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LA Sheriff’s Department Attacks Protesters in Compton

This was not a “standoff” —  it was a coordinated, asymmetrical assault.

An LASD Deputy looks around a corner, weapon drawn. (Credit: Caroline Johnson | KNOCK.LA)

Additional reporting by Caroline Johnson and Jordan Blakeman

On Father’s Day, hundreds of protesters gathered on Redondo Blvd. in Gardena, California near the auto body shop where 18-year-old Andres Guardado was murdered by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.

Andres was shot in the back seven times while working as a security guard at an auto body shop.

According to the Sheriff’s Department, he was armed and had produced a gun when they shot him (again, seven times in the back — that’s the story the LASD thinks puts the best spin on the situation).

However, the manager of the body shop, Andrew Haney, and family members say otherwise. They say he was unarmed. That he was running because he was scared. No one had called the cops.

Andres was not a criminal. This was a part-time job, which he took to help provide for his family. Here, we can see Hanleys’s statement to Memo Torres of LA Taco.

According to Haney, the LASD took the security footage from his auto shop and destroyed the cameras before the LASD got a warrant.

So on Sunday, hundreds gathered at the sight of the murder, to call for justice, to demand answers, and to support the family. The plan was to march from the site of where Guardado was murdered, to Compton City Hall and the Compton Sheriff’s station — where his murderers work.

The family asked that the march be peaceful. And it was. For three miles, thousands walked followed by a caravan of cars. Community members lifted fists from their homes and sidewalks as protesters marched on, calling to shut down the LASD. Calling for justice.

Meanwhile, during the march, LASD had put up barricades at City Hall, and were perched in riot gear.

At Compton City Hall, speeches began. Christopher Guardado, father of Andres spoke and thanks protesters for coming.

It’s unimaginable to think that his son was murdered less than three days before Father’s Day.

Andres’s cousin also spoke to the supportive crowd as he held back tears. “My cousin was not supposed to die like that, so seeing this right now… it’s beautiful, and I want to thank everybody out here tonight. He wanted to bring us together to make a difference.”

There was a heavy emphasis on organizing, and multiple speakers, including Rebekah Jackson from the Harriet Tubman Center for Social Justice, encouraged everyone there to join a local community organization pushing to defund the police.

“Police are the bulldogs of the capitalists… you have to stay organized.” Jackson herself had recently returned from Minneapolis, where she participated in both protests and community organizing efforts while on the ground there.

When the speeches ended, and when people started to disperse, the Sheriff’s Department began to attack.

The scene was chaotic, overwhelming.

“It was flashbang after flashbang… one after another.” Andreina Kniss of K-town For All said, “People were not ready for it, it was kids in hoodies, mom’s, families, there were little kids there.”

The first sign of trouble after a few loud “pops” rang out was a woman screaming, “they’re shooting at us!” Tear gas seeped through the cloth masks of protesters protecting themselves from the still raging novel coronavirus. Pepper balls then followed.

People were running away, eyes red from tear gas, throats burning. Community medics quickly tended to the wounded, while the LASD paused for a few moments before firing more rounds as gutsy protesters regrouped and continued to approach the Sheriff line.

According to Kniss, there was no warning.

In addition to pepper spray and pepper balls, the sheriffs shot rubber bullets and threw flash grenades that were loud and disorientating. Reporters and medics alike were teargassed and shot at.

Jordan Blakeman, reporting for KNOCK.LA, attempted to document arrests and was shot at, indiscriminately, by LASD.

About 15 minutes after the attack began, a sheriff’s helicopter announced that this was an unlawful gathering.

The official in the helicopter flew low to the ground and accused people individually of being outside agitators, according to Kniss he called out Black organizers specifically and told families with children that their kids would grow up to be troublemakers.

As the attacks continued, most protesters retreated from the immediate area and fell back to where the initial rally took place: but a line of sheriff’s on that side had now materialized, guns drawn and pushing forward.

The remaining protesters also pushed forward, continuing their chants demanding that LASD release the video which would show the extent of their involvement in Guarado’s death.

A blaring voice from a helicopter told protesters to: “move along troublemakers, you are not welcome here. You are ruining the city of Compton, get out of here. We know what you are about.”

When Kniss left, this helicopter followed her and three other organizers for over a mile and a half.

We’d like to point out now that the coverage in the LATimes on this protest ignores the violence from LASD entirely. Instead, their coverage reads:

“As most of the protesters began to head out, a smaller group of people faced off against a line of sheriff’s deputies in riot gear. Soon after, there were pops and smoke and calls for a medic. Protesters rinsed their eyes with milk.”

This was not a standoff. This was an unnecessary attack. Protesters had done nothing to provoke violence from the LASD. Yes, they called on LASD to release the videos. Some people might have used mean words. But so what?

The LASD has murdered an 18-year-old. Certainly, the community has a right to be angry. Five protesters, kneeling peacefully with their hands up, were arrested, according to Kniss.

A community medic noted that if mass arrests started, even she needed to get out of there, despite the fact that coughing protesters with infected red eyes still needed treatment. “They don’t care if you’re a medic, if you’re press… they’ll arrest all of us here.”

“Right as the event was thinning out it seems like the cops got confident that they had a crowd that they could control,” Kniss said. “It seemed well coordinated.”

It was definitely a wake-up call after several weeks of protesting without any violent action by the LAPD or LASD — it was not lost on those of us there that in Compton the regard for lives and safety is completely different than in the City of LA.

Fatima Iqbal-Zubair, who is running for State Assembly in the region, and who was at the protest, says she is disappointed, but not surprised, by this violence. “Compton has always been over-policed, they’re used to that.” [Editor’s Note: Iqbal-Zubair has been endorsed by KNOCK.LA and our larger organizing structure, Ground Game LA]

She sees it as not just a message to activists in Compton but to the movement as a whole. “Yes it’s about Black Lives Matter, but this is an interracial movement, an international movement. They are telling everyone that this system of oppression is here to stay, no matter what.”

“We have to do everything we can to get progressive candidates in office to change the system. We have to stay on the streets and make sure people vote.” Zubair said, “That’s how we change the system.”

If you would like to contribute to Guardado’s funeral expenses, you may do so here.