New/UPDATE: LA COUNTY CURFEW IS NOW 6:00PM. Other than a few incidents, protesters around Los Angeles County Saturday peacefully expressed their outrage over the alleged murder of George Floyd, a black man who was handcuffed, pleading that he couldn’t breath as a white Minneapolis police officer casually kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes last May 25.
The world watched in horror as Floyd’s life slipped away on a videotape played over and over again.
LGBTQ organizations joined Floyd’s local trans city council representative, Andrea Jenkins, in calling for the arrest of that officer and the three other officers who also held Floyd down or watched and did nothing.
The officers were all immediately fired but scores of protests erupted around Minneapolis, Minnesota before ex-officer Derek Chauvin was arrested and charged with third degree murder and manslaughter for killing Floyd.
The arrests did nothing to calm the explosion of rage over generations of unchecked racism.
On the fourth day of demonstrations in Los Angeles, Black Lives Matter organized a peaceful protest starting in Pan Pacific Park to march through the Fairfax District, with off-shoots going through West Hollywood and Beverly Hills.
Photo by Jeffrey King
In the Meantime Men executive director Jeffrey King participated in the protest, which he discussed on his Facebook page:
#ItsOurRevolution #BlackLivesMatter #StopTheHate #StopTrump #OurRev #Proud On my way to the Westside, I entered the protest zone and joined in for a while. I was proud of the thousands of young people of all race and ethnicity who came together to make a POWERFUL statement.
BLACK LIVES MATTER captured the attention of the people who came to stand in solidarity. They blocked the streets and halted traffic in all directions. There was no violence. Its was well organized and their point was being witnessed and received by all who were watching.
After I left and was on my way back to the house, I received a phone call saying that violence had erupted and the looting and setting of fires had begun. I question the actions of some of the people who showed up. It appears that there were a number of groups that came to destroy. It was evident that a ring of organized looters helped to orchestrate a chain reaction of destruction and looting. The negativity was planned by other than BLACK LIVES MATTER.
Photo by Jeffrey King.
The atmosphere changed around 3:00pm as some in the crowd – who King told the Los Angeles Blade stood out from the peaceful protesters — started fires and overtook a Metro Bus near The Grove with passengers still inside, pelting police coming to the rescue with rocks and bottles. Police responded with tear gas and firing rubber bullets to disperse the crowd, as Los Angeles Blade publisher Troy Masters reported.
In anticipation of possible violence as had happened the night before, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti called for an 8:00pm curfew and was quickly joined by other cities.
There is much speculation about who instigated the violence. There were some reports of social media posts targeting individuals stores for looting such as the Alexander McQueen clothing store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Nordstrum and the MAC stores in The Grove and a shoe consignment store on Fairfax Avenue that features the popular but costly Kanye West Yeezy sneakers. By night, mom and pop stores along Fairfax Ave and Melrose were looted with caravans of cars dropping off and picking up looters.
Garcetti, who initially told reporters that the National Guard would not be needed, finally asked Gov. Gavin Newsom for help and Newsom declared a state of emergency for LA County.
The National Guard arrived in the city around midnight, apparently using the Convention Center as a staging ground. Authorities told KTLA that they requested 500 to 700 troops for LA city and another 500 for LA county overnight. National Guard troops are now visibly stationed at presumed hot spots in the downtown LA, the Fairfax District, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills.
Early Sunday morning, hard hit businesses started to clean up, sweep glass and debris off the streets and paint over the graffiti. LA County Board of Supervisors Chair Kathryn Barger issued her own state of emergency to facilitate interagency response coordination and mutual aid, accelerate the procurement of vital supplies, and enable future state and federal reimbursement of costs incurred by the County.
“This emergency comes as we are in the midst of battling another emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This taxes our resources, but not our resolve,” Barger said in a statement. “We will do everything in our power to keep our communities safe and protect lives and property. I continue to call on our residents to maintain calm and seek solutions productively, not destructively.”
Barger added: “This is a time for us to come together to stand against injustice in ways that will make us stronger as a County and as a nation. If you are assembling to protest, please do so peacefully and with respect for all those who are suffering.”
West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey Horvath told KTLA that WeHo “fared much better” than other areas. She also noted that when she joined the protest between noon and one o’clock, “it was peaceful, it was organized, it was intentional and it was an appropriate response to what happened in Minneapolis. People need to speak up and speak out and call out racism where it is and make sure we’re all standing up for each other. There were people who then took advantage of that happening – and that is who came into our communities and our area, who caused destruction and harm.”
Horvath added: “Let me be very clear. There is no excuse for that kind of behavior. But we do need to have the important and honest conversations about what some of the root causes are – that anger and that frustration that people are feeling. Police brutality, High numbers of COVID contraction, high rates of incarceration. Our Black community is facing a lot and so we need to step up and do better.”
Horvath said the 8:00pm-5:30AM curfew would remain in place until it was deemed safe to be lifted. Garcetti also extended the curfew in a Sunday afternoon news conference. “When times demand it,” Garcetti said, “strong steps are required to bring peace back to our city.”
Garcetti also said that the city will help the mom and pop businesses destroy by the violence and looting and dispelled the rumor circulating that the police and Guard are helping ICE.
“As a community, we have to come together, realize people hijack protests instead of protesting peacefully,” L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told KTLA. “We’re trying to get out of the pandemic and all of the lives that were lost, jobs and businesses lost in the pandemic, and we’re just adding insult to injury with this wanton destruction. It’s sad.”
“People are suffering and as people feel injustices, that they experience and that they experience at the hand of law enforcement, we hear them, we see them, we recognize it and we acknowledge and we are a part of it. But this is not the solution,” LAPD Chief Michel Moore told CNN. “I’m signaling to people that we will not fix this. Policing doesn’t fix these types of societal ills. So I need all of Los Angeles to step forward to be part of the solution.
During the news conference with Garcetti, Moore also noted that there was a moment before the violence broke out where a dialogue between protesters and police seemed possible.
But while Moore and Garcetti supported Black Lives Matter’s peaceful protest, Patrisse Cullors, the LA-based lesbian co-founder of Black Lives Matter after the murder of Trayvon Martin, seemed to have a different idea, suggesting to KTLA that the police were the agitators.
“The minute we stopped our protest, the police came out and started shooting rubber bullets and gassing people. And now that I’ve been able to take the night and listen to other organizers across the country, many of them are saying the same thing – that the protests are peaceful and the police come in and agitate and create a lot of harm and violence. And that has been very concerning to me.…
I think there’s a number of other things happening. We heard out of Minneapolis that there’s white supremacist agitators that have caused a lot of harm and violence. It’s really hard to tell in this moment. The thing that is most obvious is that people are grieving and they’re mourning and they’re angry and they’ve been angry for a very long time. I just watched the 1992 footage [of the riots after the acquittal of four LAPD officers accused of beating black motorist Rodney King] and this idea that police brutality has ended in Los Angeles or any other city is a false idea. And it’s unfortunately because many of our elected officials are not holding law enforcement accountable so we just keep going through the same cycle….
We’ve been working in the last seven years here in Los Angeles County specifically to challenge law enforcement both LAPD and the Sheriff’s Department for the hundreds of deaths that have happened since 2012. We’re interested in accountability and we’re also interest in a reprioritization of how dollars are spent in our city, in our county….
When it comes to protesting – everybody has a right to assemble peacefully. Everybody has a right to protest and we witnessed just a few weeks ago mostly white supremacists, right wingers with their guns on many of the capitols hills across the country and no police violence whatsoever towards those protesters.
We don’t understand how we can gather peacefully and then end up in a situation here police are violating our rights. I think that’s the question that we need to be offering right now. Who’s able to assembly peacefully and who gets the worst end of the stick when it comes to law enforcement?
I think that we were able to galvanize people seven years ago to challenge white racism and white supremacy, in particular. But I think in the last four years since Trump has been elected into office, we’re seen the worst kind of white nationalism, the worst kind of white racism – I think that’s impacted people greatly.
People are demoralized. People feel that they don’t have a leader in office that speaks for them. And this moment – this George Floyd moment — is actually the moment where folks cracked open. And it’s not just Black communities. I think all communities right now are upset and suffering and I think that’s important because we didn’t have everybody on our side seven years ago. I think we have way more people on our side now. And now we need the elected officials to show up and we need them to do two things: we need them to hold law enforcement accountable and we need them to start prioritizing the defunding of law enforcement so we can put that money back into our communities….
I think we’ll still gather and protest. We are deeply concerned about the National Guard coming out and having more law enforcement out. We want to keep our communities safe and so we will gather when it makes sense for us. But we plan on coming back out into the streets.”
Perhaps one of the most difficult and moving interviews through the long hard Saturday night was between an ABC7 reporter and a young woman trying to explain why people were looting.
“The message that I want to get out is there is a huge difference in America between white Americans and black Americans,” the young unidentified woman told ABC7 reporter Leanne Suter. “They are treated very differently.”
“Although I do not want white Americans to experience what we have experienced from the police, I want the police to come to an agreement with us to have the same opportunity to have the same protection from them that white Americans have.”
She explained that police brutality is out of control and they treat people of different races differently, causing people of color to feel fear every day.
“The damage tonight is necessary. You know why? Because this is how we feel every day walking down the street. We don’t get to see the beautiful buildings that everybody else gets to see.”
“We get to feel like we don’t belong there. We get to feel like trash. We get to feel like garbage. We get to feel like we can’t come here. But we came here today because we want to be a part of it.”
“This is what it’s like to walk down the streets. It’s chaos. I’m afraid every time a police officer drives past me. I have a clean record, I have never committed a crime. Law-abiding citizen. I have gone to college. Yet I get pulled over every time I’m driving my car because it’s a 2020.”