Los Angeles protests erupt after death of George Floyd

After George Floyd was killed by the hands of a Minneapolis police officer on May 25, protestors in numerous cities across the nation, including Los Angeles, staged demonstrations to express their outrage over police brutality and racism.

There have been numerous protests in L.A. County for the past several days — including Downtown, Fairfax District, Hollywood and Beverly Hills. On May 30, one of the biggest protests was organized by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and BLD PWR, a social justice group, by the Pan Pacific Park. According to the L.A. Times, more than 1,000 protestors were present in this peaceful demonstration.

Just before the march, BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors spoke to the crowd. “We’re living in the middle of an uprising,” said Cullors. “Let’s be clear: We are in an uprising for black life…not just for black deaths.” Other speakers addressed the need to defund the police.

Peaceful protestor demonstrating near the National Guard troops in Downtown. (Sarah Han | The Poly Post)

According to a post from the L.A. BLM Twitter account, the official demonstration ended at 2 p.m., but many protestors continued to march. The group later split — with some heading toward Beverly Hills and some remaining in the Fairfax area, who later met with police blockading multiple streets.

By around 4 p.m., the peaceful protest turned violent. By 5:30 p.m., the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) declared the protest an unlawful assembly.

Angelenos bring out signs advocating for peace, unity and love during the Downtown protest on May 31.
(Sarah Han | The Poly Post)

Iz Sinistra, a protestor who attended the Saturday rally, said the police began firing rubber bullets and released tear gas even though the protestors did not show any aggression. In response, a few protestors began throwing water bottles at the police officers from afar, while others attempted to stop the protestors from doing so.

“We were peacefully protesting in the afternoon, but things escalated when the riot police showed up,” said Sinistra. “They started releasing tear gas at people in front of the police line, who were on their knees with their hands up.”

Sinistra — who was one of the people close to the police line — was eventually shot with rubber bullets multiple times, including a direct hit to the head. According to Sinistra, he immediately lost vision on his left eye and had difficulty stopping the bleeding from his head, especially due to the blood-thinning medication taken regularly for a health condition. He was hospitalized for four days and has now returned home to continue his recovery.

Skye Victoriano, who also attended the protest, said he did not understand why the protestors were not given any instructions from the police on whether to disburse or move away. Rather, the protestors were “shot or had something thrown to them without any warning” when the police wanted them to stay further back.

“It was scary, and there was a lot of fear there,” said Victoriano. “But the fear I felt during the time does not compare to the fear that Black people face every single day.”

Protestors demonstrating peacefully in Downtown on May 31. (Sarah Han | The Poly Post)

According to Victoriano, many white protestors volunteered and urged one another to advance to the front of the police line to shield the rest of the protestors from getting shot. When they sensed the tension between the police and the demonstrators rise, the white protestors attempted to cover others while chanting, “White people to the front. They won’t shoot us.”

As the evening progressed, stores in Melrose Avenue and Rodeo Drive became a target for looters. A few stores, along with a kiosk for the LAPD at the Grove, were set on fire after being looted. Most protestors did not participate, and attempted to prevent looters from breaking into the stores.

In response, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in the L.A. County and called to deploy the California National Guard troops to assist in keeping order.

Large-scale protests have been ongoing in Downtown. On March 31, protestors marched to the City Hall, where police and National Guard troops stationed in place.

Along with multiple areas around the county, lootings have also been an issue in Downtown. Businesses are now attempting to protect their properties by boarding up entry points, like windows and doors.

On June 1, more peaceful protests were organized but later marred by lootings and vandalism, which mostly occurred in Hollywood and Van Nuys. On the following day, 16-year-old Davion Pilgraim, a resident in Compton, joined Mayor Eric Garcetti during a press briefing to urge for peace.

“While I think we should keep protesting and demanding change, there is no need to loot and tear things down,” said Pilgraim. “It is time for us to rebuild. The police need to understand where we’re coming from.”

During the Downtown protests on June 2 and 3, Garcetti — along with a few other police officers — were seen kneeling with protestors in solidarity.

According to NBC News, more than 2,700 arrests were made between March 29 and June 2 due to civil unrest and failure to comply with curfew orders. The number of arrests in L.A. is believed to be the largest among any American city.

Meanwhile, the LAPD headquarters released a statement on June 4 stating that it is aware that people have seen “videos online and (on) social media depicting encounters with the police and that they believe constitutes excessive force or misconduct.” According to the statement, the department will be investigating those cases and will “hold any officer who violates Department policy accountable.”

Those who believe were wrongfully accused or unjustly injured are encouraged to make an official complaint by calling the Professional Standards Bureau Complaint at 1-800-339-6868. Complaints are also accepted through the Office of the Inspector General at 213-893-6400 or by submitting an email to oigcompl@lapd.online.

Garcetti also announced that he will make radical changes to prevent police misconduct and racism — starting with unauthorizing the increase of the LAPD’s 2020-21 fiscal year budget. The $250 million cuts from the proposed budget will be reallocated to black communities to assist in health and education issues.

After four consecutive days of issuing a countywide curfew, L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva released a statement on June 4 stating that the county will no longer enforce a curfew due to “recent pattern of peaceful actions by protestors” and will allow local jurisdictions to make its own decisions accordingly. Shortly after, Garcetti announced via Twitter that he will be lifting the curfew in the city and will “remain strongly committed to protecting the right of Angelenos to make their voices heard.”

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