One week after the shooting death of Guatemalan day laborer Manuel Jamines, MacArthur Park was jumping Sunday, but not with protesters. It echoed instead with the sound of soccer players, fruit vendors and mariachi bands.
The shooting, which occurred just blocks from the park, sparked days of angry protests and sporadic violence. By week’s end the mood had cooled, or at least that was the case Sunday night during the conclusion of a 50-show summer concert series. However, even as Mariachi Reynas de Los Angeles serenaded families on the grass from Levitt Pavilion in honor of Mexican Independence Day on Thursday, the shooting wasn’t far from some people’s minds.
“In memory of him, we’re hoping things will stay quiet,” said a man who identified himself only as Diego, a Guatemalan lay leader with St. Thomas Catholic Church. The churchgoer was one of roughly 40 people who prayed at a memorial at the site of Jamines’ death, near the intersection of 6th Street and Union Avenue.
Jamines was shot to death by Los Angeles police bicycle officers who said he had a knife and was threatening others. Protesters have alleged Jamines was unarmed — though possibly drunk — and threatened no one. Later, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck presided over a raucous neighborhood meeting.
On Sunday, those protests seemed a world away from MacArthur Park. Fathers pushed strollers as young boys buzzed through on bicycles, barely missing stray toddlers. Vendors honked horns to announce their fruit or flavored ices.
One park visitor, a Guatemalan construction worker who identified himself only as Julio, said he lived near where Jamines died. His 5-year-old daughter saw the man shot, he said, and she pointed out for a reporter where the bullets struck him.
As he watched young soccer players running on the field, Julio said he saw the new Los Angeles in the Jamines incident: The officers involved, Jamines, the community in which he lived — even the city’s mayor — were Latino. But he said he believed most of those protesting Jamines’ death were Guataleman and not from Mexico or El Salvador — a sign to him that national divisions were buried beneath the term “Latino.”
“A Latino, when he rises a bit, he treats his friends like garbage,” Julio said.
Not so, said Jose Felix, another visitor. “The protests involved people from all over,” said Felix, a Mexican who said he helped organize the protests and who sits on the MacArthur Park Neighborhood Council.
Still, Felix agreed that a lot of the new Los Angeles was wrapped up in the case.
The neighborhood surrounding MacArthur Park has benefited from city investment in police patrols, gang eradication and park improvements, he said.
But 6th and Union is different, Felix said. It’s inhabited mainly by Guatemalans, who often are without legal papers and come from a culture of humility and silence. If the Jamines case produces anything good, he said, it will be to shine a light on the neighborhood.
“It’s an abandoned place,” he said. “No one has ever invested in it. There needs to be more communication with the community.”