Dozens arrested as protesters and deputies clash in Dijon Kizzee demonstrations in L.A.

VIDEO | 01:14
Dozens arrested as protesters and deputies clash in Dijon Kizzee demonstrations in L.A.

Demonstrations over the fatal shooting of Dijon Kizzee by L.A. County sheriff’s deputies have turned chaotic, with deputies arresting dozens.


For days, protesters gathered outside the heavily guarded South Los Angeles sheriff’s station in tense but largely peaceful demonstrations to decry the deputies who shot and killed Dijon Kizzee last week in the nearby neighborhood of Westmont.

But over the Labor Day weekend, those demonstrations escalated to clashes, with deputies firing projectiles and tear gas at the crowds and arresting 35 people over four nights of unrest.

The Sheriff’s Department said protesters initiated the confrontations by throwing rocks and bottles at deputies. But activists said in interviews that the displays of force were unprovoked.


“Deputies have not used less lethal options simply because protesters refused to leave,” said Lt. John Satterfield. “It has always been in response to being attacked by, like I said, the rocks, the bottles, the frozen water bottles.”

The conflict continued Tuesday, when sheriff’s authorities declared an unlawful assembly around 8 p.m. at Normandie Avenue and Imperial Highway, giving protesters five minutes to disperse, before opening fire with some kind of less-lethal round and scattering the crowd north on Normandie, a protester said.

Lt. Glenn Emery said 17 people were arrested on suspicion of failing to disperse. He said some were carrying makeshift shields and wore gas masks, body armor and helmets — a lot of which was taken into evidence.

“Once it gets dark, they start getting little more aggressive,” Emery said of the protesters.

Cliff Smith, an organizer with the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police, said demonstrators on Saturday parked a flatbed truck with a sound system on the street in front of the station, which had set up a barricade. The rally, he said, was “very calm and orderly” as protesters listened to speakers that included Kizzee’s family.


Attendees were encouraged to bring bikes, roller skates and skateboards to highlight how Kizzee had been stopped by deputies while riding his bicycle.

Then, Smith said, the tone abruptly changed more than an hour in.

“All of a sudden, for no reason I could understand, they shoot one tear gas canister toward the back of the stage,” he said of deputies. “There was nobody that was yelling at the sheriffs or throwing anything or provoking them. I don’t think anyone was really paying attention to the sheriffs because the sound truck was on the street.”

Smith’s 7-year-old daughter had been standing by the truck and was hit by tear gas. Smith said organizers then gave directions to clear the area and turned the rally into a march on Imperial Highway.

“We were there to kind of protest how violent sheriffs are in this county,” said Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, which organized the demonstration Saturday afternoon. “We were there to protest it, but they demonstrated the truth of why we were there.”

Residents film a few people being taken into custody Tuesday in Los Angeles.
(Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times)

A Sheriff’s Department spokesperson said some in the group started throwing rocks and bottles at deputies, and they responded with sting balls and pepper balls. Deputies declared an unlawful assembly at 8 p.m. — which Abdullah disputed, saying no one heard an order to disperse — at which point the crowd had already dwindled.

“They never declared an unlawful assembly,” Abdullah said. She said one protester hit with a rubber bullet went to the hospital.

No one was arrested Saturday night, sheriff’s officials said.

A dozen people, however, were arrested the following night during more spontaneous protests in front of the station, including from people who were upset about Saturday’s clashes. Most of the people arrested were from various cities in Southern California. One was from San Francisco and another from Florida, the Sheriff’s Department said.

Lisa Castanon, 31, was among those arrested on suspicion of failing to disperse.

Castanon said that after deputies declared an unlawful assembly Sunday, she and others had continued to chant. At one point, the protesters marched around the block. As she was returning to her car, she was arrested and taken into custody.

A few people were taken into custody Tuesday near Imperial Highway and Normandie Avenue in Los Angeles
A few people were taken into custody Tuesday after the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department declared an unlawful assembly near Imperial Highway and Normandie Avenue in Los Angeles.
(Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times)

“It really did feel like a war zone,” she said. “All they have is brutality for the people.”

Demonstrators gathered again Monday outside the South L.A. sheriff’s station chanting: “No justice, no peace” and “No cops, no prison, total abolition.”


Video from OnScene TV shows protesters running for cover as shots are heard and smoke fills the air. When asked what prompted the deployment of the nonlethal rounds, Deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez said Tuesday that an “unlawful assembly was declared and dispersal orders were given.”

Satterfield said many protesters wore goggles, helmets and gas masks. Some held makeshift shields. They chanted about burning the “precinct” down — an indicator, he said, that they were not from the L.A. area.

“We call them stations out here,” Satterfield said, noting that precinct is an East Coast term. Six people were arrested Monday, he said, and no injuries were reported.

“All three nights were fairly consistent. People came out and exercised their 1st Amendment rights to protest,” Satterfield said. “There came a tipping point where there was unlawful activity going on and it was declared an unlawful assembly, and then the crowd was asked to disperse.”

Kizzee, 29, was killed Aug. 31 during a struggle with deputies after they stopped him for allegedly riding a bicycle in violation of vehicle codes. An attorney for Kizzee’s family said he was shot at 15 times. Sheriff’s officials said deputies fired after Kizzee “made a motion toward” a gun that fell to the ground from a jacket he dropped. An investigation is ongoing, officials said.

Times staff writers Matthew Ormseth and Hayley Smith contributed to this report.