In the past year, 1,036 people have been shot and killed by police, according to the Washington Post. Black people are killed at twice the rate of White Americans, and on May 25, George Floyd’s name was added to this list of injustices. Days later, massive protests followed, in spite of and because of the pandemic we’re in. In a country already on edge due to a government’s callous response to a virus that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, the American people exploded.
The protests seen across the country have had a passion behind them that has not been seen since the Ferguson uprising in 2014, which followed the murder of Michael Brown. Yet, these demonstrations feel different. People have been out on the streets every day, and they have been an unstoppable force.
A disproportionate amount of the conversation surrounding these protests has been about the property destruction and the looting that has happened. More prevalent than this looting however, has been the violence by the police. Videos have shown police hitting protesters with cars, shooting at people on their porches, and the usual battering of people with batons.
In Los Angeles, the National Lawyers Guild, Black Lives Matter Los Angeles (BLMLA), and the Los Angeles Community Action Network are suing the LAPD over their protest tactics, including allegedly shooting a homeless man in the face with “non-lethal” rounds.
So how has the government responded to these protests? Trump has made no comments criticizing police violence, and has instead encouraged and threatened more. He quoted racist Miami sheriff Walter Headley, tweeting, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” He encouraged governors to bring in the National Guard, and many places, including Los Angeles, have done just that.
L.A.’s response to the crisis within a pandemic has been unsurprisingly abysmal. In a city long known for police violence, the administration has been on the defense against criticism from protesters.
When Garcetti was shown various videos of LAPD violence against protesters on PBS Newshour, his response was, “One angle, one camera thing may not tell the entire story.” This was in response to a video of LAPD driving into protesters, in which there was in fact another angle which more clearly shows the police driving over a human being. This bold-faced lie just shows how eager Garcetti is to defend human rights violations committed by the police.
L.A. police chief Michel Moore condemned protests that he labeled as violent, and somehow blamed protesters for the death of George Floyd. “His death is on their hands as much as it is those officers.”
These disgusting attacks towards those protesting the loss of Black life has rightfully enraged the targets. Organizers in L.A. are calling for the defunding of police, and eventually the complete abolition of the force. Chants at the protest ranged from “Fuck Garcetti” to “Fire Chief Moore.” Los Angeles is fed up with its so called leaders who have done nothing but berate them.
The protests will end when our representatives have made genuine efforts to stop the murder of Black people by the police. At this point, of course they’re calling for the defunding of the police. Reform has been tried time and time again, and we keep getting the same results. People in this country are realizing that the system isn’t broken, it’s set up like this. Until the system is changed, people will stay in the streets.
The demands that the protesters are asking for may seem radical, but they have a clear plan. BLMLA supports a plan called the People’s Budget. This plan would direct funds away from the police and instead allocate those funds into areas such as housing, food security, transportation, and Reimagined Community Safety.
According to the budget, the Reimagined Community Safety category “supports a community-led safety model including investing in mental health and harm reduction approaches. Rather than funding police that bring violence and harm into our communities, Reimagined Community Safety invests in communities themselves to determine what they need and to offer them support in executing those programs.”
What this means is that instead of having police deal with every single problem, we have trained specialists come to deal with things such as mental health crises or any instance where armed officers would only escalate the situation. Abolitionists believe that if people had their needs met, whether it be housing, food security, or economic security, crime would go down significantly.
The completely offensive response by the State has made it all the more clear just why protesters are calling for the resignation of Garcetti and the firing of Michel Moore. The people who claim to represent us have no regard for the safety of our community. Since this country began we’ve witnessed the oppression of the Black community, and little has changed. Yet, the president, the mayor, and the police have the gall to call protesters violent. At what point does the state-sanctioned murder of Black people become violence?