By Tierra Oliver
A crowd of protesters gathered at Pershing Square holding signs and over-sized banners with slogans bashing the police. The 17th annual protest against police brutality’s theme was “Across the globe, police brutality has got to go.”
Many protesters at the downtown LA rally last Monday wore masks or other face coverings that concealed their identities in an attempt to make a statement.
The event, which occurred nationwide, was put together by the Oct. 22 Coalition. Many groups that are a part of this coalition were there to show support and bring awareness to this issue.
Some of those groups included Gender Justice LA, New Black Panther Party, Revolutionary Communist Group, Youth Justice Group, Occupy the Hood, LA Community Outreach Network and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA).
A majority of the protesters were activists from Occupy LA.
As the crowd grew larger, the protesters gravitated toward one another, recognizing the familiar faces that had once camped out on the streets of LA in demonstration against corporate influence over the government.
They shared smoke and handmade signs, and like most people there, they shared a hatred of the police. One self-proclaimed activist and revolutionist who refused to tell anyone his real name carried a sign that read “Popos Are Bozos.”
“I wish they had this [demonstration] everyday… But then there might be problems,” he said.
A lot of people at this Oct. 22 protest were the family and friends of those who had been murdered as a result of police brutality.
Speakers from various activist groups stood on the back of a truck covered with pictures of victims of police brutality and spoke before the crowd.
Two large speakers boomed as representatives from groups like the Black Panther Party and UNIA rallied the crowd to take action against the murders and violence of the police in their communities, echoing through the square their messages of revolution.
One Muslim protester from UNIA even went so far as calling the LAPD political “carpet baggers,” “slave catchers” and “gate keepers.”
The evening proceeded with a march through the streets, headed by drummers and dancers wearing traditional Native American costumes.
Chants of “No justice, No peace! No Murdering Police!” rang out as the sea of protesters moved through the streets, stopping traffic and causing countless onlookers to stop and stare.
Many of those viewing the commotion flashed their camera phones, eager to document the event for themselves. Drivers honked at intersections either in support of in frustration or the momentary pause in traffic.
One woman on Skid Row joined in carrying her toddler on her hip, punching her fist into the air and chanting “fight the power” along with everyone else.
When a RevCom woman handing out Revolutionist newspapers was questioned about her support of the protest, the woman said, “We [in our generation] never had a voice. They do.”
Meanwhile, it was hard to ignore the presence of LAPD officers on bikes at the tail-end of the procession.
Though they remained a fair distance behind the crowd, they were mocked and people took pictures of them as they refused to talk to or get close to anyone other than their fellow officers.
A man following the crowd leaned into one of the traffic officers at an intersection and told him, “I’m looking out for your back… You need it.”
“Any of these police on the streets here are not going to talk to you. They’ve got very specific assignments,” said Robert Sowell, an Intergroup Relations Specialist from LA County’s Commission on Human Relations.
“They’re part of a system that runs on… control,” he continued. Sowell and his colleagues attended this event to ensure that those hoping to get their message out are able to do so without any outside interference.
The procession stopped at the intersection of Spring and 5th to pay respects to Dale Garrett, who was shot and killed here by LAPD officers in May of 2011.
In a re-enactment of the event, men were instructed to fall to the ground as the women went around and outlined their bodies in chalk as a symbol of condolence for Garrett and others gunned down by LAPD officers.
The march ended in front of LAPD headquarters where a vigil is held for the victims as the evening concluded.
Speakers talked about how violence on the part of police negatively affects those in the community, especially the youth, and expressed the need for change.
The Trotter family traveled out from Las Vegas to share the story of how they were charged with elder abuse after their grandmother, Ruby Trotter, 96, was tasered and killed by police.
The Oct. 22 Coalition was founded 17 years ago in New York City to raise aware of the brutal acts of police. The Los Angeles chapter meets every Thursday in Inglewood to discuss the issue of police brutality and criminalization of their community members.