By J. Ivan Cazares
Hundreds packed Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights Saturday to show solidarity with protests across the country following the death of George Flyod at police hands. The anger over Floyd’s death sweeps across the country, but the protest remained peaceful Saturday as The Grove, a shopping center known for its high end retail stores, was ransacked and chaos reigned in other parts of the city. The anger was palpable. There was no shortage of calls to arms, but emphasis was put on remembering Anthony Vargas, Cesar Rodriguez, Manuel Jamines and others who’ve all been killed by police in Los Angeles.
“Brown pride, black love,” protestors chanted as family members of people killed by police went on stage and shared their stories.
Vargas was shot 13 times in the back at the age of 21, once in the back of the head. Initial police reports suggest Vargas had a gun, but some evidence contradicts parts of the initial reports, and a lawsuit has been filed which alleges the number of shots indicates a gangland shooting by the Banditos. The Banditos is a ‘gang’ that exists within the East Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department according to several whistleblowers within the department.
Cesar Rodriguez was pinned between a Metro Blue Line train and a platform during an altercation with police trying to detain him for not paying his fair. He was 23 years old when he died.
Jamines was 37 years old when he was shot to death by an LAPD officer. Jamines was struggling with alcoholism, but he wasn’t violent, the family told the press in 2010 when he was shot. The officer approached Jamines who was belligerent and holding a knife according to some witnesses. The officer tried to communicate with Jamines in English and Spanish, but Jamines wasn’t fluent in either, and the officer shot him when he wouldn’t comply. He spoke K’iche’, an indegeonues dialect spoken by the Mayan.
As the sun set, protesters, fully aware of the curfew in place, remind each other of the consequences of defying it. Murmurs of protestors asking what to do next as the gathering at Mariachi Plaza drew to close.
“I think people have finally had enough of the oppression,” said Emiliano Martinez, former East Los Angeles College student and organizer with the American Indian Movement, during a protest in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday. “We’re all living under the same oppressor’s roof, black people, hispanics and even poor white people. In 92 the movement was squashed by police in a few days. It’s only been a week so we’ll see how it goes this time, but I’m glad to see people taking to the streets.”
In the Fairfax District, police fired flash bangs and rubber projectiles at agitated protestors and some protestors retaliated with bottles, fireworks, makeshift barricades, setting patrol cars on fire and tearing into local businesses. Fairfax and Santa Monica were targets of looting by protestors who see it as a symbolic attack on commercialism and opportunists which threatens to overshadow the protests according to some.
“What are y’all doing? Y’all are doing nothing because that’s not going to bring my brother back,” Terrence Floyd told the press monday.
Organizers at protests have tried to maintain the peace and echo Terrence Floyd’s words. As a result the majority of protests have remained peaceful.
“I see myself as someone that wants justice. I see myself as an organizer. I see all of us here as leaders. Everyone who’s out here knowing that there’s risks and uncertainty,” David Cunningham, a protest organizer, said.
Cunningham was a foster youth and it was at the age of 11 that he decided that he “needed to fight to get out of that situation and teach others to fight.”