Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said Monday she was “angry” and “pissed off” when she saw the video capturing the asphyxiation death of a black man in Minneapolis at the hands of a white police officer, while emphasizing her support for peaceful protests and belief that looters are hurting the wrong people.
Lacey, who addressed the issue during a news conference Monday with other county justice system leaders, said George Floyd’s death struck a chord and disgusted her. She praised the quick action of prosecutors to charge the officer involved.
But Lacey — who has been criticized by protest organizations such as Black Lives Matter, which has previously called for her resignation based on a lack of convictions for police brutality and excessive force — also took a stance against the looting and violence that took place over the weekend and distracted from the protesters’ racial justice narrative.
She said her mother has always said, “two wrongs don’t make a right,” and she quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when she said: “Nowhere have riots won any concrete improvement such as organized protest and demonstration.”
Lacey reminded people that looting is a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances.
“There are some opportunists out there who have decided to take advantage of law enforcement being tied up managing peaceful protests,” she said. “You cannot and should not go out and loot and steal and set businesses on fire.”
Lacey said the justice system will hold people accountable. She said, “There will be consequences.” And she called for Los Angeles residents to “be better than this” and expect more of themselves, not just more from law enforcement.
“Looting and breaking the law in violent fashion will not bring along the change that we want to see,” she said.
When interviewed earlier by KTLA5, the Los Angeles native emphasized that she cares “tremendously” about cases like Floyd’s.
“When I first saw that video … my parents are from the South, my mom’s from Georgia, and my father’s from Texas, and they came here in the ’50s to escape the Jim Crow laws and the violence that was happening against African Americans back then,” Lacey said. “When I saw the Minnesota video and that poor man … just helpless and the look on the officer’s face with his hands in his pocket, just not caring that this was a man who was in distress, and now we know dying, I was angry, I was pissed off.”
Lacey said her office has been reviewing its own cases to “make sure that we make these decisions in a fair and ethical manner. And it is challenging. As you know, many of these cases have filed, have gone to trial, lost. We’ve filed cases against officers for use of force and we’ve had some successes, some not so successful, but I think that the narrative has kind of taken over that is just false.”
The district attorney said she looks forward to sitting down with organizers to have a very frank conversation about police brutality.
“Obviously, it’s illegal. I’m against it,” Lacey said. “But the California laws … do not necessarily permit you to file every case that every person in the public thinks ought to be filed.”
Lacey, who is facing former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon in a runoff in November, said she has chosen to channel her anger through the system.
“I have chosen to work within the system to make changes,” Lacey said. She told Channel 5 that she read a book by Martin Luther King Jr. Monday morning and said she agreed with the civil rights leader’s conclusion that “nowhere have riots made the changes that organized protest have brought about in this country.”
“I support the protesters … the peaceful protesters, but I can’t support looting. My mom used to say `two wrongs don’t make a right,”’ Lacey said. “You can be angry, you can be frustrated … but the looting … hurts people who may have had nothing to do with the injustice that we’re seeing.”
She said it was terrible to think of the people already struggling to hold on in the coronavirus crisis now facing additional losses.
“Think of all the people who are just trying to hang on to their livelihood, to their jobs. To see these buildings go up. Those are lives. Those are jobs. Those are people who are just trying to make a living.”
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