In downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood and in areas of the Westside, several demonstrations have been held since video surfaced of the fatal police beating of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols in Memphis.
With LAPD helicopters flying loudly overhead, on Sunday, Jan. 30, the streets in Venice were filled with over 200 demonstrations who protested the death of Nichols and called for justice closer to home — for 31-year-old Keenan Anderson.
“We should demand justice not just for what’s happening in Memphis but for what’s happening right here in LA,” said Dr. Melina Abdullah, professor of Pan African Studies at Cal State LA and co-founder of Black Lives Matter LA.
Anderson died on Jan. 3 in LAPD custody from cardiac arrest after he was detained and tased by officers at least six times. Anderson was a 10th grade English teacher and a father visiting from Washington D.C.
The demonstration at the busy intersection of Venice and Lincoln stopped traffic and was held at the same location where Anderson was detained and tased by LAPD.
“While Keenan Anderson was being electrocuted by the LAPD, traffic just drove by as if his life didn’t matter,” said Rev. Mark Chase of All Saints Church in Pasadena. “Now everyone is going to stop since we’re here.”
A Multiethnic Demonstration
The large crowd of demonstrators was multiethnic with people who came from various areas of LA.
Demonstrators included family members who’ve lost loved ones at the hands of the LAPD and the LA County Sheriff’s Department. Stephanie Luna, the aunt of 21-year-old Anthony Vargas, was one of those demonstrators. She said her nephew was shot 13 times, killed by East LA sheriffs in 2018 and her family has since been subjected to deputies taunting, harassing and pulling them over without cause.
“Four years later, nothing’s changing. We have policies that have been put in place, nothing’s changed.” Luna has been involved with holding vigils, news conferences and connecting with other families.
Many have become allies of BLM LA and turned to the organization when they couldn’t get support in their own community or from elected officials. Subsequently, Black Lives Matter LA has become a multiethnic organization with White and Latino activists.
LAPD Police Chief Michael Moore
Demonstrators held signs that read, “Blue Lives Murder” and “No More Moore.”
On Tuesday, Jan. 31, however, the LAPD Police Commission voted unanimously to give LAPD Police Chief Michael Moore an additional 5-year-term.
Speakers maintained that little has changed since the brutal beating of Rodney King in 1991 — they read the names of many who have died at the hands of police and the LAPD specifically. They also noted that Chief Moore was quoted as describing what happened in Memphis “grotesque,” but has failed to equally acknowledge what is going on here in Los Angeles with the same disdain.
A personal letter from Moore was hand carried by activist Najee Ali to Memphis to be delivered to the Nichols family. Ali, who attended the funeral this week, said he asked Moore if he wanted to provide a letter and he readily said, “yes.”
“There was one murder in Memphis — there were three murders in Los Angeles,” one speaker said. “The only way to stop the violence is to stop the police.”
Tased Six Times, Anderson Has Heart Attack
Body camera footage shows Anderson begging for his life while an officer pins him down in the middle of the road and demands Anderson get on his stomach. Anderson can be heard crying out, “They’re trying to kill me … they’re trying to George Floyd me!” At one point, Anderson was tased for 30 seconds straight.
While an investigation is said to still be underway, Anderson is reported to have had a heart attack.
Following the death of Anderson, Moore said he would take a “new look at the use of tasers.” Attorney Ben Crump said Anderson was tased repeatedly — six times in 42 seconds.
“As a department, we have no limit as far as the number of taser activations,” said Moore. “We evaluate them closely, and we evaluate the activation of each one.” Moore said during a news conference that it was “unclear what role the physical struggle with the officers and the use of the taser played in his unfortunate death.”
Cullors Now Fights For Her Own Family
“So many people have died because of the overuse of tasers,” said Patrisse Cullors, co-founder, Black Lives Matter (BLM). “People have been going to the streets and people have been crying to not let this happen again, but elected officials haven’t been willing to do anything,” she said.
Cullors, who has been outspoken for scores of police victims and has been known worldwide as a former speaker for the BLM movement prior to resigning from the BLM Foundation last year, now finds herself in the shoes of the many families of police brutality victims who have rallied the movement.
Anderson is Cullors’ cousin who was in LA to visit family. Cullors now finds herself seeking justice for her own relative.
“He let police know that he had been in a car accident and may have had a concussion but an ambulance wasn’t called until after he had been tased and he was left in the middle of the street handcuffed before the ambulance arrived.
“Keenan deserves to be alive right now, his child deserves to be raised by his father,” Cullors said.
Demonstrators called for an end for police traffic stops, noting that it has been common for police to pull over Black people without cause.
Parents of young black teenagers and young adults often fear for their safety, warning them telling them to be overly courteous if they are stopped by police. They are keenly aware of the danger that exists for them that begins with a traffic stop.
For years, the practice for police to randomly make traffic stops has been coined “driving while Black.” A study conducted by Loyola Marymount University last summer indicated that two-thirds of Angelenos believed that the LAPD racially profiles Black people at a higher rate than other groups.
The demonstrators ended their march in front of the home of Councilwoman Traci Park. Park’s City Council campaign was supported by the rank-and-file police union, the LA Police Protective League.
“I guess I have the privilege,” said Cullors, who went to the front door and rang the doorbell. She said she wanted to have a conversation with the councilwoman about her cousin’s death. The crowd waited for a few minutes but no one answered. They left their many signs behind, propped up at the front of Park’s home.
“We should refuse to feel numb, our hearts should break, and sob in the dark of the night,” said Abdullah.
“My spirit feels so much more lifted for my cousin and my family and to know that there is leadership here that is going to take us to the promise land,” Cullors told the crowd.