Much like the unrest that was triggered by the police killings of George Floyd in 2020, the Rodney King verdict was an inflection point in the relationship between communities and police. The not guilty verdict was preceded by a long history of police brutality in Los Angeles’ Black and Latino communities that were already suffering from heightened levels of gang-related violence; political, social, and economic inequality; and a heightened vulnerability from systemic issues underlying urban life that are still prevalent in America’s cities today.
But, one thing the media missed was an event that took place right before: the Watts truce of 1992. On April 28, 1992, Black and Latino gangs across L.A. saw what was happening around them and decided to finalize a peace treaty. That treaty was strongest in L.A.’s predominantly Black Watts projects amongst four gangs: the Grape Street and PJ Watts Crips, and Bounty Hunter and Hacienda Village Bloods.
Aqeela Sherrills was a former Grape Street Crip who helped broker the peace deal between the groups. Today, he is a community violence activist and public safety advocate. Sherrills is co-founder of the Community Based Public Safety Collective and the President and Board Chair of the Newark Community Street Team. He joined the show to discuss the 30th anniversary of the Watts truce and L.A. rebellion, and he explained how these events hold valuable lessons on redefining public safety.