National Guard deployed as protests continue in L.A.

Logan Bik and Samantha Bravo

FAIRFAX — Peaceful protesters gathered to honor George Floyd near Pan Pacific Park in Fairfax on Saturday where they were met by a line of Los Angeles police officers, resulting in another day of violence between police and demonstrators.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti expanded a curfew for downtown L.A. to the entire city at 7:00 p.m. The citywide curfew would be in place from 8:00 p.m. until 5:30 a.m., giving Angelenos only one hour to vacate city streets. California Gov. Gavin Newsom later declared a state of emergency in L.A. County and deployed the National Guard to assist local law enforcement after four days of protests in L.A.

As of Sunday, the National Guard has been deployed in 24 states across the country as protesters continue to cry out against police brutality and the racial divide between police and Black Americans.

The protest at the Pan Pacific Park was organized by the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter. A large crowd of a few thousand gathered at the park and began peacefully marching westbound on West Third Street.

Marcos Mendez, 27, from Pacoima expressed the importance of participating in the protests.

“It’s not about color anymore, it’s about what’s right and what’s wrong, and what the police have been doing is wrong,” Mendez said.

Protesters were chanting “Defund the police” and “George Floyd, say his name,” as they carried signs that read “No justice no peace” and “Riot is the language of the unheard,” the famous quote by Martin Luther King Jr.

A woman and her partner’s five-year-old son, who sat on her shoulders with a sign that read “Am I Next?,” were stopped frequently to have their pictures taken.

The mother, Laporchea, said her inspiration for the poster came from frequently seeing Black men being killed. “He’s a growing Black man. You’ll never know if he’ll be next,” Laporchea said.

She said she tells her son why they are protesting.

“I tell him that we’re protesting for the people that come behind us because before us, there was Martin Luther King Jr. and all these civil rights activists that protested for us,” Laporchea said. “We’re doing it for the people that are in his generation so that they don’t have to feel the way that we feel.”

Another woman carried a large poster filled with pictures of the faces of Black men and women who were killed by police, along with short descriptions of where they were from and how they were killed.

Johnnetta Tripplett, a South Central resident, said this was her first protest and she was fighting for justice. She has a 30-year-old son for whom she fears for.

“When I look at all these pictures of these men, especially the man who just got murdered, I see my son. Those are our sons that they’re killing and it needs to stop,” said Tripplett. “Enough is enough. We’re tired.”

The protest started with people smiling, children running around, dogs walking on leashes and people holding posters high in the air, but it soon turned into a battle between the LAPD and protesters.

A line of approximately 30 police officers attempted to block the thousands of protesters marching on Third Street. Protesters quickly surrounded the police which resulted in backup officers arriving on scene using deterrents, such as flash bangs and rubber bullets.

Once the police began to use force, protesters began to destroy police vehicles, eventually lighting one on fire.

The police then began a push into the crowd, whacking protesters with their batons when they did not follow orders. Police began to arrest protesters as they refused to move. The crowd eventually dispersed onto side streets and made their way up north onto Melrose Avenue, where all hell broke loose.

The scene was chaotic as police occupied nearly every corner: graffiti-covered walls, sidewalks lined with broken glass, looters emerged from stores with handfuls of merchandise, fires burned in the middle of the streets, sirens rang throughout the area, helicopters circled above and fireworks lit up the sky.

“Why are you doing this, this is not why we are here,” said one protester who opposed the looting.

It is unclear whether the looters were protesters or individuals who took advantage of the situation.

The owner of Front Row, a clothing store on Melrose, who gave his name as Emanuel was sad to see the city in such distress, especially after dealing with the closures from the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m hurting, it’s terrible. First COVID-19, now this. We were supposed to open next week, but I don’t think anybody is going to come,” Emanuel said.

Things did not let up through the night despite the curfew. Structure fires broke out on Melrose Avenue and people ran through the alleyways to avoid police.