UPDATE: The LAPD isn’t being specific, but it says a half-dozen arrests have been made following protests all over town yesterday and last night — one arrest involving battery on a police officer. Beyond a peaceful protest by around a thousand in Leimert Park, yesterday afternoon, there were spontaneous demonstrations on La Brea, Fairfax — and a large protest that began at Hollywood and Highland, moved on to Sunset and Cahuenga — occupied the lobby of the W Hotel for a while, and was finally declared an unlawful assembly by the LAPD at around 1:00 a.m.
It began with a few hundred protesters who gathered outside the Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw Mall on Crenshaw Blvd. at around 3:00 p.m. Sunday. By 4:30 p.m., their ranks swelled to more than a thousand, spilling onto the street despite the LAPD’s efforts to keep the protesters, angered by the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin, on city sidewalks. It ended with seizures, and attempted takeovers of two Los Angeles freeways. Protest, L.A. Style.
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After a half hour of trying to contain the crowds Sunday afternoon, police gave up. Protesters, carrying signs asking “Is my son next?” and claiming “The Whole System Is Racist,” took to southbound Crenshaw and marched nearly a mile to 48th Street where they crossed into northbound lanes and continued their noisy, but peaceful protest. LAPD squad cars withdrew from the street, but facilitated the marchers by blocking traffic at cross streets.
Late afternoon, a splinter group marched onto the Santa Monica Freeway onramp at Crenshaw and blocked traffic for about fifteen minutes, cleared by L.A. police and CHP officers. By 10:00 p.m., another protest group had descended on Hollywood, blocking Hollywood and Highland, snarling vehicles leaving the Hollywood Bowl as they also attempted to stop traffic on the 101 Freeway. But as of late Sunday, the LAPD reported that no arrests had been made.
The protest attracted a wide spectrum of individuals and organizations, from Black Power groups to a mom who’d brought her five-year-old son, “so that he’ll know at an early age that this is always going to happen. I want him to be here to see the struggle, to know the struggle of being a black man.”
Along with members of Occupy L.A., I saw a mixed-marriage family of four from the San Fernando Valley — a husband, wife and two daughters around eight and thirteen years old, all wearing hoodies in support of Trayvon Martin. They were joined by a group of Pilipino Americans, and a wide range of white human rights advocates. Armed with megaphones, chanting loudly, they made their voices heard.
“You get out and you make noise,” one woman told me. “You speak out. You have a right. That’s part of being an American.”
Saturday night, a group of several hundred marched peacefully up and down Crenshaw for hours. The determination to keep Sunday’s demonstration peaceful just as sincere.
“If I create violence, it’s just going to create more violence,” Elder Samuel Parker of the West Angeles Church of God in Christ told me, “but if I learn how to use my head, and if I become peaceful in it, then I can bring peace. Violence is what took Trayvon. We need peace.”
Activist Najee Ali agreed. “We’ve been down this path before in 1992, with the civil unrest after Rodney King’s verdict. We certainly don’t want a repeat of that in L.A. again, so we’re hopeful the police will show restraint, but the protesters will exercise our First Amendment rights peacefully.”
Many said that once their dissatisfaction with the Zimmerman verdict had been heard, a longer struggle loomed ahead. Many called for outlawing so-called “stand your ground” laws in the 24 states that have some form of them.
“Certainly there’ll be a civil case at some point, but more importantly, we just want to make sure there are no Trayvon Martins anywhere,” Ali said. “To try to put some gun laws into effect that are sensible. That’s what President Obama said today. The best way to honor Trayvon Martin’s legacy is with gun safety.”
Other events continued into the night, including a far more esoteric performance by the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, which paid a musical tribute to Trayvon Martin at Holman United Methodist Church.