The Rev. Cecil Murray, Then And Now On The 1992 LA Riots It's been 25 years since the Los Angeles riots. NPR's David Greene talks with the Rev. Cecil Murray, a former pastor at First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles.
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The Rev. Cecil Murray, Then And Now On The 1992 LA Riots

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The Rev. Cecil Murray, Then And Now On The 1992 LA Riots

The Rev. Cecil Murray, Then And Now On The 1992 LA Riots

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Twenty-five years ago, LA was on fire.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING MONTAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER #1: Reported structure fire, 2329...

UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER #2: There are reports of gunfire, cars on fire.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: We heard...

UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER #2: As I mentioned, a police car right across the street...

GREENE: Four police officers had been acquitted in the beating of Rodney King, an African-American motorist. Riots broke out, and an American city was engulfed in racial violence.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Tonight, I want to talk to you about violence in our cities and justice for our citizens, two big issues that have collided on the streets of Los Angeles.

GREENE: As all of this was happening, the Reverend Cecil Murray delivered this memorable sermon to his congregation in South LA.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CECIL MURRAY: We are not proud that we set those fires.

UNIDENTIFIED CONGREGANT #1: Yeah.

MURRAY: But we'd like to make a distinction to America this morning. We set some of those fires, but we didn't start any of those fires.

(APPLAUSE)

MURRAY: Our message to the community was we must not self-destruct.

GREENE: We asked Reverend Murray this week to reflect on why this happened in 1992.

MURRAY: The black poet Langston Hughes says, what happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or does it explode?

In the history of our city, the dream deferred tends to explode.

GREENE: And the reverend remembers how he saw it all unfold.

MURRAY: One of the ushers pulled me to the outside. I want you to see something, Reverend. He pointed to the south - flames. He pointed to the west - flames. He pointed to the east - flames. And he says, and they're moving north.

GREENE: Reverend, it - your memories are so vivid. It sounds like it was yesterday.

MURRAY: Indeed it does. The police mentality has changed for the better. But when you saw the police shooting in Ferguson, you knew that the intensity was building. So you ask, who will protect us from our protectors?

GREENE: When you watched the anger in Ferguson - when you watched the anger in Baltimore, did you see a difference in 25 years? Have we somehow gotten better as a country in your eyes?

MURRAY: We have increased an awareness. There is an unspoken commitment within the black community that there will be no more 1992s. So that's why the movement Black Lives Matter has been a positive act. One thing that we must be dedicated to in the underserved communities of blacks and browns - we must protest, but we must protest nonviolently.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MURRAY: Let me tell you this morning 'cause we got to clean up the town.

UNIDENTIFIED CONGREGANT #2: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED CONGREGANT #1: Yes.

MURRAY: And as you clean up, smoke gets in your eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED CONGREGANT #3: Yes, it does.

MURRAY: But don't you worry about that. Weep a little bit, and keep on walking.

(APPLAUSE)

GREENE: The voice of the Reverend Cecil Murray today and 25 years ago during the LA riots.

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