Singing hymns and praying in their native language, nearly 250 members of Los Angeles' Samoan community demonstrated Monday in Carson to demand an apology for the unnecessary force the protesters say sheriff's deputies used recently to break up a bridal shower in Cerritos.
Carrying such signs as, "You Don't Wear Riot Gear to a Samoan Bridal Shower," the demonstrators picketed for nearly an hour outside the sheriff's station in Carson, where three-fourths of Los Angeles County's 60,000 Samoans live.
"Sheriff Sherman Block said the deputies acted with restraint," UCLA law student Falefatu Alailima-Utu told the crowd. "He's lying. . . ."
Alailima-Utu and other speakers called on Block to apologize for the Feb. 11 incident in which many of the 35 people arrested were allegedly clubbed while handcuffed by deputies.
A sheriff's spokesman declined to comment when asked if Block would respond to the calls for an apology.
"I have no information about anything," he said.
The show of community support for the Arthur Dole family, at whose Cerritos home the incident occurred, is the latest round in the ongoing dispute over what actually happened during the bridal shower held for one of Dole's daughters, Melinda.
Several members of the family, which is of Samoan ancestry, said about 100 deputies stormed the home in an unprovoked attack, beating many people, after they said they complied with a request from officers to turn down loud music that apparently annoyed neighbors.
When family members at one point came outside the home to assure deputies that the people inside had no weapons and were prepared to leave, the deputies allegedly forced their way into the home for no apparent reason, using profanity, and ransacked the house, Dole's daughter Emily said.
At Monday's rally, protest organizers showed color photographs of the broken arms, cuts and bruises that Emily Dole and others said they suffered at the hands of the deputies.
At a news conference last week, however, Block said the deputies acted with "great restraint."
Although the incident involved deputies from the sheriff's station in Lakewood, rally organizers explained that the protest was held at the Carson station because that is where most of the county's Samoans live.
"We're not saying that this is part of continuing abuse against Samoans," said the Rev. Filipo Robertson. "But Samoans, all Americans, have rights that should be protected."
The protesters sang several songs, including "God Bless America" and "We Shall Overcome," in Samoan as they walked in front of the sheriff's station. Several deputies monitored the protest, which ended peacefully around 11:30 a.m.
Emily Dole, a member of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW) who is known to television audiences as Mt. Fiji, said her family was gratified by the support shown at the rally.
Meanwhile, a retired baggage handler has accused sheriff's deputies of using explosives to blow the screen door off his East Compton home in a predawn raid in which the place was ransacked and his son arrested.
Palmer Lampkins, 77, said his ailing 71-year-old wife Elsie suffered a mild heart attack and was hospitalized Saturday, the day after the raid occurred. The elderly couple were forced to stand outside in the cold while deputies went through the home on McDivitt Avenue.
The couple's 29-year-old son, Keith, who has served jail time for drug possession, was booked on suspicion of being a felon in possession of a handgun.
The deputies were part of a joint sweep operation targeting gang members in eight locations in East Compton and Lynwood, sheriff's spokesman Gabe Ramirez said. Seven people, including Keith Lampkins, were arrested.
No one who was involved in the search of the Lampkins' home was available for comment. But Sgt. Jack Ewell of the Lynwood sheriff's station said deputies are not authorized to use explosives to break open doors.