Officials deny link in Guard `urban war' drills, riot fears
Jonathan T. Lovitt
LOS ANGELES _ National Guard Cpl. Glenn Wilkinson, remembers waiting in
frustration as one delay after another kept him from doing his job last spring
during riots after acquittals in the Rodney King beating case.
"I felt useless," said Wilkinson, 22. Then he adds, "This time we'll be ready."
But as jury selection continued in a trial in the King case Wednesday, Guard
leaders insisted a series of preparedness drills had nothing to do with anticipating
Last year the Guard was widely criticized for being slow to react: riot gear had
been loaned to other agencies, ammunition was in short supply. Still, some feel
officials may be jumping to conclusions about reaction to a King verdict, or one
in the trial of three black men charged with beating trucker Reginald Denny.
The Denny trial is scheduled to start next month.
"An exercise like this reinforces the idea that rioting will take place," said Rudy
Garza of the Latino Coalition For a New Los Angeles.
By early afternoon more than six hundred Guard members had been called to
five Los Angeles area armories.
"The tactic we're training for . . . is urban guerrilla warfare," said Guard Col.
That's a disturbing thought to some people. "There's a real dangerous mood
here," said Los Angeles Southern Christian Leadership Conference's Joe Hicks.
"No one wants to see a replay of what happened last spring," said Gov. Pete
Wilson spokesman Franz Wisner. "But we've got to be prepared."
PHOTO,b/w,Bob Riha Jr., Gamma-Liaison