Los Angeles, normally bustling with music and life, has been filled with the sound of sirens, helicopters and screaming protestors running away from tear gas and rubber bullets after people took to the streets to demand justice for George Floyd.
Protests have erupted across all 50 states and around the world, demanding justice for Floyd, who died after former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin pushed his knee on his neck for more than 8 minutes while Floyd pleaded “I can’t breathe.”
LAPD Chief Michel Moore has become an object of major criticism for his handling of the protests and his controversial comments about looters “capitalizing” on Floyd’s death.
In a June 1 press conference, Moore claimed looters are equally responsible for Floyd’s death as the officers in Minneapolis. Despite Moore’s and Mayor Eric Garcetti’s efforts to walk back those words and apologize, the video went viral on social media. Overnight, a petition was made to fire Moore, and it has now gathered over 160,000 signatures.
In a public Zoom meeting with the Los Angeles Police Commission the next morning, Angelenos demanded Moore’s resignation. Many of the speakers attended protests, calling for LAPD to put an end to its use of excessive force against peaceful protestors and to acknowledge its long history of police brutality against black people.
“I am absolutely sickened with what this police department has done,” Zack Sherwin said during the public comment portion of the Zoom meeting. “That thing you said on TV about George Floyd? Too late. You don’t get to take it back.”
Many participants voiced their frustrations with the technical issues on Zoom, where only 500 people were originally able to join, forcing thousands of others to depend on Instagram and YouTube livestreams.
Before the public comment started, Moore offered more apologies for his controversial comments as well as an update from the LAPD on the current situation. In regard to complaints of officers’ use of excessive force, he assured the public.
“We will investigate each complaint, and I promise to hold accountable anyone who violates our policy or commits misconduct.”
But Angelenos weren’t buying it. “Your words ring so hollow,” Sherwin said. “Hearing you say the name George Floyd and express all this sentiment when you have not prosecuted Ryan Lee and Martin Robles for the killing of Grechario Mack in your own city. Those are names that deserve to be just as infamous as Derek Chauvin’s.”
LAPD officers Lee and Robles shot Mack, who was reportedly suffering from a mental health condition and running through Baldwin Hills Crenshaw shopping mall with a knife and refusing to drop it. Both officers fired one more shot as Mack reportedly laid on the ground still clutching the knife.
In March 2019, the Los Angeles Police Commission found both officers violated department policy with those last two shots, as deadly force is only permitted in cases of imminent danger of injury or death, contradicting Moore’s claims that all the shots were legal.
“This commission found him out of policy, and you haven’t done anything about it,” Sherwin said. “Nor have you acted in the killings of so many black and brown men. Eric Rivera, Albert Ramon Dorsey, Keith Bursey, Kenney Watkins, Ezell Ford, Brendon Glenn, Jesse Romero, Wakiesha Wilson and on and on and on. How dare you, Chief Moore?” he said, listing black Angelenos killed by LAPD.
Singer-actress Lexi Underwood expressed her anger with the police force, stating that nothing is ever done to bring forth justice to the families who have lost lives to the police force.
“I’m a 16-year-old black woman,” Underwood said. “Do you know the trauma of watching countless black and brown people be killed by police officers?”
Underwood and many other speakers noted LAPD’s use of excessive force against peaceful protestors, shooting rubber bullets and using tear gas. The use of tear gas during a pandemic could lead to a surge in cases, as studies show that it may increase the chance of respiratory illness.
Many also pointed out that the use of excessive force was not ordered when people protested against businesses being closed due to COVID-19 a month ago.
“They shot at just countless peaceful protestors. Your officers were the ones being violent with us. There were children, elderly men and women in the crowd. I saw people ducking behind cars.
People were running. And you’re seriously going to sit here and say that it is our fault that an innocent black man was suffocated to death?”
According to the independent autopsy, Floyd’s death was ruled as a homicide, after the original Hennepin County medical examiner found “no physical findings of asphyxiation or strangulation.” Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, and the other cops who were on the scene are being charged as well.
Downtown LA is one of the many cities across Southern California where peaceful protests turned into looting, leaving businesses, many minority owned, with broken glass and tagged walls. Videos and photos from protestors showing LAPD shooting rubber bullets and tear gas at peaceful protestors have gone viral on social media, with many calling for LAPD to be defunded.
Garcetti said on June 3 that the LAPD would not increase its budget to $3 billion as planned
and that $100 million to $150 million will be cut from the funds and reallocated to help communities of color, a motion introduced by LA City Council President Nury Martinez.
Twitter users quickly criticized the City Council’s efforts, saying more money should be divested from the LAPD and more immediate and tangible solutions must be brought forth to protect the safety of the people of Los Angeles.
“I’m very concerned about the militarization of my town,” said Laura Espinosa, born and raised in East LA.
Through her screen on the City Council Zoom call, Espinosa said, “Currently a cop can murder someone and be fired and go to a different town and still be cops.
“Please help us lower the federal standards so we can bring criminal charges against cops who murder our people. Help us limit immunity so we can hold accountable those who allow bad cops to continue abusing our communities.”