The men arrived in twos and threes, Crips and Bloods, young and middle-aged, gathering around a picnic table in a Compton park to confront their sworn enemies. After two hours of negotiations on a chilly, overcast Saturday in April, they came to an agreement — not a truce, exactly, but a tentative cease-fire. The losses had been heavy, with nearly a dozen dead on each side. It was too soon to talk friendship. The cease-fire talks in Compton were part of an audacious effort by Los Angeles-area gang leaders to curtail violence in their own ranks after the killing of rapper, activist and entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle , whose influence extended beyond hip-hop culture to the realms of business and politics.
Unique among artists of his stature, Hussle, born Ermias Asghedom, remained embedded in his South Los Angeles community , and his biography — a gang-affiliated, tattooed black man pulled into street life before attaining stardom — resonated with young gang members.
Not since the landmark truces of , which followed the devastation of the L. Starting with a cross-section of gangs marching together at a memorial for Hussle and continuing with summits in L.
As with world diplomacy, there is no such thing as global peace among L. Advocates for peace say that even if only a few beefs are put to rest for a short time, lives will be saved. The spark that ignites a war can be small — a disrespectful word or jealousy over a woman.
Someone is killed, grief fuels revenge, and the back-and-forth begins. To create peace, each gang must broker agreements with its main enemies while building a critical mass of support within its own ranks. In the L. Among the questions that have arisen: Should gas stations and 7-Elevens in rival territory be off-limits? What is the punishment for violating a cease-fire? People were talking crazy on the internet. Cartwright told the Swamps to let the man vent and see if the provocative social media posts would subside.
Among the Campanellas, some people wanted to teach the young man a lesson by beating him up. As with the truces of the early s, the peace movement this time appears to be largely confined to black gangs. Linares, who works with Latino gangs as part of a city program to reduce gang violence. A key to peace, many say, is to get buy-in from gang members in their teens and early 20s who are not inclined to bow to authority, even within their own organizations.
But millennials who live on Instagram have a better chance of getting through to the youngsters on their side than OGs, who might come across more like grandparents.
Are they going to rise once you kill this person? A video of the vigil shows dozens of gang members marching somberly toward the store. Afterward, people in red posed for photos next to others in blue. Gang members throughout the region drew inspiration from the sight of enemies coming together to pay tribute to Hussle, who was shot outside the Hyde Park clothing shop in what police have described as a personal dispute. He has pleaded not guilty. The peacemaking has continued since then, with large-scale meetings as well as behind-the-scenes negotiations between warring sets.
An online flyer advertising weekly Thursday meetings for L. In gang culture, the difference between a cease-fire and a truce is crucial. A truce implies friendship beyond the mere cessation of violence. Some who are not ready to accept a truce may accept a cease-fire. Because the cease-fire talks are just beginning and the number of gang conflicts is so immense, it is too soon to establish a link to recent decreases in violence.
This year in L. Gun violence has lessened since a surge in March that stemmed primarily from gang feuds in South L. But the city is entering the summer months, when conflicts often heat up. The Compton area has been relatively quiet in the last few months, in a year that began violently. Through the end of April, there were 11 homicides in Compton , compared with seven in the same period last year. Other experts are skeptical. The gang world is too complicated, with too many individual interests to appease, for ill feelings to be completely suppressed, said Wayne Caffey, a veteran detective for the Los Angeles Police Department.
Until recently, it was inconceivable for those gangs to be in the same room together. Negotiations with the 60s were also progressing.
Dorton, a 40s OG, worked for a city program that employs reformed gang members to tamp down violence and steer young people away from trouble. Three young men from the 60s have been charged in his killing. To prove his point, Garrett pulled out his phone. The men embraced. Garrett and Bennett have posted photos of themselves together on social media, hoping to set an example for other gang members. Kelly, 47, recently returned home after nearly 19 years behind bars for evading a police officer as a three-strikes offender. In prison, he divvied up commissary soups and care packages with cellmates including Bloods, Hoovers and 60s.
Now that he is out and peace is in the air, Kelly is heavily involved in one-on-one and small group talks with his own gang, as well as outreach to the 60s.
People close to Dorton, who was from a subset of the 40s called the Avenues, take more convincing, and some may never get on board. But cease-fires do not need to be perfect to be effective.
After two years of physical therapy, he regained enough movement in his legs to manage a bowlegged gait. He cannot stand for long without leaning against something. Deprived of a future as an athlete, he veered more sharply to the gang life. A few years later, he was shot again, this time outside the front gate of his Compton apartment complex. A thick scar is visible on the back of his neck.
The depth of his previous involvement in the Campanella Park Pirus gives him the credibility to advocate for peace with younger gang members. But another leader from Campanella Park had a suggestion: Why wait? Why not kill our beef with our real enemy? None of us. One by one, the men introduced themselves: Chubb from the Neighborhoods.
Chico from Holly Hood. G-Nutt from the s. Little Man from Fruit Town. Some wore red baseball caps, others blue. They sat shoulder to shoulder over breakfasts of scrambled eggs and grits. The discussion, in a church multipurpose room the Saturday before Memorial Day, quickly turned serious.
He urged the gang leaders at the meeting to come to a consensus so they could go back to their own neighborhoods and muster support. Are we here to stop the killing, or are we here just to holler at each other, network a little bit, powwow? Most of the gang members in the room were older, Bey noted. What about the youngsters wielding the guns? Donnie Ru of the Cross Atlantic Pirus said he had just finished eight years in federal prison. Someone complained about black gangs aligning with Latinos against other black gangs.
People stood up and began arguing. The meeting disbanded with a suggestion that gang members should stop flashing hand signs at rivals.
Instead, they should nod and see if the other person nods back — a sign that both are on board with the cease-fire movement. Twitter: NicoleSantaCruz. Get up to speed with our Essential California newsletter, sent six days a week.
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Times Store. Facebook Twitter Show more sharing options Share Close extra sharing options. Gang leaders wish each other well after a cease-fire summit at the Faith Inspirational Missionary Baptist Church in Compton. The peace efforts were inspired by the sight of gang rivals coming together to pay tribute to slain rap star Nipsey Hussle.