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Ex-Gang Members Launch Job Program

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Former members of rival South-Central Los Angeles gangs joined residents Wednesday to announce a program offering job training to anyone who turns in a gun.

Najee Ali, director of Project Islamic Hope, announced he would refer anyone who turns in a gun to him to a free Los Angeles job training and placement program. The guns, he said, will be turned over to the police anonymously.

A crowd of about 50 people gathered in the parking lot of a closed Pep Boys store where police a week earlier detailed a series of raids by 140 officers aimed at ending weeks of deadly violence spawned by feuds between two sets of Crips gang members.

Dwayne Holmes, a former gang member who helped achieve the 1992 Watts truce and is now a field representative of state Sen. Tom Hayden (D-Los Angeles), told the crowd, “We don’t see people coming here with resources to help our young people.”

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Many who attended complained that City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas is only superficially responsive to community needs.

“Mark Ridley-Thomas should stay in touch with the people on the streets,” former gang member Melvin Farmer said. “It doesn’t start behind his desk. To bring on social change, you need to bring on economical change.”

The councilman did not attend Wednesday’s news conference, although three members of his staff attended.

“People have a right to complain,” Thomas said after hearing of participants’ comments. “It would be helpful if their complaints were justified.”


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