By Cailin Garcia
LOS ANGELES — Organizers with BLM Los Angeles were barred from entering a public event outside of the Hall of Justice in downtown Los Angeles yesterday morning. Protestors chanted, “We don’t see a riot here, why are you in riot gear?” as they were surrounded by LA Sheriff’s Deputies in full riot gear.
The rally and news conference on Tuesday morning was organized for National Victims’ Rights Week and featured several prominent Los Angeles officials as guest speakers, including LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
Protestors initially gathered on the right side of the Hall of Justice building, where they were stopped by the deputies from entering the event. “We have a right to be here! We have a right to be here! This is a violation!” said one of the organizers.
Protestors were surrounded and pushed out of the area by the sheriff’s plexiglass crowd control shields. Sheriff’s deputies then set up metal barricades around the building to keep out the protestors.
“This conduct is a violation of Penal Code section 407, unlawful assembly. I command you in the name of the People of the State of California to disperse. If you do not, you will be arrested,” said a sheriff’s deputy over a loudspeaker.
Organizers then moved to the front of the building, where they continued to protest from behind the barricades as sheriff’s deputies organized themselves into a wall of shields in front of the guest speakers.
“We are not going anywhere. The people behind me aren’t going anywhere. This is our community and we are going to take it back,” said Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami.
“They’re out there in the street right now chanting because they want to drown out the voices of victims,” said Sheriff Villanueva. “They want to drown out law-abiding citizens. They want to try to convince falsely that somehow law enforcement presents an existential threat to young Black lives, and that is false.”
Villenueva claimed that crime rates have increased since the election of George Gascón, including a “114 percent” increase in homicides.
“Every single person screaming across the street there, they have nothing to say about this. They want to say, let’s just defund law enforcement. We’ll sing kumbaya and somehow all the murders, rapists, and robbers are gonna magically go away ‘cus they’re gonna feel better about themselves,” he said.
“I say they’re smoking something and they need to put it down,” said Villenueva.
Meanwhile, protestors chanted “Villenueva must go!” and “Villenueva will go!” from the street.
“We are not protesting the victims here. We are protesting sheriffs who continue to steal the lives of Black and brown people without any accountability. We want accountability. We want justice. And without any justice, there will be no peace,” said an organizer over the megaphone.
Organizers told reporters that they were concerned that the families of crime victims were being exploited by the the sheriff at this event. Protestors chanted, “You’re being used! You’re being lied to!”
Among protestors were family members of Anthony Vargas, a 21-year-old man fatally shot by LAPD officers in August 2018.
“Why wasn’t my family invited? We are the family of Anthony Daniel Vargas,” said one of the organizers over a megaphone. “My nephew was shot thirteen times by East LA sheriff’s deputies. Why wasn’t my family invited? My nephew was murdered.”
“What about deputy harassment? And the harassment my family has to face for yelling and talking about my nephew?” said another protestor.
Journalist John Schreiber captured videos of two people being detained by police near the end of the event. One man was detained after filming a confrontation between LAPD and protestors, but was released without arrest.
Reporter Cerise Castle was also seen on video being detained by a group of officers.
“I was detained today while covering a press conference hosted by the LA County’s Sheriff’s Department. Yes, I had my press pass,” said Castle in a tweet.
No arrests or injuries have been reported in conjunction with the event.
Cailin Garcia is the co-editor in chief and founder of the People’s Vanguard of Los Angeles. Originally from Santa Clarita, CA, she is currently a senior at UCLA, studying Sociology with a minor in Professional Writing.
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