Bush says his actions in L.A. "helpful"

By HELEN THOMAS, UPI White House Reporter

WASHINGTON, May 3, 1992 (UPI) -- President Bush said Sunday he believed his response to the racial strife in Los Angeles, which included his deployment of federal troops, had helped calm the situation.

Bush also heard prayers of reconciliation Sunday and set a meeting with Cabinet officials for Monday to consider long-term solutions to the problems behind the deadly unrest.


''I sure am pleased by the way things have calmed way down and I think our actions helped,'' said Bush, on his return to the White House from a weekend at Camp David, Md.

Bush dispatched some 4,000 federal troops to Los Angeles to quell the rioting that erupted last week after a jury acquitted four white policemen in the 1991 videotaped beating of motorist Rodney King, a black parolee charged with a traffic violation.

The Bush administration also prodded the Justice Department into convening a federal grand jury to review the case, and offered federal assistance for recovery efforts.


Bush said he would discuss his next steps at a meeting with Cabinet members Monday. Among those to attend were Health and Human Services Secretary Louis Sullivan and Housing Secretary Jack Kemp.

Aides said the meeting would focus on long-term solutions to the underlying problems behind the violence.

The president also said he intended to proceed with a previously scheduled campaign trip to California Thursday and Friday ahead of the state's June 2 Republican primary.

Bush and members of his family attended worship services at the presidential retreat chapel Sunday morning in Camp David, where they heard chaplain John Frusti pray for unity as a nation ''and a people determined to uphold justice.''

''Forgive us our injustice and raise in us a respect for law, for order, and for due process,'' Frusti said. ''Help us view equality as a right due every citizen.''

White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater reported Bush ''hopes all Americans will spend time today (Sunday) to reflect on the needs of others'' and reminded them Thursday has been set aside as a ''National Day of Prayer.''

In a written statement, Fitzwater said the president urged all Americans to pray on Thursday ''for reconciliation and healing.''

''He suggested that these times cry out for brotherhood and understanding,''said Fitzwater. ''We must use moral force and the equal application of the law to help communities overcome not only prejudice and hate, but the barriers that prevent any citizen from participating in the American dream.


''We will work for the betterment of all Americans,'' he added. ''We must be one nation under God, united by liberty and justice for all.''

Bush told civil rights leaders Friday he hoped politics could be ''put aside'' as solutions were sought in the aftermath of the Los Angeles debacle.

But in his statement, Bush said it appeared the underlying causes of civil unrest in America may play an important role in the election-year race for the White House.

As the issue entered the political arena, Laura Mellilo, assistant press secretary, defended the Bush's response to the violence and his timing, citing his actions to date to help restore order and declaring ''the president has acted very promptly and monitored the situation very closely.''

''The president came out very forcefully Thursday morning,'' following the start of the rioting the night before, she said, adding ''he has been updated throughout on the situation. He feels the attorney general has done an excellent job in coordinating assistance with the state and local governments.''

The Small Business Administration was ready, she said, to assist small business owners who were hurt by the fires and looting.

Saturday night, Bush moved swiftly to declare a major disaster exists in Los Angeles and Los Angeles County and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts.


Undeclared presidential candidate Ross Perot said Sunday that if he had been president when the policemen beat King, he would have visited the city and then told the U.S. attorney general to file federal charges against the officers involved.

The Texas billionaire, appearing on the NBC television program ''Meet the Press,'' was asked to speculate what he would have done if he had been president at the time of the March 3, 1991, beating, which was captured on videotape and broadcast across the country.

''If I were watching that happen, I'd head to the airport, and on the way to the airport, I'd call the attorney general and tell him to file a federal case,'' Perot said. ''I'd have to go see it, feel it and taste it.''

But Perot added, ''I'm not criticizing the president, we all have our style.''

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