Lawrence Mower, Las Vegas Review-Journal, August 9, 2006
The Las Vegas Black Panther Party announced its reactivation Tuesday and proposed holding a summit for gang members and others in West Las Vegas to broker a cease-fire among the area’s gangs.
The local Black Panthers had been inactive for years, but growing gang violence in black neighborhoods has spurred the group into action, Chairman Ron Current said.
“This has become, as far as the Panthers are concerned, a state of emergency,” Current said. “When we’re losing our kids and our loved ones and residents of this community at the rate that we’re losing them, that is a state of emergency.”
From Jan. 1 through the first week of June, 117 gang-related shootings occurred in Las Vegas or unincorporated Clark County, a 48 percent increase over the 79 logged in the same time period last year, police said.
West Las Vegas — the area surrounded by Carey Avenue on the north, Bonanza Road on the south, Interstate 15 on the east and Rancho Drive on the west — has seen its share of violence this year, including the Berkley Square block party shooting that left three people dead and five others wounded.
Current’s group and the Nation of Islam are holding two events next month to address the problems.
The groups plan to conduct a public forum Sept. 12 that will feature community leaders and an economist. The forum will be at Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church, 1025 Balzar Ave., near Lake Mead and Martin L. King boulevards.
Then, on Sept. 20, Current plans to have leaders of gangs meet to hash out a cease-fire at the Nation of Islam’s Mosque No. 75, on D Street near Owens Avenue. Members of the community will be invited and will be able to speak to the gang members, he said. Those attending the forum will be patted down by Las Vegas Black Panther Party members, Current said.
But Las Vegas police Capt. Al Salinas said attracting leaders of all of the gangs in West Las Vegas would be close to impossible.
“I applaud the effort, that someone is trying to do something to stop gang violence,” Salinas said. “But I don’t think that they’re going to be able to accomplish that (gathering all the gang leaders) across the board.”
Current said his group was able to broker a cease-fire in 1995 that lasted several years.
But Salinas said that since then, many gangs in the Las Vegas Valley have changed. They have become more diverse and are not as cohesive.
Cease-fires are not uncommon among rival gangs. In 1992, the local Bloods and Crips gangs held to a cease-fire for about six months after Los Angeles police were found innocent in the Rodney King beating case.
Las Vegas police Detective Tony Morales said the Hispanic gangs have tried cease-fires. “It works for a little bit, then something happens, and it blows up,” he said.
The Las Vegas Black Panther Party was founded in 1990 to get involved in community affairs and to improve conditions in West Las Vegas, Current said.
The group, which is not affiliated with the Black Panther Party that made headlines in the 1960s, reached its peak in activity in the mid-1990s but then tapered off. Current said his own drug-related problems rendered him unable to continue leading the group.
(Posted on August 9, 2006)