A friend posted on Facebook that there would be a peaceful protest in the name of George Floyd and the 601 people murdered by police in LA County since 2012. The invite was benign and I arranged to have a parking spot by that same friend, in the immediate neighborhood. I noticed the invite indicated “Co-led by Black Lives Matter LA BLD PWR”
As I made my way to her apartment off Beverly Blvd, there were barricades placed in every direction indicating that only those who were locals could enter. That was the first sign of something.
The protest was filled with thousands of people from young to old, black and white, even dogs and children. There were chants of “no justice, no peace” and the one that brought tears to my eyes, “I Can’t Breathe” which everyone knows by now, was what George Floyd said to the police officer, Derek Chauvin, who had his knee pinned on his neck/throat.
I walked around Pan Pacific Park, chatting as I do with people in order to make photographs. I would give a gesture or a thumbs up and people were more than willing to pose while I was creating photographs. Then, we began to exit the park and head onto 3rd Street, as we passed Nordstrom and continued to chant together as a group, as shared brothers and sisters in sorrow and outrage.
I received an emergency message from my closest friend, which turned out to have not been made from her, which I took as a sign from my higher power that it was time to head home as we had been marching over two and a half hours at that point in the midday sun.
As I made my way east on Beverly Blvd, I looked up and saw black smoke reaching high into the sky. Instinctively, I started running back towards the smoke, as I wanted to document what was on fire, which turned out to be the first police car set ablaze. I spoke to a journalist from Vice who told me he was there to cover the news. In a matter of moments, the peaceful protest escalated to anarchy. It felt like orchestrated social chaos and it was not the same people who were peacefully protesting on the streets for two and a half hours prior. Now there were people inciting violence, raging and screaming. It felt as if the police vehicles were placed in a grid and someone wasn’t just blowing up their engines, the cars were being incinerated. Something that elaborate had to have been planned.
What I saw on Saturday, in the second part of the day, as an on-the-scene-witness was an orchestrated operation. I think the goal was to create circumstances to justify a crack down, the elimination of civil liberties and impose martial law.
America is literally burning with outrage. Systemic racism has always been here but it has grown during this administration’s regime. Racial tensions are at their highest levels.
It’s Sunday evening as I write this and I’m still trying to process what I saw and experienced. And if that’s not enough, my telephone sends out a text message that makes me jump because of the shrill sound, telling us Angelenos that we are in a Public Safety Alert Citywide curfew. Santa Monica is on lockdown from 4pm on. LA on lockdown from 6pm on and Malibu just went on lockdown as a precaution. This is after we have been on lockdown for the past three months. As I type this, there are buildings on fire in Santa Monica.