He is indifferent to where the dinner will be held.”
Boland called the location of the event a “non-issue.”
“I thought it was a good idea before, and I still think it is a good idea,” she said.
Powell and Koon are scheduled to be released Dec. 14. Powell is living in an Orange County halfway house, while Koon is in a federal prison in Oregon.