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‘Sometimes peaceful is not enough’: L.A. protesters explain why they hit the streets

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L.A. Times columnist LZ Granderson speaks with protesters in downtown Los Angeles and finds goodwill and solidarity.

It was 11 p.m. Saturday, and Alexis Equihua, 20, was watching as looters grabbed goods from a Melrose Avenue shop.

Hours earlier, thousands had gathered at Pan Pacific Park for a rally to protest the killing of George Floyd, a black Minneapolis man killed when a white police officer used his knee to pin him to the ground by the neck. They marched down 3rd Street before getting into a standoff with local police.

Over the next few hours, some in the crowd set police cruisers on fire and threw objects at officers, who fired less-than-lethal weapons at them. As the day turned into night, numerous businesses were looted, including some in the Grove mall.

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“Sometimes peaceful is not enough,” said Equihua, 20. “I’m not one of the people vandalizing, but honestly, I get it. They feel like actions speak louder than words.”

There were clearly divisions among protesters about the wisdom of vandalism and looting, and police said they believed the most violent actions might have been done by fringe elements.

When a protester smashed the front window of the nearby Whole Foods with a hammer, some screamed, “Don’t do that! Please!” while others cheered.

Here are the voices of some of the protesters who swarmed the Fairfax District on Saturday.

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‘It’s really like that’

Mariana Solaris, a 20-year-old from San Bernardino, was walking down Melrose Avenue when police fired foam pellets.

“I came out peacefully to show my support, and the police are aiming right at me. To feel and experience it for myself — to have to run — I’m still shivering.

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“I saw this on the news earlier tonight,” she added, “and I thought, ‘No way is it really like that out there with the police.’ So I came out to see. And, yeah, it’s really like that.”

‘We’re going to ... get the backlash’

Travon Walton, a 25-year-old student from Long Beach, arrived in the Fairfax area in the afternoon to join the protests.

He said he saw many non-black protesters inciting the police from up close and worried that the black community would be blamed.

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“All the white people are in the front,” he said. “We’re going to be the ones that get the backlash.”

This was his first protest, and he planned to leave after the city’s 8 p.m. curfew, called for by Mayor Eric Garcetti.

“We thought we’d just come out here to have a peaceful protest,” he said, “but as you can see, it’s not that at all.”

‘It’s like they don’t even care’

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A 26-year-old protester shook as police fired another round of rubber bullets at the crowd gathering near Edinburgh Avenue and Beverly Boulevard.

She had been encouraged to attend the protest — her first — by her boyfriend but had already been struck in the back of the leg by a rubber bullet.

“It’s like they don’t even care,” said Latanya Marie, who agreed to be identified by her middle name. “People are chanting. How are you going to hit people with rubber bullets?”

She said she wasn’t confident the protests would invoke a change but that she felt better having driven from the Valley to participate rather than supporting only through social media.

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“I really don’t think it’s going to do anything,” she said. “But at least I’m getting out here and letting my anger be known.”

‘Nothing has changed’

Marsha Steinberg, 76, who described herself as a longtime activist, was among those who came out for the rally.

“I was here for Rodney [King],” said Steinberg, who lives in the neighborhood.

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“Nothing has changed. People have not had an outlet for justice,” Steinberg said, adding that new district attorneys need to be elected and prosecute police accused of misconduct.

‘Sick and tired’

Isabel Alvarado waved a sign reading, “Latinos for Black Lives Matter.”

Alvarado, 21, lives in Santa Clarita and said she drove to the L.A. rally because she was “sick and tired of waking up every morning” to news about police killings.

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“I can’t compare myself to what they’re going through,” she said, of being black. “But I’m here to support them.”


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