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U.S. troops ordered to L.A. 31 dead, 1,200 are arrested


LOS ANGELES -- President Bush today ordered 5,000 federal law enforcement officers and Army troops to Los Angeles, where police and National Guard troops tried to regain control of control of the city's riot-torn streets.

The federal officials will try to bring order to Los Angeles, where 31 people have been killed and more than 1,200 others injured in two days of rioting.

More than 1,500 fires have been set during the unrest, which has resulted in at least $200 million in damage to hundreds of stores, homes and other buildings as it spread from South Central Los Angeles. More than 3,000 arrests have been made since the riot began Wednesday.

Mr. Bush was to address the nation from the Oval Office at 9 p.m. to discuss federal support for riot-torn Los Angeles, the White House said.

A White House statement said that in his 10-minute address Mr. Bush "will discuss federal support for the city of Los Angeles and the general situation related to violence in the city."

Mr. Bush promised to send 4,000 Army troops and 1,000 federal law officers to try to retore peace. SWAT teams and U.S. marshals were coming directly to Los Angeles, and Army troops were being sent from Fort Ord near Monterey to a staging area near the city.

"It is clear that a dangerous and difficult situation remains," said White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater. "The rule of law defines our freedom. The forces of . . . anarchy cannot be allowed to continue."

Mr. Fitzwater said the backup help was being sent in at the request of California Gov. Pete Wilson and Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley.

An unprecedented dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed yesterday will be enforced again tonight in an effort to bring the violence under control.

"The curfew went along very well," Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Hal Grant said. "There were still a lot of people on the streets but not nearly as many as before.

"All incidents were reduced. Looting and the number of fire[s] being built were not as high as before due to the large show of force on the streets last night."

He said authorities believe the unrest is subsiding, and they hoped to get the situation under control today.

At least 2,000 National Guard troops called up yesterday by Gov. Wilson patrolled streets and enforced the curfew overnight and another 2,000 troops are on call today, Grant said. Los Angeles officials have requested an additional 2,000 troops, which would bring their strength to 6,000.

"They are sentries, a deterrent and a backup to law enforcement," Deputy Grant said.

After a series of delays, about 1,000 guardsmen joined officers from the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and California Highway Patrol in fanning out to secure the smoke-shrouded riot zone.

Several fierce fires were still burning as darkness fell, but most civilians had voluntarily cleared the streets by dark, bringing a respite to an orgy of rioting, looting, vandalism and brutality that spread across the city.

At about 9:15 p.m., Los Angeles police came across looters at a mini-mall at Beverly Boulevard and Alvarado Street. Two men and two women had broken into a small market and filled up a yellow taxicab and another car with loot.

The police officers held shotguns on the looters and made them unload the cars and carry the stolen goods back into the store.

"Here, you took it out -- you can put it back in," one officer told them.

In a scene repeated many times during the day, the officers then let the looters go.

Although the mayhem mounted throughout the day, authorities never staged a coordinated assault against looters who carted off everything from gum balls and T-shirts to sofas, chairs and television sets.

Instead, the troops moved into areas after they were picked clean and then held control of those areas to prevent additional unrest.

Violence which broke out Wednesday after a jury in Simi Valley acquitted four white Los Angeles Police Department officers accused of beating Rodney King, a black motorist.

Political and community leaders made futile appeals for calm in the aftermath of the verdict, as violence and looting escalated yesterday.

Firefighters battled hundreds of blazes, keeping one eye on their work and another eye on the potential for violence around them.

"At any one time we have 20 to 30 structure fires we are working on," said a city fireman.

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