Carlos Rene Castro

Now going into a second week, protests have continued, not only in downtown Los Angeles but in outlying communities that perhaps have never seen a protest arrive at their door. 

 For the first time, residents in the insulated, upscale communities of Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Woodland Hills, Culver City and Laguna Niguel found the issues of racism, injustice and police brutality delivered to their neighborhoods.  

This was a major difference from previous uprisings following the Rodney King verdict in 1992, or the Watts Riots in 1965.  

Then, the outrage included rioting turned on its own community, already the poorest and most disenfranchised parts of Los Angeles.  

But this time, with the strength of organizing, hundreds of thousands marched throughout the county.   

Notably, protests this time went far beyond the Black community. Protesters have been ethnically diverse, and many donning masks held up homemade signs and marched through their own neighborhoods. Angelenos, like so many others around the country, were so collectively outraged that even a pandemic couldn’t stop them from taking to the streets.   

The protests activated by the videotaped police killing of George Floyd have represented decades of frustration over decades of police brutality, and the USA’s deep history of institutional racism in education, health care and employment.  

Protests were held throughout the San Fernando Valley, most recently in Pacoima and Sylmar. There were also large groups of people who organized a caravan to travel as a group from the Valley into downtown Los Angeles.

What’s Next To Achieve Change?

While demonstrations are continuing in downtown Los Angeles and elsewhere, a group of protestors anticipating the day when their numbers begin to wane, have pitched a handful of tents at Grand Park vowing to “stay put.”

One of those protesters, Jose Gomez, compared the decision to set up camp to previous demonstrations. “Just like they did on Wall Street, because we want them to know that every single day and every single night we will be here until our message is heard and there is change,” he said.   

Now, conversations among protesters have begun to change. While, there is little argument about the need to vote next November, many are also seeking ways to stay involved.  

Many are asking what action needs to occur next to move past this moment of mass protests toward tangible change. From the smaller questions to ask — what organizations are advisable to send donations — to asking the more challenging questions: How can you change the psyche of white supremacy that dehumanizes people of color?  

“The death of George Floyd raises basic questions that each of us must answer,” explains Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California in a released statement.   

“George’s death — like those of so many before, whether caught on video or hidden from us — shows just how painfully far our nation remains from equality. And it raises basic questions that each of us must personally answer.”

“Do we accept a deeply divided nation where only some can trust the police? Do we accept that being Black in this country means vulnerability to the brutality and deadliness of racism? Will we work to put an end to the senseless police violence and killings?” Villagra asks.  

“We cannot remain silent, We all bear responsibility for what the police do. Our society gives police tremendous power over people’s lives. They act in our name. When they kill, they act in our name,” Villagra said. 

The focus, Villagra believes, needs to go far beyond the action to bring bad cops to justice. It needs to go much deeper. 

“This isn’t just about calling for the firing, arrest, and prosecution of the officers involved, or even reforming police departments or reprioritizing their funding. We certainly need all those things and many more, but ultimately, we must reckon with the callous disregard for Black lives,” Villagra said

“Let’s embrace and voice the urgency we feel now to secure justice — for George —for Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Ezell Ford — and for those whose names we may never know.”

The following are recommendations by the ACLU of Southern California for those who want to stay involved:

Call for justice for George Floyd.  Call, email, send letters to the  Minnesota state and county officials to demand justice for George. 

Attend a local demonstration. If you do, please remember to protect yourself and those around you by following applicable guidelines. For example, wear a mask and keeping six feet of distance from others. And know your rights while protesting. 

Support the People’s Budget L.A. Take action to ensure the Los Angeles City budget prioritizes #CareNotCops — we want services that help and strengthen our communities especially during a pandemic, not more police to tear them apart. 

Support the California C.R.I.S.E.S. Act (AB 2054). Take action to establish a statewide pilot program to promote community-based responses to local emergency situations including those involving public health and mental health crises, people experiencing homelessness, intimate partner violence, and substance use. Passing AB 2054 would help prevent significant, unnecessary costs associated with officers as first-responders. 

End excessive use of force by police in California. It was a year ago the use of force bill (AB 392) passed in California, Governor Newsom reminded us in a recent press conference, recognizing that “we can do better on training police officers. We’ve made a lot of progress in the state, but my god, we can do better.” Sign up on People Power to get updates on how you can ensure that your local police department complies with the law.  

Join those who have pledged to Check the Sheriff, a movement that protests how L.A. Sheriff Alex Villanueva has turned his back on county residents and actively worked to undo progress that Angelenos have struggled for so long to achieve. He tolerates a “secret society” of sheriff deputy gangs, continues the destructive practice of hauling people.

The Work of Black Lives Matter Continues

The organization, Black Lives Matter (BLM) was founded in Los Angeles by three women: Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi. Cullors said she was inspired to form the organization after her brother was diagnosed with Schizoaffective disorder at 19 years old after being viciously beaten by the Los Angeles Sheriff Deputies at Pitchess Detention Denter. 

BLM took its first protest action in 2013 when George Zimmerman was acquitted in the murder of Trayvon Martin. Since then, organizers have been involved in cases of police brutality in cities across the country, and the organization has grown into a global network and a “movement.”  Known for the ability to organize, provide information and conduct large protests, BLM has had as many as four actions a week and its work is expected to continue.

Organizers have been steadfast in their effort to remove Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey from office. BLM cites 600 residents in LA county who have been killed by police since Lacey took office in 2012.

It’s organized campaigns to prosecute officers and delivered numerous petitions to Lacey’s office to request meetings that have yet to be realized. BLM continues to be involved in the issues of police reform, has been part of the coalition effort to reform L.A.’s jails #ReformLAJails, and has pushed for the passage of a police transparency bill SB1421.

It has been committed to offering support to families. Each week organizers, their allies, and a coalition of families whose loved ones have been killed by police, protest on Instagram Live. BLM has also started a digital living altar, called “More than a Hashtag,” for family members to add the names and shed light on those who died at the hands of police.

“It counters the false narratives put out by a state that sanctions the killing of our people by police and then assassinates their characters,” a member describes on the website. “This love offering tells the stories of who our people are from a family and community perspective.”

The Black Lives Matters website  includes several ways people can get involved.