“Los Angeles Members Begin Recovery from Riot,” Ensign, July 1992, 80
At least three Latter-day Saints were injured and thirteen businesses owned by members were burned or looted during the late April and early May riots that ravaged the Los Angeles metropolitan area.
Rioting erupted April 29. The subsequent days and nights of violence left at least fifty-five people dead, more than two thousand injured, and at least thirteen thousand jailed. Estimated property damages totaled more than 700 million dollars.
No Church buildings or facilities were damaged, but at least one member’s home was completely destroyed. According to Keith Atkinson, director of Church public affairs in California, all area missionaries were safe.
Before the violence subsided, local members began gathering and distributing food and supplies.
Members of the Palos Verdes California Stake, led by stake president Randall Turner, joined in cleanup and relief efforts after Cheryl and Roger Hendrix, members of the Palos Verdes East Ward, called to let President Turner know they were planning to “do something” to help.
“Within three hours there were approximately two hundred people at the stake center with food, ready to help,” Brother Hendrix said. A local Seventh-day Adventist church donated money to buy food. And by 1:00 p. m., a caravan of one hundred people traveled into ravaged parts of the city to distribute food and clothes.
Stake members turned out in even greater forces the next day, when more than five hundred stake members arrived with more food and clothing. One group of members packaged 250,000 bags of groceries at a local grocery warehouse. The others delivered food and supplies.
“The biggest victors of all were our children,” said Brother Hendrix. “They learned that Christian goodness is most greatly manifested in serving someone.”
The Santa Monica and Arcadia stakes also began working with other local churches to collect and distribute food and supplies. Other area stakes combined relief efforts with the Red Cross and Boy Scout troops.
Members of the Long Beach and Long Beach North stakes prepared meals for four hundred police and National Guard troops.
Long Beach stake president Robert Ward said he received a call at noon Saturday asking for help. “By 4:00 p. m. all the food was ready, and the security forces were eating,” he said.
A group of eight Tongan and Hispanic members kept a mob from looting and destroying President Ward’s furniture and appliance business. “The mob taunted and jeered us all night,” President Ward explained. “But in the morning the shop was still standing, no one was hurt, and there was not one broken window.”
The devastation of Korea Town, one of the areas ravaged by the violence, isolated many in the Korean community. Brother Atkinson said there are efforts to build bridges between ethnic groups. Even Church members in Korea held a fast in behalf of their brothers and sisters in Los Angeles. “They want them to know they love them and are concerned about them,” Brother Atkinson said.
The Church is also participating in long-term relief and prevention programs with the Los Angeles area Interfaith Council.
The council, which includes representatives from the Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Sikh communities, wants to initiate a youth education plan, encourage businesses to rebuild in the affected areas, and form a committee to advise city officials and coordinate efforts with the city.