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Tension remains in U.S. cities after King verdicts

By JEFF BATER, United Press International

Police stood vigilant in the largest U.S. cities Saturday and shopkeepers swept up while scattered violence persisted and nerves remained tight three days after the Rodney King verdicts ignited outrage coast-to-coast and unrest in Los Angeles deadlier than any single race riot during the turbulent 1960s.

World leaders commented on the urban strife, with Pope John Paul II saying he was ''deeply saddened'' and Libya blaming the trouble on a ''racist, unjust verdict'' acquitting four white policemen in the vicious beating of black motorist King 14 months ago.

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The jury decision Wednesday triggered rioting, peaceful marches, vandalism, and arson in major cities and college campuses across America.

Unrest destroyed parts of Los Angeles, causing millions of dollars in damage and killing 44 people -- a toll exceeding the 43 felled in 1967 in Detroit, the site of the deadliest of the nation's race riots during the '60s.

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Urban violence was reported across America into the night Friday and wee hours Saturday.

Some two dozen youths on the South Side of Chicago threw rocks and bottles at a car filled with white suburban teenagers who got lost while trying to find a restaurant. The rear window of the vehicle was smashed.

In the capital of Illinois, Springfield, a mob of 100 youths set small fires and hurled rocks and bottles at firefighters in a public housing project.

Springfield police said 10 people were charged with mob action and criminal damage to property in the violent flareup that began around 12 a.m. and lasted four hours.

Police commander Dan Hughes said the crowd was mostly young, ages 13 to 20. They set fire to a grocery store near the housing complex and several fires were started in vacant apartments.

Some looting was reported.

Firefighters had trouble getting to the fires, coming under rock-and- bottle barrages. Hughes said the crowd torched a parked dump truck and smashed the windows and windshields of police cars.

New York police reported making 121 arrests in the nation's largest city from the time of the verdicts Wednesday to dawn Saturday. Forty-one people were injured, including 33 police officers, in incidents related to anger over the King case, a police spokeswoman said.

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None of the injuries was serious and property damage was minor, Sgt. Tina Mohrmann said.

Asked what he was feeling, Mayor David Dinkins said, ''Relief. We are the greatest urban center in the world, no question about it.''

Police Commissioner Lee Brown issued a statement saying, ''While most public demonstrations in New York over the last two days have been orderly, some protesters splintered off, intent on disorder. When that happened, our police officers responded swiftly and effectively and they performed with utmost professionalism. The officers and their supervisors were superb. They kept the peace.''

At the same time, about 500 protesters marched to City Hall for a loud but peaceful rally.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, a black activist running for the Senate, addressed the crowd, saying, ''We're not the violent ones. We're the victims of the violence.'' He urged revenge at the polls.

Well-armed police were on guard for possible trouble in Seattle Saturday. Small bands of people ran through streets late Friday smashing windows, looting stores and turning over at least two cars in a second night of rioting. Police arrested 50 people.

In San Francisco, small bands of protesters skirmished with police in defiance of a Friday night curfew, but the city remained relatively calm one night after looters ransacked dozens of downtown stores.

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In Atlanta, police Friday night arrested about 40 people attempting to stage another march from the Atlanta University Center to downtown -- one day after a similar protest turned violent.

A dozen people, including nine police officers, suffered minor injuries.

As trouble rocked parts of the nation, Democrats took an election- year opportunity to lash out against the Bush administration.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Ron Brown, speaking at the Democratic Leadership Council's annual meeting Friday in New Orleans, told delegates President Bush cannot cope with urban decay and racial tensions.

''Americans of good will and common sense want healing,'' Brown said. ''They want these problems solved. They're certainly not going to get healing from George Bush.

''There have been a whole series of issues and events during this administration that have done anything but heal. They've exacerbated the tensions and divisions,'' Brown said.

The Rodney King court case and uprisings were felt and heard around the world.

The official Libyan news agency JANA Saturday sharply criticized the acquittal of the Los Angeles police officers in the videotaped beating of King.

''Under such a racist, unjust verdict, the black citizen felt he was humiliated and his rights were not part of the privileged American white society despite the fact that he is holding an American citizenship,'' the news agency said.

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In Seoul, U.S. Ambassador Donald Gregg assured South Koreans their people in Los Angeles would be protected from further violence. Korean-owned establishments have been vandalized and gutted by arson in rioting there.

''I want to assure the people of Korea that their friends and relatives in Los Angeles are being given the fullest possible protection, and this will continue to be the case,'' Gregg said.

The Vatican press office published the text of the message sent to Los Angeles Archbishop Cardinal Roger Mahoney on behalf of the pope.

''The Holy Father has been deeply saddened to learn of the violence that has broken out in Los Angeles and joins you and all the faithful in asking God, the Father of peace, for the restoration of civil harmony and a renewed spirit of solidarity among all citizens,'' the message said.

Two cars were overturned not far from New York University and several restaurants were stormed in Greenwich Village. As the smaller number of protesters broke shop windows and created havoc, hundreds more took up the ranks behind, in a quiet protest march.

Businesses throughout the city -- including Time-Warner Inc. and the department store giant Macy's -- closed early.

''It was a management decision to allow all our employees to get home safely this evening,'' a Macy spokeswoman said.

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Executives at garment district businesses said police had urged them to shut down before the rally. Police Commissioner Lee Brown said he had no knowledge of police advising businesses to close but was checking into the reports, adding that businesses may be closing on their own.

Three students at a Bronx high school were arrested and charged with inciting to riot for turning over tables in the school cafeteria, police said.

About 300 students at the State University of New York College at Buffalo rallied at 2 a.m., pulling fire alarms in dormitories and ''roughing up'' two students, spokeswoman Joyce Fink said.

Police responded to the two-hour rally but there were no arrests, Fink said.

As a band of demonstrators went from building to building, pulling fire alarms to get students outside, ''they saw these (two) students and just started to rough them up,'' Fink said. One was taken to a hospital to have his nose X-rayed, she said.

Fink said she did not know whether the attackers or the victims were black or white, and said the racial make-up of students at the rally was ''mixed.''

She said a band of students was still roaming the campus pulling fire alarms in the afternoon.

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In Rochester, N.Y., 30 to 50 youths broke several windows of a store, police said. There were no reports of injuries.

Police reported a patrol car had been overturned and said parts of Main Street had been closed, but that the situation was under control.

New York Gov. Mario Cuomo said he suspected the greatest threat of violence in the state passed Thursday night.

About 300 high school students and youths rampaged in Jersey City, N. J., after classes ended, breaking windows and looting several stores.

At least half a dozen people were arrested. Several passers-by were roughed up by the youths, but they received only minor injuries, police said.

In Boston, about 500 people attended a peaceful two-hour rally in the city's predominantly black Grove Hall neighborhood. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., reportedly was turned away by the demonstrators when he arrived to speak.

In Cambridge, about 400 students held a silent, half-hour vigil on the steps of Widner Library at Harvard University and marched silently across campus.

In nearby Chelsea, half a dozen fires broke out Friday night in the heavily minority working-class city just north of Boston. Fire officials said most of the blazes were apparently set, but said there was ''no evidence'' the fires were racially motivated.

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In Dallas, the retrial of a black county commissioner was recessed after members of the jury reported death threats and the prosecutor asked for a mistrial because of the furor over King.

Commissioner John Wiley Price, a controversial black activist, is being tried a second time in state District Court for felony assault. He allegedly broke the ankle of a construction worker during a dispute Aug. 2.

Judge James K. Walker said one juror was called by a man who said: ''I saw you in the courtroom today; if you find that guy guilty, you are a dead bitch.''

Philadelphia police arrested a man and charged him with disorderly conduct during disturbances in which at least three cars were torched, trash was burned in the street and the door of a bar was scorched by a Molotov cocktail. Firefighters extinguished the fires before major damage was done.

Police Commissioner Willie Williams, who will succeed Daryl Gates as Los Angeles police chief, said a police command post would be established to deal with any incidents.

In Pittsburgh, trash bins were overturned and police said a group of white youths reported they had been stoned by a group of blacks as they walked near Carlow College.

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In Richmond, Va., a group of about 150 Virginia Commonwealth University students marched peacefully to the State Capitol. Near Petersburg, on the campus of Virginia State University, about 100 students staged an outdoor debate.

''The message is this,'' said Jeff Mitchell, a senior from Cleveland, Ohio. ''We've got to do whatever it takes. We've got to kick somebody's behind and let them know we're tired of this.''

The unrest affected the sports world.

The San Francisco Giants canceled its baseball game at Candlestick Park against the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Los Angeles Lakers basketball team postponed the fourth game of their opening round playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers. The contest will be played Sunday in Las Vegas.

A jury Wednesday acquitted four white Los Angeles police officers for the videotaped beating of black motorist Rodney King in March 1991. Rioting broke out after the verdicts in the nation's second largest city, and more than 30 people have been killed, more than 1,200 injured and more than 3,000 arrested.

President Bush ordered 4,000 Army troops and 1,000 federal officers to help police and National Guardsmen quell the fiery uprising that began in predominantly black South Central Los Angeles and spread to other parts of the city.

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The Illinois House approved a resolution condemning the King verdicts. It said the acquittal ''stunned the nation ... and for millions represents police brutality and racism.''

The Jewish Community Council of Metropolitan Detroit said the beating of King evoked memories of Nazi Germany, and urged a federal investigation into possible civil rights violations.

''For the Jewish community, the image of uniformed officials abusing their authority and utilizing brutal and repressive tactics against an unarmed civilian evokes chillingly familiar memories of our own experiences in Germany during the 1930s and '40s,'' Executive Director David Gad-Harf said.

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