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Familiar KCEP voice reassured community in chaos of Historic Westside riots

The night rioters and looters sent pockets of the Historic Westside up in flames, a familiar voice guided the community through the chaos.

It was Louis “L.C.” Conner Jr., broadcasting loud and clear from KCEP, “The People’s Station,” located in the heart of the Westside.

To understand the comfort and direction Conner and his colleagues provided 25 years ago, you have to understand how in-the-dark many residents felt.

It was a day after the Rodney King verdict, and it was hours after several Las Vegas protesters — marching from the Westside toward downtown — were turned away by police. It became a night where officers and firefighters pulled out of the Westside because of gunfire; where power outages prevented residents from watching TV news coverage of the nearby destruction.

And there was Conner, lighting the way.

“As a radio station — yeah, we played a lot of great music — but our main mission at that radio station and still today is to serve the community and give them vital information they need,” Conner said Friday from Texas, where he now lives.

His guidance then continued the next day, when KCEP blocked off four hours of airtime to let callers voice their frustrations.

“People were in despair. They were emotionally touched by this verdict, and it was because there was a problem with police brutality in Las Vegas at the time,” he said. And many were suffering silently because, “People felt like they couldn’t speak out in any form.”

Four hours of calls turned into six, then eight. Soon, it was midnight.

“It ended up becoming a little marathon,” he said.

After the riots, KCEP began hosting police officers on its radio show every Friday morning.

“(The show) opened up the dialogue between the police department and the citizens, and that was our goal,” Conner said. It led to a huge community policing initiative that’s still in place today.

Still, Conner said, there is so much room for improvement.

“The irony of all this is, 25 years later we still have the same problems; they’re still entrenched in police departments all around our country.”

Momentum in riots’ wake

Following the riots, many in the Westside had to rebuild, Conner said. And that process created some momentum for change, he said.

“A lot of those people had to start over from scratch. The insurance wasn’t paying out those claims. So they have to pick up the pieces and they had to lean on their politicians,” Conner recalled. “So it became kind of like a phoenix out of the ashes because you saw more action you saw more motivation and then we held them accountable by following up every day every month every week on the radio, and showing those progressive stories.”

One tangible result after the riots was the creation of more affordable housing in the area, he said.

Contact Rachel Crosby at rcrosby@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290. Follow @rachelacrosby on Twitter.

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