Latino, black leaders unite after alleged hate crime in Compton
A coalition of Latino and black community leaders banded together on the steps of Compton City Hall on Monday, seeking to unite the city in the aftermath of an attack that law enforcement has labeled a hate crime.
Last week, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said two Latino gang members terrorized a black family in an attempt to drive them out of the neighborhood.
The group of about a dozen leaders called for a dialogue between city officials, the sheriff's office and residents to address problems that have arisen from shifting demographics in the city. Compton, once a largely black community, is now made up of about 65% Latino residents, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
"We will not let this incident define our community," said Satra Zurita, a Compton Unified school board member. "We will work on the state, local and federal level to eradicate this behavior immediately."
Shortly after a black family of five moved into a tract home around Christmas, reputed gang members started attacking, sheriff's officials said. On New Year's Eve, two allegedly hurled racial slurs at the family and their guests. One visitor was beaten with a metal pipe, according to authorities.
After that attack, the suspects left and later returned with as many as 20 people to the family's lawn, where they yelled threats and threw a beer bottle through the living room window.
Jeffrey Aguilar, 19, of Gardena and Efren Marquez, 21, of Rialto, who were alleged members of the Compton Varrio 155 gang, were arrested and are being charged with a hate crime. The Sheriff's Department is continuing to look for more assailants.
The family has since been relocated. Basil Kimbrew, chairman of the California Friends of the African American Caucus, said he spoke with the family recently and said they are doing fine but did not feel safe attending the press conference.
The speakers pushed for law enforcement officials to prosecute the suspects to the full extent of the law.
"It sends a strong message to the community ... that we are not going to tolerate it. It's going to stop or we are going to take action against that," said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable.
Some leaders, like Rev. KW Tulloss, drew parallels between the struggles of blacks and Latinos and urged residents to find common ground.
"We have more in common than we do apart," he said. "These incidents that have happened are not reflective of this beautiful city of Compton."
A peace march will be held Saturday.
-- Angel Jennings in Compton
Photo: Bystanders look on as Rev. Eric Lee, president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, joins other local civil rights advocacy groups at a press conference in Compton on Monday. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times