Protests erupt in Los Angeles in response to death of George Floyd
Peaceful protests organized by the Black Lives Matter movement in West Hollywood turned violent following police confrontation. (Jintak Han/Daily Bruin senior staff)
By Jintak Han, Genesis Qu, and Bernard Mendez
May 31, 2020 12:59 a.m.
Peaceful protests turned violent in West Hollywood on Saturday following several days of civil unrest across the nation.
The protest attracted thousands and started peacefully in Pan Pacific Park in response to police brutality.
The Black Lives Matter movement organized the protests in response to the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minneapolis after an officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while arresting him.
The protest against police brutality was one of several in Los Angeles and among many nationally across cities including Minneapolis, San Francisco, Seattle and New York.
“We’re living in the middle of an uprising,” said Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement. “We are uprising not just for black deaths. … We are rising for black life.”
Many of the chants demanded to hold police officers accountable, prosecute officers who kill and defund the police.
“We need you to remember that there is power that we each have individually, but that grows exponentially when we’re all together,” said Melina Abdullah, a protester who spoke at the event.
Victims of police brutality also spoke at the protest before it became violent.
Fouzia Almarou, the mother of Kenneth Ross Jr., who was fatally shot by police officers after he attempted to evade arrest in 2018, said her son was unarmed and ran from the police out of fear, and the officer who shot her son was not prosecuted.
“You have no idea what I go through every day without my son, but I know what we do, we fight,” Almarou said.
After about an hour of speeches, protesters began marching and heading northwest until they were met by the police.
It is unclear who started the confrontation between the protesters and police.
At least two police cars were lit on fire around Fairfax and Rosewood Avenues by protesters who smashed the car windows and ignited the patrol cars.
When the Los Angeles Fire Department and LAPD arrived at the scene, they formed a line around a burnt car using guns with rubber bullets. After some confrontations with the protesters, the officers started getting into cars to retreat west. The protesters proceeded to chase down these police cars, successfully breaking a couple of their windows.
Throughout the confrontation, some protesters tried to hold back attacks against the police. Several of them peeled off people who were dashing toward the police. A woman jumped in front of the police line to try to stop people from throwing things at the officers.
Around 4:35 p.m., the police returned to the protest. Officers fired rubber bullets and tear gas on protesters, who retreated north.
The LAPD declared the protest an unlawful assembly around 5:30 p.m.
Riot police arrived at the protests around 5:30 p.m., while police sheriffs arrived with AR-15 assault rifles around 7:30 p.m.
In response, protesters spread out and started heading north sporadically. Lootings started on Melrose Avenue and spread through the entirety of the street despite police presence. Many protesters did not participate in the looting, while others attempted to mitigate the violence.
At the protest, police repeatedly fired rubber bullets at the crowd, including members of the media. One person was shot in the eye. A journalist was punched in the stomach by an officer.
Jarett Conner, who attended the protest, said he was holding up a sign when police started shooting rubber bullets at him. Justin Tanga, another protester at the event, then ran in front of him to shield him from the bullets, he said.
“I’ve never had a man do that for me,” Conner said. “The special thing about it was that he’s white. He’s white so he heard my silence, he heard my cries, and he said he had enough.”
LAPD Police Chief Michel Moore said they tried to facilitate a safe and peaceful demonstration, but was disappointed they were unable to maintain it.
“I’m saddened by this continued inability to express ourselves and our discourse in a manner that does not endanger public safety,” he said.
In response to the city-wide protests, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti instituted one-day curfew citywide between 8 p.m. on Saturday and 5:30 a.m. on Sunday. People traveling between work, people seeking emergency medical care and emergency responders are exempt from the curfew.
“Right now, it is so critical for us to reestablish the peace in this city, so that we can do that work and have those conversations,” he said in a press conference Saturday.
Whether the curfew will be extended remains unknown.
Members of the media are currently not exempt from the curfew, said LAPD representative Mike Chan.
Garcetti also announced Saturday he will deploy 500 to 700 California National Guard Troops to enforce peace and safety.
Contributing reports by Kari Lau, Saumya Gupta, Shruti Iyer, Julia Shapero, Marilyn Chavez-Martinez and Justin Jung, Daily Bruin staff.