Thousands turn out for peaceful demonstrations on Saturday around Los Angeles
(Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times)
Thousands of people gathered at more than a dozen peaceful demonstrations around Los Angeles on Saturday to protest the death of George Floyd and other black Americans at the hands of police.
By late Saturday afternoon, several thousand people who participated in a demonstration in Hollywood marched to Beverly Hills. There were few police in sight, though some heavily-armed National Guardsmen were seen posted along the route.
At one point the crowd stopped at the intersection of La Cienega and Santa Monica Boulevard and knelt down for about five minutes. Some sang songs and chanted together. “Peaceful! Protest!” they said in unison.
After a few minutes, the mostly festive crowd broke into applause before continuing their march down Santa Monica Boulevard toward Beverly Hills. Police and sheriff’s helicopters circled overhead.
At San Vicente Boulevard, dozens of sheriffs deputies in riot gear stood behind a road block.
“Shame on you!” a protester shouted.
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“Is this necessary?” another asked.
The deputies stood unmoved.
Kelvin Rivas, a 22-year-old political science major from Cal State Northridge, joined the march in progress on his fifth consecutive day of protesting. He said he’s coming back on Sunday.
“I’m going to be out here until it’s over,“ he said.
Many in the crowd urged all demonstrators to remain peaceful, while some marchers carried bags to pick up any trash left behind. There were no disturbances reported.
In downtown Los Angeles, there was a growing crowd in front of City Hall and a smaller group in front of the Los Angeles Police Department by Saturday afternoon.
Across the way at Grand Park, a small memorial to Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others was marked on the ground by a cross and bouquets of flowers. Taylor was shot by police in her Louisville, Ky., apartment. Arbery was chased down and shot by two white men in Georgia.
Andrea Gonzalez brought her mother, husband and three children to City Hall on Saturday afternoon. It was the first ever demonstration for her children, ages 4, 6 and 7.
“We brought them out here because it’s important to show them why we respect all human lives and that even though we are brown, we support black lives,” she said.
Gonzalez’s mom, Micaela Ruiz, said she remembers the 1992 L.A. riots vividly and has experienced discrimination as a Latina firsthand. She said she fought for her own children, who had been discriminated against while growing up, recalling a teacher who would not allow her daughter enter the classroom until all the white students were seated first.
She hopes that the expression of outrage will lead to change. It’s one reason she felt compelled to protest in solidarity Saturday.
“Silence is acceptance,” she said.
As protests against police brutality and the killing of George Floyd spread across Southern California this weekend, here are a sample of the voices on the streets.
The family traveled to Los Angeles from San Dimas.
Gonzalez believes that one reason the current protests seem different from past demonstrations is the rhetoric that has come from President Trump, which she believes has further fueled racial tensions.
“I get so angry and disgusted by his words — this is what his words have created,” she said.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered about 2 p.m. around the Federal Building on Wilshire Boulevard in Westwood. One woman wearing a black beret and a “Black Girls Rock” T-shirt, stood in the street blocking traffic, while another laid down in the middle of a nearby intersection, face down.
Then dozens of protesters joined in, lying on their stomachs on the street. They stayed for minutes before getting up and chanting “Say their name” and “Breonna Taylor.”
Five minutes later they erupted into cheers, still in the intersection. A man with a bullhorn praised participants for keeping the action peaceful. As protesters slowly fanned back to the sidewalk they chanted “Say his name” and “George Floyd.”
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A group of about 50 nurses and healthcare workers from Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, UCLA Santa Monica Medical Center, USC Keck Medical Center, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Kaiser Permanente joined the protest in front of City Hall after months of working round-the-clock to help patients affected by the coronavirus.
“We left the front lines to come here. We felt a lot of anger and as patients advocates, we felt we needed to speak up about the injustice,” Kannitha Lor, 25, said.
Black communities have been hit especially hard by the virus — a major reason they joined in the demonstration, they said.
“Racism is a public health crisis,” said Delilah Garcia, 24, noting the disproportionate number of black patients she sees in comparison to other races. “Enough is enough.”
Wearing face masks, in accordance with coronavirus restrictions, and scrubs and holding signs that read “Nurses for Black Lives Matter” and “If someone says they can’t breathe, you help them,” they offered hand sanitizer to other protesters and were prepared to offer medical assistance if needed.
In Carson, dozens of peaceful protesters, led by City Councilman Jawane Hilton, marched to City Hall to chants of “Police the police” and “Get your knee off my neck.” One woman shouted, “Mama, I can’t breathe,” a reference to Floyd’s final words.
“Our demand is simple: that they stop killing us,” Hilton said. At one point the crowd took a knee and held a moment of silence for Floyd.
Debra Williams, 55, of Los Angeles, said the Carson event was the first protest she had ever attended. “You get angry about situations that happen, and you keep seeing it, and you keep seeing it, and you keep seeing it, and then it’s like: OK, now I’ve got to do something,” she said.
Williams, who works for law enforcement, drove about 20 minutes from L.A. to attend the event with a coworker.
She said she’d had enough of systemic racism and social injustice.
“They’ve had their knee on our neck for over 400 years and we’re over the oppression,” Williams said. “Without us, America would not be built.”
“It’s time for a change,” said William Collins, a 36-year-old black man from Carson who was marching with his sister. Her sign read: “You can’t put a curfew on peace.”
Collins said he was was at only the second protest he’d ever attended in his life because he wanted a better future for his daughter and nephew. “This one is hitting real close to home,” he said.
At Carson City Hall. protesters heard from pastors, members of the community and elected officials, including Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-San Pedro).
“We need action now,” Barragán told the crowd. “And we need to stop killing black Americans and we need to hold ... our police accountable when it is done.”
She led the assembled group in reciting the names of Floyd, Taylor and Eric Garner, who died after police put him in a chokehold in New York in 2014.
“Let’s keep it going and let’s not stop until we see action, because we’re tired of just words,” Barragán said.
In Hollywood, a diverse group gathered at Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street. Hundreds of people of all colors filled the intersection, some hanging out of their car windows or popping their heads through their sunroofs as they chanted George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery’s names.
Tina Pruitt, 57, brought her grandsons to the protest because they were eager to attend. Myels, 11, prompted the drive to Hollywood after seeing protests across the country on TV all week. On the way, Pruitt said she told her grandsons that they were going to the demonstration so the next generation of black Americans could have a better relationship with the police.
“I don’t want them to have to have the talk with their kids like black mothers have to today,” Pruitt said. “With all the protests I’ve seen in the past, this is different. This is making a change.”
Pruitt noted that she’s seen more diversity in these protests than demonstrations in years past.
Standing next to her on the street, Myels said he wanted to know how it felt to protest.
“I think it’s made a change for me,” he said. “I want cops to stop killing black people for no reason. I felt mad and sad that a lot of black people lost their lives.”
His brother TJ, 15, said he was gad to see the protest was nonviolent. He said he would continue to protest in the future.
“I want to make it easier for people to feel safe,” he said, holding a sign that said, “Black lives matter.”
“I don’t want them to have to worry when they go outside,” Pruitt chimed in. “I need for me to feel safe. I was scared when my son went to school on the bus that he wouldn’t come home.”
About 12:30 p.m., the crowd began to march down Sunset Boulevard, heading west. They held signs over their head that read “Black lives matter,” “No justice no peace no racist police,” and “Trump/Pence ¡fuera ya!”
A white Tesla was parked in the middle of the street giving out water and food.
At the intersection of Highland and Sunset, the marchers stopped to kneel. As they did they chanted, “Trump, Pence, out now!”
Jose Lagunas has been protesting for two decades, so he knows what gets attention at marches. Which is why, along with his wife, he brought another special guest to the gathering at Hollywood and Vine: Trump’s head on a stick. He bought the rubber facsimile of Trump a couple of years ago.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that stuff like this gets good attention and spreads the message,” said the 34-year-old Lincoln Heights resident, who said he has been to four protests over the last week.
Lagunas, who was born in Mexico City but remained “undocumented from age 3 tp 20, said he’s noticed the demonstrations becoming increasingly peaceful since at the Fairfax Avenue and 3rd Street protest last weekend.
“I think we have to keep going until as many demands as possible are met,” he said, noting he was now speaking out about defunding the police and putting government dollars toward communities of color. “Yes, I think Trump should be out. But even if Biden is elected, we need to hold his feet to the fire. He’s not our savior. We’re our savior.”
Hundreds of students, faculty and residents from the surrounding neighborhood gathered for a peaceful demonstration on the USC campus. Several speakers addressed the crowd about Floyd’s death and the issue of police brutality.
In Westwood, Eridania and Curtis McLaughlin were at the protest with their 2-year-old twin sons, who each held sunflowers that someone at the protest had given them.
Whether “they’re going to be able to remember this or not I wanted to be part” of what will hopefully be long term change for police oversight, Curtis said.“I want cops to be able to be prosecuted just like anyone else,” Eridania, wearing a Game of Thrones-inspired “Mother of Twins” shirt, said “I look at my kids and I do it for them ...so they can have a fair chance in this world we live in.”
Xavier, one of the twins, hopped down from the perch on his dad’s waist to show his sunflower to Andrea Berrera, 27, who was holding a “Black Lives Matter” poster.
She traveled to Westwood from Boyle Heights to diversify her protests—she’s been mostly attending the ones in Downtown.
“Hopefully we get to a place where kids live in a world that is accepting of everyone and I think this movement is to create a better future for them,” Andrea said.
In Huntington Beach, about 500 people were gathered at Pacific Coast Highway and Main Street at 2 p.m. Saturday, said Officer Angela Bennett, a spokeswoman for the Huntington Beach Police Department.
Two groups of protesters had faced off and officers were standing between them, Bennett said. One group appeared to be affiliated with black lives matter, Bennett said.
She could not describe the affiliation of the other group, but video from the scene showed multiple people waving American flags and wearing Trump apparel.Four people had been arrested by Saturday afternoon, though information on the charges was not immediately available.
In San Pedro, more than 200 demonstrators took part in a Unity March. The peaceful and diverse crowd wore masks, carried white roses and held up signs that read “Hate suffocates” and “Justice can’t wait.”
They chanted “Black lives matter” and “I can’t breath” as they marched from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Harbor Station to the San Pedro Municipal Building.
The crowd gathered on the lawn of the building where elected officials and community organizers spoke about the importance of unity and standing up against injustice and racism but also cooperation so that changes can happen.
The event was organized by the NACCP’s San Pedro and Wilmington chapter with conjunction of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Harbor Division.Addressing the crowd while standing on a large rock was Cheyenne Bryant, the NAACP’s chapter president.
“We cannot continued to lock horns with the folks we are asking for justice from,” she said. “At some point, we have to lock hands and have to sit at the table and have a conversation.”
Also speaking to the crowd was Joseph “JoJo” Santiago, one of the organizers of the event.
“This is for the people who look like me and do not feel they are treated freely as others,” he told everyone. “We’re here to take a stand and say enough is enough, black lives matter and that’s it. Can it be any more clearer.”
Attending the event was L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino, whose district includes San Pedro and other elected officials and community organizers.
Standing several feet away as speakers took turn to address the crowd was Lawanda Hawkins, who runs Justice for Murdered Children, a non-profit. Hawkins came to the event with her 10-year-old great nephew, Bryson. Together they held a banner with the photos of people who had been murdered in L.A. County.
She said she wanted to come support the peaceful demonstration and speak out against social injustice but also to call for the end of all killings whether by people or police.
“There’s just no justification for killing people,” she said.
Hawkins’ son was killed in the mid-90s not far from the location of the demonstration. She said his case remains unsolved. She said was disturbed by the video recording of George Floyd begging for a breath and calling out for his mother.
“I kept thinking, is that what my son said when he died?” she said.
Hawkins and her great nephew both wore masks on and stood feet away from the crowd to keep their social distance. She said her great nephew was concern about the infectious diseases.
“He told me, I don’t want to catch the corona auntie,” she said, recalling the conversation. “I told him, don’t worry auntie is going to protect you.”
She said the demonstration was well organized and above all peaceful. She saw that some officers were kneeling and others held white roses.
Protests were also scheduled Saturday in Torrance, West Los Angeles, Westmont, Santa Ana and other locales around Southern California.
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