Thousands march in Hollywood for LGBTQ rights and racial justice
Thousands of “All Black Lives Matter” demonstrators converged on Hollywood Boulevard in front of the TCL Chinese Theatre on Sunday, denouncing racial injustice and supporting LGBTQ rights, before marching on to West Hollywood as protests continued nationwide.
The march was organized by the Black Advisory Board, made up of Black LGBTQ+ leaders and organizations. On the event’s website, the board posted a statement announcing a protest “in direct response to racial injustice, systemic racism, and all forms of oppression.”
Some activists gathered around President Trump’s star on the Walk of Fame and demanded his removal from office because of his divisive rhetoric and insensitivity to racial justice issues.
Chantelle Hershberger, an organizer with RefuseFascism.org in Los Angeles, connected the swell of concern about police tactics and racism with the president’s rhetoric in office.
“Trump is not separated from what’s happening right now. There is a whole connection with this normalization of police brutality,” she said, recalling a speech the president once made in which he jokingly encouraged rough treatment of people arrested by police. “It’s unbelievable that he’s in power. We can’t live another day in this nightmare.”
Some protesters gathered around the president’s star, which has been defaced in the past, and a handful of young men stopped to bang their skateboards on his name.
By 11 a.m., a large and peaceful crowd of protesters that appeared to number in the thousands had swelled along a stretch of Hollywood Boulevard, between North Highland and La Brea avenues, that was painted with the words “All Black Lives Matter” in rainbow colors, representing the diversity of the LGBTQ community.
A portrait of George Floyd, killed by a police officer in Minneapolis, flashed on a screen outside the legendary Chinese Theatre as protesters chanted, “No justice, no peace!”
Greg Austin, 31, said Sunday’s massive turnout, where activists carried rainbow-infused “All Black Lives Matter” signs and marched together, was evidence of a desire for change that’s been building for years amid high-profile police shootings across the country. He said the national outcry over Floyd’s death signaled that momentum was building toward police reform.
“We’re not saying that every cop is bad. We just wish they would follow a different method,” said Austin, who is gay and Black. “This is an eye-opener for everyone. I’m hoping that this will show that the police need better training for their officers.”
Hollywood Boulevard was closed to traffic, and there was little police presence. Before the march to West Hollywood began, the crowd gathered around a few flatbed trucks parked in the middle of the street to listen to speakers in support of gay and transgender people of color and to cheer the “All Black Lives Matter” theme of the event.
Some speakers focused their attention on local elected officials, particularly Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey, who’s locked in a competitive reelection contest against former San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascón.
Danny Gresham, an organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation, shouted encouragement over a loudspeaker for people to protest the incumbent prosecutor, whose record on police use-of-force cases has become an issue in the campaign. Gresham complained about the tactics shown by law enforcement during recent protests, calling it the “militarization” of law enforcement.
“This is what our hard-earned tax money is going to. Do we want that?” Gresham shouted, and the crowd shouted back, “No!”
“We want reinvesting and rebuilding in our communities,” Gresham said. “We shouldn’t be having to fight for housing. We shouldn’t be having to fight for heathcare. We shouldn’t have to be demanding to defund the police.”
Chants rang out among the crowd: “Prosecute killer cops!” “Black lives matter!” Signs displayed the diversity of the crowd: “Jews for Black Lives.” “LatinX for Black Lives.”
On the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a white woman with a rainbow flag draped over her shoulders blew bubbles as she passed David Hasselhoff’s star, and a Black man passed with a cardboard sign that said, “Black Trans Lives Matter.”
Most participants, by far, wore face masks because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Walking down Sunset Boulevard, Ammie Robinson, 37, of Huntington Park, said that as a Black and queer person and as a woman, she had a “triple whammy” when it came to fighting for her rights. She marched with her girlfriend, Kimiko McCarthy, 31, who also is Black. They both wore black face masks with the words “Black Lives Matter.”
Robinson says that, even within the LGBTQ community, it is mostly white voices that are heard and that discrimination exists.
“Sometimes, there’s not space for Black people,” she said. “You’re fighting for space in your own community.”
McCarthy carried a cardboard sign that read, “Hey WeHo Black Queers Exist!!! #MakeSpace.” She says that, although it is a celebrated LGBTQ haven, West Hollywood — which is mostly white — is not always welcoming. McCarthy said LA Pride also was not welcoming. She said she’d just spoken with a friend, another Black queer woman, who did not attend the march because she didn’t feel welcome in what she thought was a white space.
“I respect that,” McCarthy said. “I told her I’d let her know how it goes. I heard about this weeks ago, and of course I wanted to be here to represent both sides of who I am.”
McCarthy said before attending she’d given it some thought and decided that it was powerful and important to be seen. She was inspired by the massive, diverse crowd.
Among the signs people carried: “Racism ain’t a good look, honey.” “Racists, sashay away!” And one sign read: “Less Karens, more caring.”
The smell of sage lingered in the air along much of the route, and every street was lined with people handing out water and snacks for marchers on a bright, warm summer day.
The crowd was huge, diverse — and young.
Jolie Ruffin, 24, of Leimert Park, wore a blue surgical mask and carried a sign that read: “To be a Black queer woman in Amerikkka is a triple threat ... and NOT in a good way.”
This was her first-ever protest.
“I’m a Black bisexual woman in America,” she said. “It’s intimidating to men especially. ... I’m hurt that Black people want to live their lives, and their lives are taken from them.”
Eyvonne Leach, 40, of Inglewood, wore a black face mask and a feathery pair of rainbow-colored wings as she stood near Hollywood Boulevard.
“I am a Black woman,” she said. “I am a lesbian woman. We’re tired of all the hate and all the killing.”
Leach said that because everyone was forced to stay home and put their lives on pause because of the novel coronavirus, more were aware of the death of George Floyd. People had to pay attention to the racism that the country has always struggled with.
“I believe this is the universe working,” she said. “People are tired. If we weren’t forced to stay in the house, we wouldn’t have seen what happened. ... It would have been another killing, another Black killing.”
As a Black lesbian, Leach said she’d had to fight doubly hard against discrimination. But she feels like being Black comes first.
“You have to put your Blackness first,” she said. “My lesbianism, that comes later. Being Black and a woman in America, it is really tough.”
Amris Mendoza, 25, flew in from Dallas for Sunday’s event, her first protest march. She was with Laken Blanco near the Laugh Factory when the 32-year-old asked Mendoza to be her girlfriend. Blanco recently moved to Hollywood from Dallas.
Mendoza, overwhelmed with emotion, said yes. “I just love her so much,” she said.
The women, who are Latina, said it was inspiring to see Sunday’s diverse crowd, a mix of races and religions, coming together in support of Black lives. They were especially moved, they said, since their roots were in deep-red Texas.
“It’s historical,” Mendoza said of the march.
“Everybody is here to support diversity,” Blanca added. “It doesn’t matter what race we are. We can all come together.”
Additional protests were scheduled across Los Angeles for Sunday — the latest actions in a weekend of demonstrations.