LOS ANGELES – A crowd of nearly a thousand gathered outside the headquarters of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) on Sunday, August 17, 2014 to express their outrage the excessive use of deadly force against an unarmed citizen population.
An upside-down American flag was carried by one protestor, indicating distress. “WHEN DOES IT STOP?” asked a placard waving above the crowd.
A wide yellow banner with red letters declared “Stop Killer Cops!” The iconic Occupy Los Angeles black and glitter “Fuck the Police” faced 1st Street for photo ops with the LAPD. Rhythmic chants of “Down on the ground!” we returned by “Shot in the back!”
Just two days after the execution of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri police, as-yet-unidentified LAPD officers of the Newton Patrol Division fatally shot 24-year-old Ezell Ford during an “investigative stop.”
Witnesses (including a neighbor in a second-floor apartment) say the eldest son of Tritobia and Edsell Ford was lying on the ground, complying with officer instructions, when he was shot three times in the back. According to an LAPD press release, around 8:20 pm on Monday, August 11, 2014, officers conducted an investigative stop in the 200 block of West 65th Street, resulting in an “officer-involved-shooting.”
The crowd swelled from five hundred to well over a thousand as the march took to the streets of downtown Los Angeles. Calls of “Hands Up!” were answered with a resounding “Don’t Shoot!”
A Marine stood in the afternoon heat with a poster suggesting, “Test Police for Steroid Abuse.” He explained, “Steroids increase aggressiveness along with strength. ‘Short fuses’ are not what we want in people that carry guns.” He reported that many cops nodded in approval at the message.
Portable speakers blared Rage Against the Machine singing “Renegades” and “Fuck tha Police” as the crowd marched from Los Angeles City Hall past the LAPD headquarters and onwards through Little Tokyo. “Police think they have the authority to kill a minority.”
People carried dozens of red and white signs, each bearing the name of a black man murdered by police. The crowd paused in the shade at one point and a woman started listing recent victims of police murder.
She mentioned Carlos Oliva, murdered by the East Los Angeles sheriff while he was riding his skateboard home September 20, 2013. His father joined the #HandsUp #Justice4Fords protest in unity.
“We are here in solidarity for the family of Ezell Ford. The police murdered him August 11. They shot him in the back. He had special needs. The police are not qualified to deal with us. He had special needs and they shot him in the back!” she explained.
“They killed Eric Garner. They choked him out to death in Staten Island. He was telling them, ‘I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.’”
“They killed Omar Abrego on August 2 right in front of his house on August 2nd. That was just a few blocks from where they murdered Ezell Ford. They killed that man. They beat him to death for ten minutes and left him to bleed out in a pool of blood when the ambulance was right nearby. That’s how they do us.”
Someone interrupted, “What are we gonna do?” and she quickly responded, “We want community control over the police. We want an all-elected civilian board…They need to be accountable to the community they serve.”
“We want residency requirements. We want them to come from the hoods that they police. We don’t want them to come from all over and the suburbs and the rich neighborhoods and come down on us and look at us like demons and animals and shoot on us.”
Reminding the crowd of the organizing by the Black Panthers since the death of 16-year-old Bobby Hutton, she said, “We are not powerless. Our vote is our voice. We need to stay organized and stay disciplined.”
As marchers passed Parker, Center Rob Hustle sang over the speakers, “This is what happens when you call the cops: You get your rights violated or you all get shot.” The song continued, “I'm sick of people getting victimized by criminal cops / Psychopathic predators terrorizing neighborhood blocks / Equipped with pepper spray, mace, cuffs tasers and Glocks / They like serial killers acting out subliminal thoughts.”
Chalk outlines of a silhouette lodged with three bullets popped up all over the streets of downtown Los Angeles.
Around 4 PM, the crowd again converged on LAPD HQ in full force, numbering a thousand in size. The assembly was large enough that simultaneous speak-ins occurred across the street from one another, at LAPD headquarters and LA City Hall.
On the lawn of City Hall, the wife, godmother, and three children of Omar Abrego took the microphone to ask for justice for Omar and all the loved ones killed by cops. “The cops are supposed to protect us. Not to take lives away!”
On August 2nd, Omar Abrego was pulled over right outside his house on the 6900 block South Main Street. He was returning from work in his Amtrak truck and uniform, and was subsequently beaten to death by LAPD officers before they permitted his body to be transported to a local hospital. Cmdr. Andrew Smith told KTLA one of the officers involved broke his hand during the incident.
Civil rights lawyer Lisa Bloom told the crowd outside LAPD headquarters, “Every 28 hours in America, an unarmed black man is shot by police or vigilante.” When she moved to the larger speak-out at LA City Hall, alluding to the police statements about recent shootings, she asking the people, “You mean to tell me, LAPD, Ferguson PD, NYPD, that there’s this rash of unarmed black men in America suicidally reaching for your gun? Does anyone believe that?”
“Hell no!” responded the crowd. “What can we do?” asked someone.
“Number one, we need transparency. When these horrible crimes happen, we need answers. We need the autopsy results. We need to know how many shots, front or back. That’s a basic minimum requirement for a democracy. Why is that taking so long in Ferguson? Why is that taking so long in L.A?” asked attorney Bloom.
“Number two: body cameras on every police officer,” she paused while the crowd cheered. “If we can afford military weapons, if we can afford tanks in our streets, if we can afford cops in riot uniforms with automatic weapons, we can afford a $60 body camera on every police officer in America.”
Lisa Bloom concluded, “We need every police department in American to reflect the diversity of the community it serves. That is non-negotiable.”
A black woman and retired LAPD sergeant next revealed, “I’m here to tell you the LAPD is intellectually dishonest. I am here to decipher the code-talk and the double-speak.”
“I have one question for the Los Angeles Police Department,” asked the retired LAPD officer. “I want to know: What was the probable cause that you had when you stopped Ezell Ford? Absent probable cause, which is a reasonable suspicion to believe that a crime occurred, everything that happened after that becomes illegitimate.”
“Walking down the street looking suspicious is not a crime. Hand signs is not a crime,” she concluded.
Jean Thaxton of Downey described her life as a white, middle-class American woman sitting at home watching TV, thinking the cops were doing their job, “I thought they were getting criminals off the street. I believed it when they said they were being shot at. I believed them when they said the suspect grabbed at their gun. And then they killed my son. They shot him in the back with a submachine gun.”
Thaxton’s 31-year-old son Michael Nida was shot and killed by Officer Steven Gilley of the Downey Police Department on October 22, 2011. She thanked the crowd for showing up and encouraged anyone who sees news of a shooting not to believe what the police make up, but to go to the site and join the family. “We want the lies stopped, and the cover-ups stopped, and the throw-down guns stopped, and the planted drugs stopped.”
Yvette from the By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) coalition asked the assembled supporters what justice for Ezell Ford, justice for Omar Abrego, or justice for Michael Brown means. “That justice means jailing the killers up. It means putting their murderers behind bars. A badge is not a license to kill!”
The people will march again tomorrow, Monday August 18, assembling at 5:30 PM at 65th and Broadway where Ezell Ford was shot. At 6 PM, the march will proceed to 65th and Main, where Omar Abrego was beaten to death, and then on to the Newton station at 34th and Central.
As the assembly on City Hall lawn concluded, a female poet asked the crowd, ”Is it my hoodie or my skin that’s probable cause? For my people being slain by these racist laws?”
She continued, “It’s Black and Brown people that are under attack” and the crowd chanted back, “We gotta fight, fight, fight, FIGHT BACK!”
The call of “What do we want?” was answered with, “Charges!" to amplify the demand of Ezell Ford’s family that District Attorney Jackie Lacey file charges against the officers involved in the shooting.
The song “Do We Need to Start a Riot?” broadcast as the march traveled down Spring Street. “They keep trying to kill us, but they never get indicted,” raps Jasiri X while listing the names of victims of police murder. The song was written in response to the statistic that as of 2012. a black person is killed by the police in America once every 40 hours.
“Unite! Convict! Put killer cops in jail!” chanted the marchers. “The whole damn system is guilty as hell!”
“L. A. P. D. You are guil-ty!”
Hundreds marched several blocks of downtown Los Angeles between 5 and 6 PM while hundreds more occupied the sidewalk and 1st Street outside LAPD jamming in a drum circle and celebrating freedom of expression. The crowd gradually thinned as the evening wore on. At 6:30 PM, several friendly folks in Anonymous masks quickly rolled a portable sound system across the street and converted it to use as a public address system. The family of Barry Montgomery had arrived outside the LAPD headquarters, wearing white t-shirts with his image and bearing large posters of his brutal injuries. His sister addressed the crowd:
“My brother Barry Montgomery was brutally beaten by Compton sheriffs on July 14th. We were not allowed to see him…until the attorney got to see him on July 18th. He simply was walking home from the park. He’s been playing basketball at this park for ten years with no problems. They told him the park was closed at nine o’clock. The park doesn’t close until ten. He kept walking to go home. Out of nowhere, I guess, they attacked him, and beat him. Then handcuffed him, unlocked the bathroom at the park, took him in there, and beat him unconscious.”
Describing her family’s turmoil, she continued, “We were not allowed to see him. We couldn’t find him. He’s paranoid schizophrenic with Tourette’s Syndrome. The took him to jail. They put him in general population. He has broken facial bones, seven broken ribs, back…they beat him with batons and everything.”
As Barry’s sister was overcome with emotion, attorney Eric Morris took the microphone on behalf of the Montgomery family to explain that on that evening, a new officer, Diaz, had been on patrol about two weeks and was confused about the closing hours of the park. “Barry doesn’t talk. He has no communication skills. So the officer approached Barry [and] told him to leave the park. Barry couldn’t respond. Officer says ‘are you smart?’ Barry couldn’t respond. So the officer jumps Barry and puts him cuffs, Within about ten minutes, fifty—five zero—sheriff department police vehicles arrived at Enterprise Park in Compton.”
“Approximately 20 officers took park in a circle beating of Barry, who weighs approximately 105 pounds. The officer who initially arrested Barry weighs approximately 270 pounds,” revealed Morris, as the crowd audibly gasped. “We have surveillance video of identifying him and he has nothing but blood all over his uniform. That’s Barry’s blood.”
Barry was beat up for about 20 minutes, then dragged into the restroom in Enterprise Park where he was beat for a second time. “About 25-30 officers did not participate in the beating, and those are the cops who know Barry. He’s docile man. He does not have any anger, any mean tendencies whatsoever.”
“At the end of the day, this was a cop gang initiation. We had officers responding from the Century Division, the Park Police, South Division, and Compton Division, all to beat up my 105 pound client. The officer in the surveillance video, Deputy Diaz, is smirking, as he’s dripping with my client’s blood, and his knuckles are swollen and full of blood.”
After beating a mentally challenged man within an inch of his life, the LASD charged Barry with four felony counts of assault on officer with great bodily injury, four felony counts of resisting arrest, and a marijuana charge. Attorney Eric Morris has gotten the charges dropped to a single felony count of resisting arrest “and the fight goes on.”
Barry Montgomery’s sister briefly took the microphone to somberly recount, “He was laying out there for over 30 minutes. They sent one ambulance away, and another one came back ten minutes later. It’s like they were waiting on my brother to die.”
With a poster of the deceased Damon Jackson on display, Eric Harris recounted the story of how the 37-year-old man was riding an MTA bus from LA Trade Tech back to his apartment in Santa Monica around 9:30 AM when confidential concerned citizen complaint was registered that he was loud on the bus. LAPD arrived, detained him, brutally struck him in back of the skull (according to a County USC doctor) and put him into back of a police cruiser to die.
LAPD won't release information to Damon Jackson’s mother due to "the political climate." Her son expired in LAPD custody on August 3rd but no statement was released until August 13th. Her son died in the care, custody, and control of LAPD while in handcuffs (according to their own press release). There have been no news stories on the death of Damon Jackson, which occurred near Olympic & Pico while he was taking the MTA home from chef classes at trade school.
A mother took the microphone to suggest that the audience check out the “Save Black Boys” campaign to reach out to youth and give them a voice (http://www.SaveBlackBoys.org
). Her next bit of passionate advice reminds us of a scary truth:
“Get a camera, scanner, get computer, and start self relying. Start becoming an investigative news reporter. They could arrest me today, and because no one does their investigation, they could say I did anything, and because no one does the history or does their investigation, you believe it!”
Livestream coverage by @inLeaguePress: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/inleague-press
Livestream coverage by @PMBeers: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/pmbeers
“Officer-Involved Shooting in Newton Area NR14309lp,” Los Angeles Police Department News Release, Aug 12, 2014. http://www.lapdonline.org/newsroom/news_view/56791
“Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Provides Preliminary Update on Officer- Involved Shooting in Newton Area NR14311as,” Los Angeles Police Department News Release, Aug 14, 2014. http://www.lapdonline.org/newsroom/news_view/56794
“Law Enforcement in Custody Death in Newton NR14304jk,” Los Angeles Police Department News Release, Aug 11, 2014. http://www.lapdonline.org/newsroom/news_view/56786
“Law Enforcement in Custody Death in Newton NR14303jk,” Los Angeles Police Department News Release, Aug 11, 2014. http://www.lapdonline.org/newsroom/news_view/56788