One Year of Protest: DA Lacey and The People.
52 weeks at the Hall of Injustice.
Police violence in the United States is systemic, and reflective of a history of policing founded in, and sustained by, a white supremacist system designed to control Black and brown bodies. In Los Angeles County, the two largest law enforcement agencies, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles Police Department, regularly lead all other US law enforcement agencies in the killing of residents. This apparent impunity is exacerbated by the fact that police officers across Los Angeles County, much like the rest of the country, are never held accountable for murder. Any investigations are conducted in secret, performed internally by the agency responsible for the death, and simply serve to justify the officer’s conduct. Oversight of the investigative process is flawed in that the commissions set up to do that work either have no real power to independently investigate, or, like the Los Angeles Police Commission, act more as a rubber stamp approval body than an actual oversight commission. Despite the inevitable outcomes of these secretive investigations, the office of the District Attorney still has the power to charge officers in these killings.
On October 25th 2017, a group of community members led by Black Lives Matter — Los Angeles, as well as the families of several people killed by Los Angeles County law enforcement, attempted to deliver a petition with over 10,000 signatures to the office of Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey demanding she prosecute police officers who kill. Sheriff’s deputies refused to allow the group access to the public building where Lacey’s office is located to deliver the petition that day. Every week since, an action has taken place, led by families impacted by police violence, BLM-LA, and other allied social justice organizations demanding that Lacey prosecute police officers who kill, or that she resign.
This Wednesday, October 24th, will mark one year of weekly protest outside Lacey’s office at the inappropriately named Hall of “Justice” at 211 W. Temple Street in downtown Los Angeles. Every week, a few hours before community members arrive, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, whose headquarters are in the same building, surrounds the entrances with metal barricades, chaining and locking them together, threatening to arrest any member of the public who attempts to enter this public building.
As of today, at least 420 people across LA County have been killed by law enforcement since DA Lacey took office in December 2012. Commonly referred to as “The People” in court proceedings, Lacey has refused to actually advocate on their behalf.
– Kisha Michael and Marquintan Sandlin, 31 and 32 years old respectively, shot and killed while asleep in their car by five Inglewood police officers in February 2016. Kisha was shot 13 times, and Marquintan 8 times. Witnesses reported up to 100 shots were fired. In May 2017, due to pressure brought on by the families, BLM-LA, and White People 4 Black Lives, the 5 officers were fired from the Inglewood police department, but Lacey still hasn’t filed charges against them.
– Eric Rivera, 20 years old, shot 7 times and run over by LAPD officers Arturo Urrutia and Daniel Ramirez while walking down the street in June 2017. Within 7 seconds of spotting Eric from their vehicle, they were shooting him. They said they believed Eric’s neon green water gun was semi-automatic pistol. The officers were back to work within days.
– AJ Weber, 16 years old, shot 3 times point blank in the back by LA Sheriffs deputies on Super Bowl Sunday this year in the courtyard of the apartment complex where he lived. AJ was the father of a newborn girl named Violet.
– Wakiesha Wilson, 36 years old, died in an LAPD jail in March 2016. Ruled a suicide, her body was found in the middle of a cell, several feet away from the 11 inch phone cord authorities inexplicably claimed she hanged herself with. She had told her mother she would see her at her court date, but when she didn’t show, her mother called the jail over and over asking where Wakiesha was. After 5 days, they finally gave her a number to call; the coroner. 22 minutes of video from Wakiesha’s cell are still missing.
– Brendon Glenn, 29 years old, unhoused and living in Venice, was shot and killed by LAPD Officer Clifford Proctor, who claimed Brendon reached for his partner’s gun in 2015. LAPD Chief Beck and the LA Police Commission actually recommended Lacey press charges in this case, and she still declined to do so.
– John Horton, 21 years old, was beaten to death in Men’s Central Jail in March 2009 by 5 LA Sheriff’s deputies. Initially ruled a suicide, John had a ruptured liver, ruptured spleen, a dent in his forehead in the shape of a flashlight, among many other injuries. His mother Helen fought the suicide ruling for years, and finally the Coroner’s office changed it to “deferred.” Despite being killed almost 10 years ago, John’s file still sits on DA Lacey’s desk.
– Jesse Romero, 14 years old, ran from LAPD Officer Eden Medina after being caught tagging in Boyle Heights. After being chased for a couple blocks, Medina shot Jesse in the back, killing him. 12 days earlier, Medina had shot and killed Omar Gonzalez. Today he works at LAPD Olympic Division.
– Cesar Rodriguez, 23 years old, allegedly didn’t pay $1.75 fare at the Wardlow Blue Line Metro station in Long Beach. Two officers from the Long Beach Police Department approached him, and ended up pushing him in front of an oncoming train in August 2017. There is video.
These are only a few of the 420 people who have been killed at the hands of police officers across the county that Lacey refuses to prosecute. Brendon Glenn was killed near the corner of Windward/Pacific in Venice, about an hour after a group I volunteer with, the Culver-Palms Burrito Project, was there handing out burritos to unhoused folks. We wonder to this day if Brendon was one of the many folks we chatted with that night, but we’ll never know. Kisha’s twin sister, Cesar’s sister and mother, Jesse’s parents, John’s mother, Wakiesha’s mother and aunt, as well as Eric’s mother, father, and 4 younger brothers are people I now consider friends. It’s heartbreaking, but incredibly inspiring to witness the strength of these families, coming out every week to tell their stories over and over, reliving their trauma in order to raise awareness that DA Lacey continues to refuse to do her job.
In a few weeks, those of us who are able will be in our voting booths. While voting is incredibly important, and we need to and must vote people in and out of office, it’s also our collective responsibility to put pressure on our elected officials in order to hold them accountable. Attending a protest action at 4PM on a weekday is difficult, especially if your job is 9 to 5. But, if you’re able to make that time, please come out on Wednesday, and share with your friends and family. Led by families, as well as Black Lives Matter — LA, communities most impacted by police violence continue to show up and have sustained this campaign for a year. The fight to hold murderous police accountable and end state violence is just one piece of the larger fight against a white supremacist system that disproportionately impacts Black, brown and poor folks in this city and across the country. However, it is a system that harms all of us, and it is a system that we all must collectively fight to dismantle. Our collective voices and presence send a powerful message.
The Hall of “Justice,” at 211 W. Temple St., is close to the Grand Park Metro stop; there are many buses that stop right out front at Temple/Spring, and there is $3-$6 parking at 101 Judge John Aiso St.
As a member of White People 4 Black Lives, I encourage well-intentioned white folks to also show up to our monthly meeting every second Sunday of the month and to show up to AWARE-LA Saturday Dialogue, to chat with other white folks about race and privilege, every 1st Saturday on the westside and 3rd Saturday on the eastside.
Adam Smith is an organizer with White People 4 Black Lives.
White People 4 Black Lives (WP4BL) is a white anti-racist collective and activist project of the Alliance of White Anti-Racists Everywhere (AWARE-LA) and operates within a national network of white anti-racists called Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ). WP4BL is rooted in acting in solidarity with Black Lives Matter: Los Angeles. For more information, visit www.awarela.org