A Black Lives Matter rally turned violent on Sunday (Dec. 6) after Los Angeles police officers descended on peaceful protesters with batons. Activists had been assembled in front of L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s house, as they have done for two weeks, to urge President-Elect Joe Biden not to add Garcetti to his incoming cabinet. Protesters and the local Black Lives Matter chapter have vocalized concerns with the mayor’s handling of homelessness, transportation and other issues in the city.
Several videos of the clash popped up on Twitter, where a line of officers could be seen wielding batons against the demonstrators. One protester, Jamie Penn — a representative of the Wilshire Center Koreatown Neighborhood Council — was arrested for “lynching,” an outdated legal term that refers to a person trying to remove somebody from police custody. Penn was released the next day and said they had been trying to keep an elderly protester from being trampled as people ran from police.
According to the LAPD, officers converged on the rally because one activist had been using a bullhorn, which violated a municipal code against making sounds that carry more than 200 feet.
“After multiple warnings, four officers attempted to make an arrest for the above violation when the crowd moved in on the officers, punching, pushing and kicking,” department spokesperson, Capt. Stacy Spell, said in a statement. “Officers used their baton to prevent the crowd from forcefully attempting to remove the suspect from police custody. However, the suspect ultimately got away.”
Spell added that the demonstrators’ “physical response against the officers” resulted in the cops making an “officer needs help” call and declaring the rally an unlawful assembly. According to the statement, one officer was injured after falling to the ground and sustained a possible concussion.
However, activists say they received no warnings about the bullhorn.
“They did not send four people,” a 72-year-old Black Lives Matter organizer named Akili told the L.A Times. “They lined up [and] blocked the street at 6th and Irving. There were two lines of police in an L shape — one on Irving and the other on 6th Street — and they moved in a scrimmage formation against us… anywhere between 20 to 25 officers.”
Akili also added that the police response was an “overkill” because officers had been present for rallies in the days leading up to Sunday’s, and knew that the demonstrators would make some speeches and then disperse within a few hours.
Social media users also compared the LAPD’s response to the Black Lives Matter rally to another demonstration that night, where 100 people assembled outside of Garcetti’s house to protest the city’s COVID-19 lockdown rules. In videos shared on Twitter, there appeared to be no violent clashes between those protesters and police.
In her statement, Capt. Spell said the LAPD will review all footage from the night in an investigation and claimed that video of officers hurling batons at BLM activists “doesn’t describe the whole picture.”
See tweets about the protests below.