L.A. Now

Black men in business suits protest alleged police misconduct

Clad in business suits, African American men protest death of Eric Garner, others who died at hands of police

About 50 African American men, all dressed in dark suits, gathered in front of the federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles on Monday for a silent vigil to show support for Eric Garner and other alleged victims of police misconduct.

The noontime demonstration, which was anchored by a speech by L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, was intended to show that police target not only youth in low-income neighborhoods, said Kerman Maddox, managing partner at Dakota Communications and the organizer of the vigil. 

"The larger community doesn't know how common it is for African American men to be stopped and harassed," he said during the event.

Maddox said the vigil, called "Suits in Solidarity," grew out of a desire to show solidarity with young people who protested across the country, but in a different way. Since grand juries declined to indict white officers for incidents in which unarmed black men – Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. – protests have broken out across the country. In some cases, protests have grown violent, and almost all have been loud, with marchers in some cases blocking streets and, in L.A., freeways. On Monday, protesters chained themselves to the Oakland Police Department headquarters.

Monday’s event on Spring Street in downtown L.A. was a relatively quiet, calm affair. Many of the men greeted each other with hugs and handshakes.

The vigil drew men from all walks of life, including pastors, engineers, business owners and lawyers. As speakers talked about their experiences with the police, the men held signs saying, "Black lives matter."

"In our society, African American men are demonized -- we are seen as a threat," said Virgil Roberts, a lawyer. "It's time for you in America to see us as Americans and contributors to society."

The men started the 30-minute vigil with a moment of silence and ended with a moment of silence after Ridley-Thomas' speech. Then the men put their signs down, and stood silently for 30 seconds with their hands up.

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