Crips and Bloods be­gin the most ex­ten­sive peace talks since ri­ots

Lodi News-Sentinel - - LOCAL/NATION - By Ni­cole Santa Cruz and Cindy Chang

LOS AN­GE­LES — 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 cease­fire.

The losses had been heavy, with nearly a dozen dead on each side. It was too soon to talk friend­ship.

But at least the Swamp Crips and the Bloods-af­fil­i­ated Cam­panella Park Pirus could agree to stay away from each other’s ter­ri­tory and stop shoot­ing at peo­ple.

“It’s a trou­bled past. A lot oc­curred, and we can’t heal that fast,” said La­mar “Croc­o­dile” Robin­son, 46, a Swamp Crip. “But it’s im­por­tant for us to take the ini­tia­tive and school the young­sters on what’s at stake and what they can gain.”

The cease-fire talks in Comp­ton were part of an au­da­cious ef­fort by Los An­ge­le­sarea gang lead­ers to cur­tail vi­o­lence in their own ranks fol­low­ing 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.

Hus­sle spoke openly of his mem­ber­ship in the widely feared Rollin’ 60s Crips while set­ting an ex­am­ple by per­form­ing with rap­pers who were Bloods.

Lead­ers of the peace move­ment say the out­pour­ing of grief af­ter Hus­sle’s March 31 death has made it eas­ier to con­vince oth­ers that the cy­cle of vi­o­lence needs to stop.

Not since the land­mark truces of 1992, which fol­lowed the dev­as­ta­tion of the L.A. ri­ots, has such a con­certed wave of peace­mak­ing swept through the area’s hun­dreds of black gangs.

“We’re go­ing to carry what Nipsey wanted, what he was try­ing to preach in his songs,” said Sha­mond “Lil AD” Ben­nett, 38, of the Rollin’ 60s. “It don’t make no sense that you’re fight­ing over a block that you don’t own.”

Start­ing with a cross-sec­tion of gangs march­ing to­gether at a memo­rial for Hus­sle and con­tin­u­ing with sum­mits in L.A. and Comp­ton at­tended by dozens of gang lead­ers, the move­ment has al­ready yielded tan­gi­ble re­sults.

The Rollin’ 40s Crips are deep into cease-fire talks with the Rollin’ 60s, de­spite a war dat­ing to 2013 and the killing of a promi­nent 40s el­der last sum­mer.

The Van Ness Gang­sters re­cently held a fam­ily-friendly “hood day,” in­clud­ing bounce houses for kids — a de­par­ture from the un­ruly color-strut­ting that is char­ac­ter­is­tic of such cel­e­bra­tions.

As with world diplo­macy, there is no such thing as global peace among L.A. gangs, with their long-run­ning feuds and com­plex al­liances. Ad­vo­cates for peace say that even if only a few beefs are put to rest for a short time, lives will be saved.

“We’re go­ing to still be Bloods. They’re go­ing to still be Crips,” said Melinda Lock­hart, 49, an or­ga­nizer of the May 4 hood day at Van Ness Park. “But put the guns down and let’s live.”

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.A. area, Crips and Bloods war among them­selves as much as with the op­pos­ing color.

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?

For the Swamp Crips and Cam­panella Park Pirus, the meet­ing in the park was just the be­gin­ning.

When Lau­rence “Boogalue” Cartwright’s phone rang, it was some­one from the Swamps. Peo­ple were talk­ing crazy on the in­ter­net.

“The other side’s been hit­ting me, like, ‘I got my homies un­der con­trol. What’s wrong with your lit­tle homies?’” re­called Cartwright, a Cam­panella Park Piru.

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. Cartwright stopped them, then con­vinced the man that real gang­sters don’t put their busi­ness on the in­ter­net.

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