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Youth organizers turn small protest into major march for justice

Updated: Sep 2, 2020

By Solomon Smith, Managing Editor

Spencer Lewis leads a march of thousands as the lead organizer in the For Us By Us march on Los Angeles City Hall.
Photo By, Solomon Smith

After over a week of protests for the murder of George Floyd and a call for police reform, the African American community in Los Angeles continues to make its voice heard.

Slowly growing, like the movement itself, the crowd in the mall just across the street from City Hall quickly grew from a few organizers and reporters to a powerful rally of hundreds of protesters by 9:30 a.m.

The “For Us By Us” march started by a few friends, most just out of high school, ended up a bigger success than any of them expected. Led by a class of 2019 Compton High School graduate, Spencer Lewis, many of the events organizers attribute its success to her hard work.

“Spencer is to thank for a lot of it, and she is the one who pretty much got everything organized and brought it to life,” said Daniel Childress, one of the 10 core organizers. “And you know, to be on the front line, actually be here rather than just be on social media talking about it.”

Most of the organizers met as many millennials do — through social media. They also lived in the same area of South Central Los Angeles and had “seen each other around.” Lewis felt that people from where she lived needed to get more directly involved and was not willing to wait on someone else to get started.

“I always wanted to do something but, you know, I was too young and my mom thinks my life is at risk if I do it,” said Lewis. “So now that I’m grown, I can just go ahead and do it on my own.”

Using the Cash App to collect donations, Lewis and the group managed to raise $800 to pay for snacks and water to pass out and keep marchers going for hours. Lewis also designed a flyer that was posted by @inthistogether_la as part of their agenda for upcoming marches. The Instagram page is a catch all for the daily protests, marches and vigils held in Los Angeles. Although not directly affiliated with them, Lewis was surprised by her inclusion on the Instagram page.

“That is dope, I didn’t even know they did that,” said Lewis.

Many of the protesters were young, frustrated and ready for change. Cameron Evans had been helping organize the march since 8 a.m. on his day off. He is the only one in his family working since the coronavirus shelter-in-place orders, but he was eager to participate in his first march.

“For one, I’m a black man at the end of the day, and we always have to continue to fight for what we believe in,” said Evans. “They say that we were heard but we have been fighting the same fight since 1992, 1964, the 70’s the 80’s the 50’s … we wouldn’t be fighting if they heard us.”

One white family of supporters drove from Ojai after seeing the announcement on Instagram. A family of four, the Simmons felt the need to add their support. They had been to other marches in Northern California but wanted to come to this one.

“It’s not easy to get the entire family excited about something but everyone was on board for this,” said father, Leon Simmons.

Beginning at 10 a.m., the march wound its way from City Hall to the Staples Center and back to City Hall, almost 6 miles round trip. The National Guard was present along most of the route and LAPD officers on motorcycles stopped traffic for the protesters at intersections. Sweaty and exhausted, Lewis and her cohort took a brief rest and prepared to make the trip again as they intended to make the march four more times that day, a total of 24 miles, 2 miles short of a marathon.

Many participating in the march were hopeful but cautious. After over a week of protests, authorities are still using SWAT tactics and National Guardsmen across the country. Debbie Dorcelus, a young black supporter who arrived with a few friends, expressed doubt but also hope about what will happen next.

“I’m gonna be honest with you. I don’t think that anything is different,” said Dorcelus. “But I think that being vocal and participating and making our voices heard over time is worth it.”

Lewis and her team are thinking about what their next march will be like but have no concrete plans as of yet. If those who would like to stay updated on different protests happening during the week, @inthistogether_la posts daily.


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