Michael Brown protests: L.A. freeway becomes a stage

Protesters halt traffic in both directions on L.A.'s 110 Freeway near Leimert Park on Nov. 24.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

About half an hour before midnight, protesters angry over the Ferguson grand jury decision pushed down a chain-link fence, climbed a dirt hill and walked onto one of the great symbols of Southern California: the freeway.

More than 100 men and women walked onto Interstate 110, where they unfurled a sign using an expletive to express their feelings about police.

With suddenly-blinkered red tail lights, traffic came to a stop -- not for the first time and certainly not for the last on a freeway during an L.A. protest.


“No justice, no peace. No racist police!” the crowd shouted. In front of them, traffic began to conga-line into the distance.

From the opposite side of the freeway, where other demonstrators had gathered, police sirens rang. Some of the protesters sat down on the freeway, holding up their hands before a growing number of police cars.

The demonstrators were a diverse group.

On Monday night, some of the chants included “Too black, too strong. Too brown, too strong.” But many of the protesters were white.

At one point, a protester urged white people in the crowd to stand in front of police on Pico Boulevard.

“Want to know how you can be there for us? Stand in front of us,” one woman said. “Because they won’t shoot you.”

Back on the freeway, more than 30 police officers began to line up, surrounding protesters and telling them they were gathered in an unlawful assembly. The rest of the California Highway Patrol officer’s words were drowned out by an angry chorus.


Move off the freeway or get arrested, the demonstrators were told. Force will be used if necessary, they were warned.

“Get off the freeway, please,” one officer said.

“Don’t let them box us in,” a protester shouted in response.

Slowly, the line of police moved forward, forcing the protesters back on the hill they had used to climb down to the 110. Someone threw a beer bottle at the officers.

“Don’t shoot,” the crowd shouted at the officers.

They didn’t.

Many of the demonstrators made their way back onto Pico Boulevard and urged the crowd to walk to downtown L.A. Some stood behind, yelling at officers.

Just before midnight, the crowd was off the freeway. Go west, officers told the protesters. You have five minutes.

The line of officers moved forward, pushing the crowd back down the street. Soon, they fired at least three non-lethal projectiles into the ground when the crowd refused to budge.

Minutes later, the protesters walked down side streets and began to disperse.

By then the freeway was moving again.

Times staff writers Ruben Vives and Angel Jennings contributed to this report.

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