LA marches from Leimert Park to Downtown after Ferguson decision

By Faith Miller, Emily Thornburg, Heidi Carreon and Rebecca Gibian

Protesters shut down the 110 freeway as police officers surrounded them. (Charlie MacGovern/Neon Tommy)

Protesters shut down the 110 freeway as police officers surrounded them. | Charlie MacGovern/Neon Tommy

As the clock ticked down to the grand jury announcement regarding the shooting of Mike Brown, the nation geared itself. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon already declared a state of emergency almost a week ago. NYPD had been monitoring protestors in Union Square all day. Police officers in Philadelphia scanned social media to keep track of planned rallies. Although LAPD announced that it would “facilitate” peaceful protests, Chief Charlie Beck made sure Twitter followers knew “LAPD would not tolerate acts of violence or vandalism.”

In Los Angeles, where the memory of Ezell Ford has far from faded in the minds of some residents, a Facebook event pointed people to Leimert Park at Spring and Crenshaw. A crowd of about 100 people gathered to hear the grand jury’s announcement and to stand in solidarity with the people of Ferguson.

View more images from Neon Tommy photographers Charlie Magovern and Benjamin Dunn.

“Hands up, don’t shoot, hands up, fight back,” chanted members of Fight for the Soul of the Cities, a grassroots organization. Throughout Leimert Park, people raised their hands in memory of Brown as LAPD officers watched from the edge of the park. The scene was calm compared to a rally against police brutality held in the exact same park just three months ago.

But when the announcement came that Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson will not be indicted, there was hardly a shift in mood as people continued to chant and hold signs protesting police brutality. Jaymes Barnett, a protestor, believed that the grand jury’s decision to not indict Wilson will “add kindling to the fire” and lead to more meaningful conversations surrounding the issues regarding Ferguson.

“But America seems to have a problem with being real to itself,” Barnett says. He says that although people talk about social issues amongst themselves, many of them aren’t prioritized. People yelled, but they didn’t riot.

“I’m glad there’s no violent protest,” said Derrik Lewis, who says he is Brown’s relative, “Just came out here to see who came out, happy to see that people are coming still.”

Lewis says he hopes people will talk more about “unison for everybody,” and work to improve issues such as racism and police brutality in the coming months.

Later in the night, protesters began peacefully marching from Leimert Park to downtown Los Angeles, gaining more and more supporters as the march went on.

Nicole Lamar started marching in Baldwin Hills. She said the decision not to indict Officer Wilson was not surprising, but still a “slap in the face.”

“As black people, we know our bodies have no value in this country … you just never get used to it, you know?” she said, not slowing her stride. She had already been walking for three hours.

“It’s not that you’re shocked, you know it is going to happen because you know this country doesn’t care about black people. It never has, since we came here and built the country for white people, established our wealth, established this system that we are now trying to fight, we’ve never meant anything to anyone.”

Nadia Khan, another marcher, also said she was not surprised, but she was angry. She explained the march allowed Los Angeles to show solidarity.

“This is people power, this is exactly what coming together is all about,” she said. “I don’t think we should not feel angry, I just think, what do we do with our anger.”

The march continued until the 110 Freeway, where marchers climbed a hill to gain access to the freeway and stopped traffic going both north and south. Police began to surround the protesters as many laid or sat down on the pavement. The police then declared the protest unlawful, and said protesters had five minutes to get off the freeway or the police would have to start arresting people and using force. Many protesters remained on the freeway, holding their hands in the air and standing in front of the police lines.

Eventually, everyone was pushed off the freeway and back down the hill. There, the police announced the protest on the street was unawful and people were given another five minutes to disperse. Hundreds of police officers lined up, slowly walking towards the crowd, many of whom stayed put, continuing to either hold hands or put their hands in the air. The officers walked slowly, moving in on the remaining protesters.

As they moved down the street, some officers went ahead and lined the sidewalk. All were dressed in protective gear and all were carrying firearms.

Protesters began yelling at the officers, “Aren’t you supposed to protect and serve? Who are you protecting right now?” and “Darren Wilson, why is your finger on the trigger?”

A LAPD officer watches the march. (Benjamin Dunn/Neon Tommy)

A LAPD officer watches the march. | Benjamin Dunn/Neon Tommy

As the police got closer, the crowd backed up under the 110 freeway bridge. Suddenly, the officers shouted and started running towards the marchers. Three warning shots were fired and marchers grabbed their friends and fled, cutting down alleyways. Other protesters stopped once out of the underpass and turned back to see what was happening.

The hundreds of officers began heading down alleyways and sidestreets as well, slowly blocking off exit-ways. They continued to announce that the march was unlawful.

Though many protesters took this time to leave, many others remained, keeping their hands peacefully raised in the air.

Originally published in Neon Tommy.

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