As cities across the nation burn and images of looters in major metropolitan areas are aired nightly, less violent protests get lost in the furor.
By Solomon Smith, Political News Editor
LOS ANGELES- Parked cars decorated with signs demanding an end to police violence and racist COVID-19 policies lined up bumper to bumper in front of the Los Angeles Police Department’s headquarters.
“There’s two pandemics going on: the one is the pandemic of COVID-19 and the disproportionate effect it’s having on black and black brown people,” said John Parker, coordinator for the Harriot Parker Center and host, “the other pandemic of police murder against black and brown people.”
The protest began at noon Saturday near the Metropolitan Detention Center, making its way to the LAPD main building, 100 First Street West, as part of a locally organized protest. It was a call to action hosted by the Harriet Tubman Center for Social Justice, an organization that serves as a headquarters for several activist groups. Some of the groups include the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance), an international alliance of Filipino democratic progressives, Struggle La Lucha for Socialism, Union Del Bario and six others.
The march was a peaceful one, with several specific goals. COVID-19 and the death of George Floyd and other black men at the hands of police were the reasons for their march.
“[T]o protest the irresponsible and racist response to the Covid-19 crisis by the U.S. government and its encouragement of policies that endanger especially Black, Brown and Indigenous peoples,” as stated on their Facebook events page.
Drivers passing by the massive silver and gray building honked their horns in support of protesters as they streamed past slowly to speak to volunteers and express their support. Nearly every protester wore a mask, most carried signs and some passed out water. Supporters came from as far as Orange County to take part.
“I am here today as a Filipino migrant standing and acting in solidarity with black people and with all incarcerated people here in Los Angeles and around the world,” said Vivian, a 22-year-old graduate of UCLA. “We’re here today to show that there is a movement on the ground that is supporting black power and that is supporting justice for all these people.”
Police officers were in front of the entrance to the station, alert but without riot gear as they watched from behind barricades in front of the entrance. Several parked patrol cars waited around the corner, however, many with officers wearing helmets and body armor.
The brief march did not have the mass of other protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, who died on May 25 after Minneapolis police officers knelt on his neck as he lay prone with his hands cuffed behind his back for eight minutes. The video shows Floyd begging for his life as he exclaimed “I can’t breathe,” and called for his mother before going limp. Officers continued to apply pressure to his neck for several minutes afterward.
Slow responses from state and federal authorities, who did not charge any officers until several days later, were an unbearable frustration for many in the city leading to protests. For the last week since Floyd’s death, violent confrontations between police, and in some cases the National Guard, have resulted in deaths and millions in property damages across the nation.
The leadership presence, giving a microphone to people who felt unheard, seem to release tensions in the crowd. Nine-year-old Jason convinced his family to come to the event who arrived at noon and stayed through the march to LAPD’s offices.
“I saw the video of George Floyd,” said Jason, “so I just wanted to make a stand.”