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Somber memorials for George Floyd as protesters demand police reforms

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The protests over the police killing of George Floyd took a sober turn Monday with memorials across the city as well as calls for fundamental changes in policing in Los Angeles.

To commemorate Floyd’s public viewing service in Houston, four car processions were organized around Southern California. They departed from Leimert Park, Long Beach, Reseda and Santa Ana, and converged on downtown L.A. for a noontime rally.

Some of the processions were led by hearses. One car had the names of dozens of people killed by police written on its windshield, images on social media showed.

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Once the caravans reached downtown and people exited their vehicles, mourners could be seen carrying floral arrangements. At the intersection of Broadway and 1st Street, four hearses were parked in the middle of the street, surrounded by hundreds of protesters.

Those gathered clapped as a woman gave a speech about defunding the police, and she led them in a repeating chant of Floyd’s and Breonna Taylor’s names. Taylor was shot and killed in her Louisville, Ky., apartment by a police officer in March. No charges have been filed in connection with her death.

“Do not let this system of white supremacy define who you are and take you away from your community,” the speaker said. “You have to fight for all black people, and that means all black people.”

Near the front of the stage, four caskets were covered in flowers. They had photos next to each — one for Floyd, Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Ryan Charles Twyman. Arbery was fatally shot by a white father and son as he jogged in a Georgia neighborhood in February. Twyman was shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies at a South Los Angeles apartment complex last year.

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Family members of people fatally shot by police gave emotional speeches about losing their loved ones and fighting for justice.

The mother of Eric Rivera, who was killed by police in Wilmington in 2017, spoke about how her son was shot, run over and left in the street, his body uncovered.

“I gotta come out, and I gotta fight for my justice,” she told the crowd.

Santa Ana resident Samuel Justiss Vance, 64, clapped and chanted along with the crowd. Vance, a member of the Orange County Racial Justice Collaborative, said it was his third day protesting since the movement began nearly two weeks ago. He said he’s been involved in fighting for equality since the 1960s.

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“Our rights are never secured,” he said, describing the never-ending struggle for equality as he stood in the crowd, the hot afternoon sun beating down. “This is a continuum.”

His reason for being there? “Christ said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers,’” he said. “And so I am here today.”

At 1:50 p.m., the caskets were returned to the hearse and a small procession followed.

Pat, 57, sat off to the side of the crowd. In her lap was her dog, Kenji, and a handwritten sign that read, “Love is the answer. No justice: no peace.”

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The Los Angeles resident, who declined to give her last name for privacy reasons, said she came out because there is strength in numbers.

“The murdered, the injustices, the incarcerations have gone on for generations — not decades, generations,” she said.

The native Angeleno said that police brutality was often talked about in the black community, but it took a killing as brutal as Floyd’s for everyone else to understand. This time felt different, she said, because the world was paying attention.

“Because of his death, this movement has been born,” she said, gesturing to the crowd around her.

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Just before 3 p.m., the protesters marched to City Hall, chanting, “Black lives, they matter here.”

In unison they asked those inside — where a budget meeting was being held — to defund the police.

For William Boyi II, the movement is personal. His brother was beaten by officers in Florida, he said.

“This keeps happening, and until we dismantle the police, it’ll keep happening,” he said. “We just can’t afford one more death. We’re done going through this.”

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The protesters then headed down Spring and Figueroa streets and through the 2nd Street tunnel — where their voices were amplified.

Leaders asked them to take a knee, and for a moment, the deafening chants were silenced as they took a moment to remember Floyd.

On a nearby tunnel wall someone had written, “Riot every cop.”

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The crowd arrived back at City Hall about 4 p.m., with many of those in attendance taking refuge in the shade as speakers continued.

Police presence was light, with officers appearing mostly at intersections to direct the protesters.

At several points the crowd chanted, “How do you spell ‘racist’?”

“LAPD” came the response.

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Leaders of United Teachers Los Angeles said Monday they support a movement to eliminate the Los Angeles School Police Department, a force of about 400 that serves the L.A. Unified School District and accounts for about $70 million of the district’s $7.9 billion budget.

“We have to dismantle white supremacy. We must ... defund the police and bring in the mental health services that our students need,” said Cecily Myart-Cruz, the incoming president of UTLA, which represents about 30,000 teachers, nurses, counselors and other staff in the school district.

The union’s board of directors voted last week, 35-2, to “start a process” that will ultimately lead to a larger union vote on whether or not to push the school board to “take money out of the school police department and put it directly into mental health support, counselors, academic counselors,” current UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said. “We can have 800 mental health supporters by using that money.”

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The movement to defund school police has been a concern of education equity advocates for years. But the nationwide protests over the death of Floyd and calls to defund the Los Angeles Police Department and some others throughout the country reinvigorated their calls in the past days.

Floyd’s death has become a rallying point for many who say that police abuses against black people have persisted unchecked for too long, prompting sweeping protests across the U.S. and elsewhere around the world.

“This is a movement,” said activist AJ Lovelace, gesturing to City Hall. “They thought we were going to get tired and give up. And we’re still here.”

In Los Angeles, demonstrations remained peaceful over the weekend.

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They included a huge march in Hollywood that drew an estimated 20,000 people Sunday and a caravan of motorcycles, demonstrators and cowboys that made its way through Compton.

The Compton Cowboys joined a caravan of motorcycles and demonstrators as part of a growing national movement to end police brutality and systemic racism.

At 9 a.m. on Tuesday, the downtown Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels will toll its bells for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — the length of time
Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles invited all its parishes to do the same.

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“We need to make sure that George Floyd did not die for no reason. We should honor the sacrifice of his life by removing racism and hate from our hearts and renewing our commitment to fulfill our nation’s sacred promise — to be a beloved community of life, liberty and equality for all,” Archbishop José H. Gomez said in a statement.

Times staff writers Kevin Rector, Richard Winton contributed to this report.


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