Protest over police abuse gets boost from Occupy LA
A coalition of organizations, including Occupy Los Angeles, participated in a march against police brutality yesterday.
Beginning at Pershing Square, approximately 400 protesters headed for a rally in MacArthur Park as part of the 16th annual “national day of protest to stop police brutality, repression and the criminalization of a generation.”
At the front of the march were people who lost family members to police violence.
Last year’s march focused on the police killings of Oscar Grant in Oakland and Manuel Jamines Xum in Westlake. A year later, advocates for police accountability have even more incidents of law enforcement violence to contend with.
This year, California saw two inmate hunger strikes protesting indefinite detention in solitary confinement. In July, Fullerton police beat to death an unarmed homeless man. Currently, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is under federal investigation for violence against prisoners.
Aside from the egregious, demonstrators also took issue with the ordinary. Too often, they say, poor, minority people are stopped and searched by police who lack any justifiable probable cause.
“In New York, 1,900 people a day are stopped and frisked. Five out of six of them are black and Latino,” said Lucha Aurora, an organizer for the October 22nd Coalition that sponsored the march. “Ninety percent of them don’t even walk away with a ticket because they haven’t done anything wrong. They are just being harassed, debased, degraded and humiliated.”
Roughly 250 demonstrators from Occupy LA joined the march. Some organizers hoped this would counter a criticism of the group as being pushovers for the LAPD.
ANSWER LA, a group that has taken a tougher stance toward police relations at the City Hall sit-in demonstration, printed signs calling the police “defenders of the one percent.”
“We have been presented as being cop-lovers, as cop-friendly,” said Julia Wallace, a member of Occupy LA’s Committee to End Police Brutality. “I want you to know that, at Occupy LA, there are people who recognize that the police may have come from the 99 percent, but they work for the one percent.”
In southern California, Occupy Long Beach and Occupy OC in Irvine have experienced police attempts to thwart their sit-in demonstrations. Wallace called arrests and police violence aimed at occupation protesters around the country a “political attack.”
“Those people who are in jail are political prisoners,” she said. “Those people being attacked, many of them probably didn’t have much of a consciousness about the police, but they know now. They know now that if you are white, but you [try to] stop the banks, they are willing to arrest you and treat you like you are black or Latino.”
Along their way, marchers passed the LAPD’s Rampart station, as well as the site of Manuel Jamines Xum’s death. Last year, Jamines, drunk and knife-wielding, was killed by police. The event led to a neighborhood rebellion.
“When the police came up on him, within 40 seconds, they shot him in the head and left his body on the sidewalk to bleed and die for four hours,” said Lucha Aurora, an October 22nd organizer. “His dead body, on the sidewalk for four hours, on a Sunday afternoon, on a busy street in front of all kinds of people, to send a message that these people are not human beings.”
Demonstrators rallied in MacArthur Park where they were addressed by supporters and victims of police violence.
KPFK radio host Michael Slate read a statement issued by the Revolutionary Communist Party, that called police brutality and killings the “new Jim Crow.”
“Daily across this country horrific crimes against the people, especially black and Latino people, are being committed. This is both systematic and systemic,” he said. “This epidemic of police brutality is unconscionable and illegitimate, and even according to the U.S. Constitution, illegal. This is urgent. What’s going down in the inner cities of this country is a slow genocide. And it must stop.”