LOS ANGELES -- A contingent of 4,000 U.S. Army soldiers and Marines sent to quell the recent civil disorders left for home yesterday from riot-scarred Los Angeles, leaving ghostly streets patrolled by National Guard units and a battle-weary police force.
Soon after the order to withdraw came from Washington about midday yesterday, a force of 2,500 Army troops were packing up and boarding transport planes for flights back to their base at Fort Ord, near Monterey, Calif. At the same time, roughly 1,500 Marines were convoyed south in troop trucks to Camp Pendleton near San Diego.
Thousands of National Guard troops remained inside the city, and though only a handful were visible in the caravans of vehicles that had overrun much of downtown and South Los Angeles in recent days, more than 9,000 stood by in the event of more violence.
City officials indicated that they expect the Guard to stay at least a few more days.
"We're slowly becoming invisible," said a guard spokesman. "We're not leaving town, but we are pulling back to our armories and assembly points, such as the Hollywood Bowl, where we're not quite as obvious."
Yet there were abundant signs yesterday that the city was still far from returning to normal.
As federal troops left, Los Angeles police officers began reassuming their central law enforcement role in rubble-strewn neighborhoods that continue to display flashes of chaos and violence. Officers yesterday cut short a demonstration attended by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., against Gov. Pete Wilson's proposed welfare budget cuts, and arrested eight demonstrators.
Following pleas from Los Angeles civic leaders and residents for bold action that would speed the city's recovery from the three days of riots, President Bush ignored criticism by Democratic party officials and said yesterday in a radio address that his existing urban policies will be sufficient to deal with the causes of the nation's worst urban rioting of this century.