In an exclusive interview with the Pasadena Weekly, civil rights icon Jesse Jackson on Wednesday called for a ban on assault rifles, the repeal of Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law and tougher punishments for people who employ racial profiling.

The former presidential candidate is in Los Angeles this week to mark the 20th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots, which started on April 29, 1992 — the day four LAPD officers accused of beating Altadena’s Rodney King were acquitted.

“You all can change the world,” Jackson told Pasadena High School students during a noontime assembly Wednesday at the school. “You have to make that decision to be a champion and stick to it. When your back is up against the wall, you still have life, and when you still have life, you still have hope.”

Roughly 90 percent of the students in attendance stood when Jackson asked if any of them knew someone who had been racially profiled by police. Jackson also spoke to students about putting an end to illegal drug use and violence.
Although he mentioned it, Jackson was not at the school to speak about the March 24 officer-involved shooting death of 19-year-old Kendrec McDade of Azusa, contrary to published reports. McDade’s parents Anya Slaughter and Kenneth McDade attended the event. Jackson met privately with Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez to discuss the McDade incident prior to going onstage.

After getting onstage, Jackson spoke for about an hour to the standing-room-only crowd, then passed out voter registration forms and posed for pictures with students. He will appear next with the Rev. Al Sharpton from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the West Angeles Church of God, 3045 Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles. Call (323) 733-8300 or visit westa.org.

 “What we do know is the officers shot an unarmed man,” Jackson said about McDade in a separate interview with the Weekly. “I spoke with the chief and he told me changes would be put in place. We do have to work with our young people regarding the police, but we have to go further.

“There will never be a time again where the mayors of our major cities like Los Angeles don’t speak English and Spanish,” he said. “Young people must know Spanish and English. We also have to have a ban on assault weapons and repeal the stand your ground laws and we must enact a law making racial profiling a felony.”

To that end, Jackson referred to Trayvon Martin, the unarmed 17-year-old African American youth who was shot and killed by volunteer neighborhood watch guard George Zimmerman. Prosecutors say Zimmerman, who is free on $150,000 bail while awaiting trial on charges of second-degree murder, racially profiled Martin before killing him. Zimmerman, who said Martin beat him up before the shooting, is expected to use Florida’s “stand your ground” law as a defense at trial.

McDade’s parents accompanied Jackson into the auditorium along with Sanchez, Pasadena Police Lt. Phlunte Riddle, Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education President Renatta Cooper, NAACP Pasadena Branch President Joe Brown and Danny Bakewell, head of the Brotherhood Crusade and owner and publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel.
McDade was shot and killed shortly after 11 p.m. on March 24 on Sunset Avenue in Northwest Pasadena by twoPasadena police officers — Jeffrey Newlen and Matthew Griffin — at the end of a short pursuit. Police say that McDade reached for his pants which prompted the officers to fire. The officers were allegedly on heightened alert due to false information provided to a 911 operator by Oscar Carrillo-Gonzalez, who claimed that he had been robbed at gunpoint by two African Americans.

“We have come a long way since the riots,” Jackson told the Weekly. “But we didn’t have some of the issues then that we have now. There are more guns. There is more violence and more drugs. Yes, we have come very far since the riots, but we have to keep going.

“Young people can change the world if they choose to,” Jackson continued. “We just spoke to them about being champions. The basketball team spends four hours a day, six days a week practicing basketball with no television, no radio and no social visits. We are asking parents to turn off the television three hours a night, to meet with the teachers and exchange phone numbers.”