A week ago on (27 May 2020) Wednesday, protestors made it clear that the Los Angeles demonstrations about police brutality in another city in a different state weren’t going to be peaceful. That should have been a warning to the organizers of the protests and to anyone who joined them.
To be clear, I believe that black lives do matter and that cases like George Floyd do need to be scrutinized. I have participated in large anti-war protests as well as smaller local protests. In a pre-social media world, I also covered the LA Riots.
It was clear from the video I saw on Wednesday and from the chatter on Thursday, Friday and early Saturday morning that the protests in Los Angeles would not be peaceful. I was sure there would be fires, looting and violence in a way that wasn’t as predictable during the LA Riots.
From the beginning I wondered why the march organizers:
- Did not reach out to LAPD since the catalyst was a case in another city and in another state.
- Why the decision was made to walk on to the freeway which would mean immediate police intervention, particularly during rush hour.
- Why when there were signs of violence on Wednesday’s initial protest, the organizers still went on with a march that was ending in Beverly Hills.
According to KTLA5, a large group broke away from the protests in Downtown LA and blocked the 101 Freeway at 6 p.m. (27 May 2020). As one would expect, the LAPD and the LAFD responded. What happened next was people in this group attacked the first patrol car. A man within the group was injured and when a second patrol car attempted to stop, it was also attacked.
Via Twitter, the LAPD, even after the incident on the 101, was supportive and asked that the protests be safe and legal.
According to the LA-ist, it was a group of black Los Angeles community leaders who decided to break some laws and make rush-hour traffic worse by blocking eastbound traffic on the 101. Pastor Stephen “Cue” Jn-Marie, the co-founder of The Church Without Walls, told the LA-ist, “We’ve been dealing with a lot of pain throughout our existence here in America. To compound that, to see George Floyd’s murder — I call it a modern-day lynching.”
But what he is protesting for is not just police brutality or even necessarily for the sake of George Floyd. Black Lives Matter-LA and The Church Without Walls wants to slash funding for the LAPD and, instead, spend money on social workers, housing, public transportation, health care and other services.
Dr. Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter – L.A. told the LA-ist, “We were outraged when we saw a budget that cut virtually every other city department, including the ones most needed right now in the midst of the pandemic and the economic fallout — while actually increasing funding to LAPD.”
The problem, of course, is no one could have predicted the pandemic and the national healthcare plan, Obamacare, has been under attack by the current White House. As Black Lives Matters-LA likes to imply that silence is consent, the same applies here. By not commenting on the Wednesday vandalism on police vehicles the associated organizations were essentially giving consent.
What Black Lives Matter-L.A., the Church Without Walls, Community Coalition, Los Angeles Community Action Network, Stop LAPD Spying, Ground Game L.A., Sunrise Movement and other organizations want is their “People’s Budget” which includes crisis management, restorative justice programs, and community-based safety measures.
Who is Black Lives Matter-L.A.? This is confusing because the actual Black Lives Matter Los Angeles website lists three co-founders: Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi.
Patrisse Cullors has her own website, is an artist and author of a NY Times best-selling book. Her website lists her as being an MFA candidate at USC (2019).
Alicia Garza currently lives in Oakland and is Special Projects Director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
Opal Tometi. is a human rights advocate, strategist and writer of Nigerian-American descent.
Melina Abdullah is a professor of Pan-African Studies at Cal State LA but not listed as a co-founder of Black Lives Matter L.A.
On the 28th (Thursday), again, the freeway was blocked, this time at the 110. The only reasons to block a freeway (or a street) are 1) to get a photo op and 2) force a confrontation with law enforcement.
Blocking the freeway, like blocking streets without a permit, is against the law, so it was apparent from the beginning that the protests were willing to break the law.
On Twitter, Black Lives Matter-L.A. did have other talking points. The account re-tweeted the names of Eric Garner, Nephi Arreguin, Anthony Vargas, Ryan Twyman and AJ Weber. The Black Lives Matter-L.A. is also unhappy with how the City Council represents the people.
Eric Garner died in 2014 after an altercation with the NYPD (chokehold). The New York grand jury decided not to indict the officer, the 29-year-old officer, Daniel Pantaleo. There was a civil lawsuit (wrongful death) that settled out of court in July 2015.
Nephi Arreguin was a young father who was fatally shot by deputies on 7 May 2015. A bystander corroborated the deputy’s story so the District Attorney’s office found the deputy acted in self-defense. LA County settled the wrongful death civil lawsuit out-of-court. This is a case that was LA County Sheriff’s department and not LAPD.
Anthony Vargas was also an LA County incident (12 August 2018) in which the facts are disputed. Vargas was shot 13 times in East Los Angeles. Again, this was LASD and not LAPD.
Ryan Twyman is also a case from LA County. The deputies claim that in the June 2019 Willowbrook incident, Twyman was using the car as a weapon. Also not LAPD.
AJ Weber was another Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department case, this time in Westmont on 4 February 2018. This is also not LAPD.
According to a press conference on 4 May 2020, the LASD was underfunded by $400 million already. That was before the riots of this weekend.
While I didn’t initially question that number of 601, just Black Lives Matter-LA’s sloppy use of demographics and related jurisdictions, the LA-ist did.
In her interview with our newsroom, Abdullah cited 601 as the number of people who have been killed by police in Los Angeles under the administrations of Mayor Eric Garcetti and District Attorney Jackie Lacey.
Our review of Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s office data compiled in the L.A. Times Homicide Report, found law enforcement officers have killed 329 people since 2013, the first full year when Garcetti and Lacey were both in their current positions. The Homicide Report lists 876 people killed by police in L.A. County since Jan. 1, 2000.
For those who don’t know Jackie Lacey is also African American. Unlike Abdullah, who was born in East Oakland, attended Howard University before entering USC, Lacey was born in Los Angeles and raised in Crenshaw. Lacey attended UC Irvine before attending USC Law School. Lacey is the first woman and the first African American to serve as the LA District Attorney. Abdullah lives in Crenshaw while Lacey lives in Granada Hills.
Jurisdiction becomes a point on Saturday. LAPD is responsible for the City of Los Angeles. The City of Beverly Hills has its own police force which is smaller and would be unable to handled a large crowd. The narrative that the rich were being protected was essentially false. There was a boundary between cities and the illegal assembly wanted to cross it.
In February of this year, Abdullah filed a lawsuit against former LAPD Chief Charlie Beck for a 2018 incident in which she was arrested along with a woman, Sheila Hines-Brim, who threw a powdery substance at Beck during a police commission meeting. The charges filed against Abdullah were dropped when she agreed to behave according to the guidelines. The actual case Brim and Abdullah were at the meeting was for 36-year-old Wakiesha Wilson who died in police custody in 2016. Her death was ruled a suicide.
George Floyd Only a Spark
George Floyd was killed on 25 May 2020 (NYTimes 8 minute 24 second reconstruction). By 3:11 a.m. the Minneapolis Police Department announces the FBI will be investigation. At 6:45 a.m., Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo hold a press conference, during which Frey says about the bystander video, “What we saw was horrible. Completely and utterly messed up.”
In response, Black Lives Matter-LA had demands.
There seems to be some confusion at Black Lives Matter-L.A. as to whom the LAPD is under and whom the LASD is under.
Of this 601 people, who many were under LAPD?
For the Long Beach Police Department which is separate from the LAPD and LASD, how pertinent is that 601 number?
Black Lives Matter-L.A. writes on its Facebook page when asking people be present at the LA Police Commission meeting on 2 June 2020, “We need everyone to show up…virtually…to tell LAPD that it’s about more than #GeorgeFloyd…It’s about the 601 of our people killed by police right here in Los Angeles County in the last 7 years.” How many of those people were under LAPD?
The LAPD is funded by the LA City Council and under the Police Commission. LASD is under the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
The peaceful march on Tuesday afternoon (2 June 2020) was not publicized on the Black Lives Matter-LA Facebook or Twitter landing pages.
Why Beverly Hills?
To get to Beverly Hills, the Saturday march went through the Fairfax District. The demographics of Downtown Los Angeles is 52.7 percent Caucasian, 20.1 percent Asian, 17 percent Latino and 6.2 percent African American. Was this really an issue for that area? It is where the LAPD and LASD are headquartered so it might be strategic.
The demographics of the Fairfax District is 84.7 percent Caucasian, 5.9 percent Latinos, 4.5 percent Asian and 2.2 percent black. The demographics Beverly Hills is 81.7 percent white, 9.5 percent Asian and only 1.6 percent black.
These areas were targeted by design according to Abdullah. She told the LA-ist, “We’ve been very deliberate in saying that the violence and pain and hurt that’s experienced on a daily basis by black folks at the hands of a repressive system should also be visited upon, to a degree, to those who think that they can just retreat to white affluence.”
In essence, it seems Black Lives Matters-LA wants other parts of Los Angeles to become more concerned about minority issues and issues that concern predominately black areas of the city.
When Did the Looting Start?
I wasn’t the only person to notice the chatter.
The earliest report of looting was at 2 a.m. Saturday morning in Little Tokyo, according to the Rafu Shimpo.
According to TMZ by 8 p.m. on Saturday, 30 May 2020, the looting was well underway.
Looters ignored the 8 PM curfew Saturday night as they amped up what was going on during daylight hours. Check out the video of looters pilfering all they could carry at the Alexander McQueen store on Rodeo Drive.
At 8 p.m. on Saturday, Abdullah tweets this:
They also set fires to multiple businesses in L.A., especially in the Fairfax District and Melrose Ave., trashing store after store. Many of the stores were mom and pop, so the likelihood that they can stay in business with the vandalism combined with the impact of the coronavirus ranges from slim to none.
Some people on Twitter justify or shrug off the destruction because those businesses must have insurance.
Where Did the Protestors Come From?
In Los Angeles, the bulk of the arrests were residents.
In Santa Monica, 95 percent of those arrested were from outside of Santa Monica.
One reporter called it “crimes of opportunity.”
There are things that seemed to indicate there was more to it. Someone was faulting our liberal mayors and governors. Was there only rioting and violence under liberal mayors and governors?
The Downtown Los Angeles area has always been volatile. While people naturally point to the LA Riots, they forget that there was rioting as well after the Lakers won the national championships in 2000, 2009 and 2010. LAPD patrol cars were also attacked during those riots.
According to NBC, the people arrested during these 2020 riots had a variety of occupations:
Of those detained only three people said they lived in other states, including one person from Phoenix, one from Haverhill, Massachusetts, and one from Detroit.
Many reported their occupations as students, laborers, or that they were unemployed, the records showed, with one veterinary assistant, one barber, one nurse, and two photographers in the group.
There are indications that the riots in other areas (such as Minnesota) were instigated by white supremacists. In Pittsburgh, there were white males in black bloc, a style of dress that seems to be associated with anarchists. An NBC report associates this with anti-government organizations and what’s called a boogaloo.
The stealing of cars from auto dealerships in places like Beverly Hills seemed to be more than opportunist looting.
Rioting and looting may be the unintended consequences of the Black Lives Matter movements protests, but in Los Angeles Black Lives Matter failed to not only acknowledge the violence that began on Wednesday night but even any responsibility or empathy for the victims of vandals and looting.
Black Lives Matter-LA Stokes the Rage
The chanting of “Eat the Rich” or “F*ck Police” isn’t meant to inspire a working relationship with the LAPD or the residents of these areas–rich or working class. Further the actual goal of the Black Lives Matter-LA is to “defund” the police and implement the budget they worked out with other organizations.
This seems less likely as these riots have shown that more and not necessarily less funds will be needed if only to replace the damaged vehicles and cover the overtime.
Black Lives Matter-LA did not distance themselves or acknowledge the initial violence although from the report, it was one of their allied groups that intentionally led the Wednesday blockage of the 101. Blocking streets and the freeway is illegal and essentially illegal assemblage.
Protect Us America explained why “protestors decided to vandalize Beverly Hills.”
Black Lives Matter-LA did mention looting and vandalism. That usage of “we” comes off as arrogant in the face of large scale damage.
Remember, most people can care for more than one thing. One can care about life and property, but would Black Lives Matter-LA care more about property and vandalism if it was in predominately black communities? If Crenshaw was heavily affected would Abdullah be criticizing the lack of police protection?
By its use of social media, the Black Lives Matter-LA set up themselves to be played by other individuals and groups whose intent was clearly to loot. Black Lives Matter-LA could have worked out a plan with the LAPD. All Black Lives Matter chapters could have worked with local law enforcement on plans to minimize the breaking of laws, the disruption of business and traffic and given assurance to the local communities.
Yet in Los Angeles, the businesses were already fearful and made efforts to protect themselves by boarding up their doors and windows. Black Lives Matter-LA ignored such fears and instead of allaying them likely increased them.
By Tuesday, Black Lives Matter-LA did not post their plans on Facebook or Twitter and the march and Wednesday sit-ins were more peaceful. This time, according to NPR and LA-ist reports, they had training in keeping the peace. Yet the sit-ins targeted Garcetti because they wanted the LAPD to be defunded?
According to the LA-ist, “She [Abdullah] said media narratives focused on graffiti and window breaking by some demonstrators.”
From my perspective, this is how journalism should work. People are concerned with their places of work, their businesses and the safety of the city. If Black Lives Matter-LA is not concerned about the damage done to a community they used to gain attention, can they really ask for that community to be concerned about the problems of another community?
Someone asked: “When will the organization at least condemn the looting of #MinorityOwnedBusinesses?” That’s a reasonable question and one of the public relations mistakes Black Lives Matters-LA made.
This person didn’t get the notice that at least the Twitter account of Black Lives Matter-LA doesn’t like the word “minorities.”
Black Lives Matter-LA could have done damage control and earned or won back the hearts of the affected areas by motivating its large following to form clean-up crews and even anti-looting teams instead of marching again in another place on yet another day.
Remember the LA Riots came after the decisions in the criminal case against the LAPD officers. These 2020 riots came before even a week had passed since the death of George Floyd. The argument of the defense attorneys may be that the defendants can’t get a fair trial due to the publicity and riots. Attorneys will likely have trouble finding a jury of peers who have not been adversely affected by the riots.
If the aim of Black Lives Matter-LA is to see justice is served, then they should want justice for everyone. The argument that one should not equate a life lost to looting is already build into the legal system.
With its adversarial stance, how useful is the current leadership of Black Lives Matter-LA? Could it have attempted to work with the LAPD in acknowledging these events that happened in another city in another state might also give reason to improve LAPD? Black Lives Matter-LA further muddies the waters by talking about past cases that were decided by a jury. That’s water under the bridge. Black Lives Matter-LA also confuses jurisdiction and the LA-ist couldn’t account for the number used.
Abdullah, who filed a lawsuit just this February, should have probably recused herself from speaking about the police due to conflict of interest with the police commission. Moreover, It is likely that Abdullah wouldn’t stand for students in her classes throwing powdery substances at one another.
What have the citizens of Los Angeles learned from these Black Lives Matter-LA protests? How are citizens supposed to report counterfeit and how does one spot counterfeit bills? Counterfeiters in the US are probably rejoicing that the focus has been taken off of them. None of these cases in Los Angeles cited by the Black Lives Matter-LA were ignored by the local press.
As for defunding the LAPD, because the LA Riots of 1992 occurred after the verdict of the criminal trials, it would be reasonable for the LAPD and LASD to ask for more funds to prepare for possible riots when the court case against the Minneapolis police officers is decided. It is likely that the people involved in the areas that suffered looting, vandalism and arson would want more police protection instead of less.
As one might expect, Black Lives Matter-LA did invoke Martin Luther King Jr., using the quote out of context:
In the full speech, King condemns riots:
But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.
Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t to my knowledge provoke the police by blocking freeways or long stretches of roads in what amounted to an unlawful assembly. The California Penal Code Part 1, Title 10, Section 370 makes it illegal to obstruct any street or highway. Black Lives Matter-LA did this deliberately and flagrantly, not satisfied with obstructing streets, they also obstructed freeways.
King also didn’t make mottos that were meant to offend or frighten. He didn’t encourage vandalism.
If an organization wants change and wants the US society to be concerned about justice, then it must want justice for all peoples. We must want just treatment for Target and mom-and-pop stores and the LAPD. In 2020, to prevent damage to the community, organizations must work with the police. Instead, Black Lives Matter-LA turned the topic of looting to be about their agenda. The Black Lives Matter-LA Twitter account reposted examples of vandalism (tagging) which seems more like support or encouragement than a denouncement. The chanting of “Eat the rich” and “F*ck police” suggests neither peaceful nor constructive objectives and neither motto has anything to do with George Floyd.
Black Lives Matter-LA got played by people looking to loot and disrupt, but in Los Angeles, they didn’t really play nice either.