Public Papers

Remarks on Civil Disturbances in Los Angeles, California


A tragic series of events have occurred in Los Angeles that include frustration over a verdict, the wanton destruction of property, and the senseless death of several citizens in the last few hours. I urge all Americans to approach this situation with calm, with tolerance, and with the respect for the rights of all individuals under the Constitution.

The United States Department of Justice will continue its criminal investigation of the police violence case in Los Angeles to ensure that the civil rights laws of our Nation are fully and equally applied. The Department of Justice has been monitoring this case since its inception, and as is customary in these kinds of situations, the Justice Department moved last night to accelerate the investigation that it started several months ago.

I have just met with the Attorney General of the United States to consider the Federal Government's legal course at this point and to review any other forms of assistance that we should provide the State of California and the city of Los Angeles. I also discussed these matters this morning with Governor Wilson and Mayor Tom Bradley and with other senior members of my administration. We are concerned about any question of excessive police violence, and we are equally concerned about excessive public violence.

The murder and destruction in the streets of Los Angeles last night and today must be stopped. Lootings, beatings, and random violence against innocent victims must be condemned. Society cannot tolerate this kind of behavior.

There are some principles of law and of behavior that should be repeated in these circumstances. First, we must maintain a respect for our legal system and a demand for law and order. Second, we have a right to expect a police force that protects our citizens and behaves in a responsible manner. Third, in the American conscience there is no room for bigotry and racism. And fourth, we have responsibilities as citizens of this democracy.

I want everyone to know that the Federal Government will continue to pursue its legal responsibilities in this case.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 12:05 p.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House.