From the May-June 2015 issue of News & Letters
Los Angeles—On March 3, several hundred people of all races rallied and marched from the Union Rescue Mission in Skid Row, where a homeless Black man with mental problems known as Africa, was shot five or six times and killed by six Los Angeles police officers after a short fistfight on March 1. Hundreds of homeless—mostly Black men and women—watched as we marched to the sound of Afro-American drums to LAPD headquarters. We were also protesting against mass media hype justifying the killing because Africa supposedly reached for an officer’s gun.
A video on Facebook shows a Black homeless woman picking up an officer’s baton from the ground. When two or three cops started toward her, she pointed the baton towards them. She is now charged with assault on an officer with bail of over $1 million.
We carried signs reading, “Stop Modern-Day Lynching!” “Justice for Brother Africa—Stop Killer Cops!” “House Keys Not Handcuffs,” and “End the Safer Cities Initiative” which had brought 116 LA police officers into the 50 square blocks of Skid Row.
After a rally at LAPD headquarters, we entered the building to give public comment. Chief Beck stated the usual: “The investigation is ongoing.” Our comments included, “When you put 160 cops in Skid Row, you know that Jim Crow is still alive,” “I can’t believe what you say because I see what you do,” “You can’t police your way out of homelessness–we need housing for the homeless in Skid Row,” and “We deserve to know who the officers are.” The names of three of the officers involved in the shooting of Africa have since been released.
AGAINST INTERNMENT, PRISON, DETENTION!
On April 7, marchers from four directions joined up to protest LAPD and Los Angeles County sheriffs shooting and killing over 600 unarmed Black and Brown youth since 2000.
I joined the downtown group marching from the prison through Union Station, where a die-in took place, ending at the Little Tokyo Museum. There a Japanese American spoke of his experience being illegally imprisoned in a concentration camp during World War II. We proceeded through Skid Row to the Union Rescue Mission, then on to LAPD headquarters. This symbolized our opposition to the inhumane treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II and of prison inmates, undocumented immigrants and homeless people today.
The other three marches met us, and we all marched to the LA County Board of Supervisors, which is financing new prison construction. We held a spirited rally with many family members of victims of police killings speaking of their grief. There are plans to continue the movement in days ahead.