Protesters, law enforcement clash in downtown L.A. during protest over George Floyd’s death
Several hundred demonstrators, organized by Black Lives Matter-LA, converged on downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday to march around the Civic Center, part of a series of national protests to show outrage over the the death of George Floyd, a black man killed Monday after a white Minneapolis police officer pinned him to the ground with his knee.
At some point during the march, a group of people broke off and entered the 101 Freeway near Alameda Street, briefly blocking the roadway.
Television footage showed the protesters blocking the freeway and confronting a California Highway Patrol car. At least one patrol car was vandalized by protesters during the confrontation, and one demonstrator was injured after falling off the CHP cruiser as it drove away. That protester received medical attention; the person’s condition was not released.
The marchers eventually left the freeway but continued to protest off Aliso Street. Ringed by officers and police cruisers and with helicopters circling overhead, protesters used an aerosol spray to burn an upside-down American flag at the intersection of Aliso and Los Angeles streets. Some tagged the LAPD headquarters with anti-police graffiti.
At its peak, hundreds of people gathered outside the Los Angeles County Hall of Justice.
The Los Angeles Police Department issued a citywide tactical alert, and officers from the previous shift were kept over to allow more officers to respond to the area. Dozens of officers were sent to the scene to provide crowd control.
Several hundred protesters converged Wednesday on downtown Los Angeles, briefly blocking the 101 Freeway, after a black man in Minneapolis was killed Monday when a police officer pinned him to the ground by the neck.
There were no reports of arrests but one LAPD commander said he was troubled by the tactics of some of the protesters.
“I’m concerned. They have exhibited a significant degree of violence,” LAPD Asst. Chief Robert Arcos said.
Charlie Morales, who took part in the freeway protest, said that the CHP cruiser drove by trying to scatter the demonstrators and that some of them converged on the vehicle.
Morales, 27, said he hopes the “small inconvenience” to commuters leaving downtown has made them consider “a matter of life or death to black and brown people.”
Police brutality happens “every week,” he said, “but nothing changes until you start interrupting, until you start putting it directly in the minds of people who aren’t affected by it.”
The man who died in an encounter with Minneapolis police was a former Texas high school football star carving out a living in his adopted state.
Jaime Carter, who demonstrated with a charred American flag, said he hoped the motorists he helped bring to a standstill on the freeway realized a traffic jam was “a lot less of an inconvenience than me losing my life, than me not living a life of dignity.”
Carter, a student at Cal State L.A., said he came to protest not only the death of Floyd, who he said is just one of many black men and children who died an unjust death.
Earlier in the day, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore issued a statement calling the video in the Floyd case disturbing and said it tarnished the badge.
“The actions I watched in the video were incredibly disturbing and go against the basic law enforcement principle of preservation of life,” he said.
Moore said Wednesday night that he was also “troubled by the violence on the freeway.”
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The Floyd case has gotten national attention and has sparked several protests.
The mayor of Minneapolis called Wednesday for criminal charges to be filed against the white police officer seen on the video kneeling on the neck of Floyd during an arrest, even after the man said he couldn’t breathe and stopped moving.
Based on the video, Mayor Jacob Frey said he believes Officer Derek Chauvin should be charged in Floyd’s death. Chauvin and three other officers were fired Tuesday. The video recorded by a bystander shows Chauvin with his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes as Floyd is on the ground with his face against the pavement.
The FBI and state law enforcement are investigating Floyd’s death.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said the department would conduct a full internal investigation, and prosecutors will decide whether to file criminal charges against the officers involved. The Hennepin County attorney’s office said it was “shocked and saddened” by the video and pledged to handle the case fairly.
Part of that investigation will likely focus on the intent of the officers, whether they meant to harm Floyd or whether it was a death that happened in the course of police work. The FBI was investigating whether the officers willfully deprived Floyd of his civil rights.
Times staff writer Sam Omar-Hall and the Associated Press contributed to this report.