Last Saturday morning, local activist groups held a protest against police brutality with Pasadenans and Altadenans at a Mobil gas station in Altadena.
The protest was sparked by the murder of Stephon Clark who was gunned down by police officers while in his own backyard. The groups that participated were the Pasadenans and Altadenans Against Police Violence, Refuse Fascism and other local activists.
The protest was held at the same gas station that Christopher Ballew was beaten by Pasadena Police on Nov. 9, 2017. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Ballew was stopped because of his dark tinted windows and missing front license plate. As he was walking to the gas station’s mini mart, he was approached by two officers and beaten brutally, causing him to be sent to the emergency room.
Alongside photos of Ballew, other victims of police brutality were honored such as Stephon Clark, Leroy Barnes, Kendrec McDade, Reginald “JR” Thomas and Matthew Hurtado.
In 2017, Pasadena resident Matthew Hurtado was a suspect in a birthday party shooting. However, when officers found him at a Duarte park, he was eating ice cream in a parked car alongside another woman. He was approached by the task force made up of Pasadena and Glendale officers. He was gunned down and killed. It was later revealed that he was not responsible for the shooting he was suspected of.
The protesters paraded in the intersection of Woodbury and Fair Oaks, and held signs that read, “Hands up, don’t shoot!,” “Stop the genocide,” and “you get killed just for living in your American skin.”
One of the coordinators of the event, Ian Burke Jameson, is a member of Pasadenans and Altadenans Against Police Violence and an activist against police brutality and racial profiling. Jameson became involved late January, after seeing the mass turnout at the Pasadena City Council meeting for Chris Ballew.
“This is as much about engaging the police department as it is about the Northwest community,” said Jameson. “I get the sense that people of color in this area are afraid and feel violently oppressed. My hope is that this march will be a rallying cry that we need to get everybody in the streets demanding that police brutality and murder is unacceptable.”
While the protesters marched, cars honked in support and passersby were able to join in and pick one of the many signs that had photos and information of police brutality victims.
Pasadenans and Altadenans Against Police Violence was formed soon after the Ballew beating. Cofounder Melissa Michelson runs the group as an open community for students or other residents to come and share ideas to help fight police brutality.
“[Students] can first of all follow us on our Facebook page ‘Pasadenans and Altadenans Against Police Brutality’ and then when we have events come out to make it strong, make it bigger,” said Michelson. “And just joining the group itself…and coming to city council meetings with us. We just need more people, the more people the better.”
Fellow member of Pasadenans and Altadenans Against Police Brutality Kaley Ngo found the group on Facebook after Ballew was assaulted.
“I was looking for a group that was wanting to actively do something to help improve police reform and racial profiling,” said Ngo.
Police brutality has been an issue of reform for many Pasadenans and Altadenans who marched for Ballew and other victims last Saturday.
“I feel like it’s an unseen issue. People who aren’t affected by it don’t see the issue. I think police jump to violence to quickly, they escalate the situation,” said Ngo.
This is apparent in the case of Kendrec McDade, a 19-year-old African-American man who was gunned down by Pasadena police officers after it was falsely believed McDade was armed. McDade fled from the officers with one arm on his waistband. The officers claimed they feared for their lives and had no other choice but to open fire on McDade. McDade was not armed and it was revealed he was holding a cellphone in his pocket.
With multiple cases of police brutality in Pasadena, many activist groups are emerging to fight against racial profiling and the unwarranted brutality against minorities.
As far as more events to come, Michelson plans to create more awareness through larger crowds and sharing ideas to support their agenda against police brutality.
On Tuesday, May 1, there will be a community meeting from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Friendship Baptist Church in order to demand reform of the police department and to stop the brutalization and murder of Pasadena’s people of color.