Community leaders and Los Angeles city officials gathered in the Watts area Monday to voice support for peaceful police protests, but they said they would not allow anyone to commit violence and vandalism.

“We are here for the peaceful protest that might happen in our community, but we will not tolerate any destruction in our community,” said John Jones III of East Side Riders Bike Club, which co-hosted the event at the headquarters of the Watts Labor Community Action Committee.

Councilman Joe Buscaino and representatives of the Watts Gang Task Force, Watts Neighborhood Council and local clergy joined Jones’ group and the WLCAC.

Buscaino, who represents Watts, said the community that was ravaged in the 1965 and 1992 riots has made major progress in the last few decades in having better relationships with police officers.

“Thank you for saying `yes’ to peace, thank you for your ongoing commitment to bettering the relationships between the community and the police department,” said Buscaino, who was an LAPD officer for more than 15 years. “Today we are here, brothers and sisters, because we are united in Watts. We are here in Watts because Watts is familiar with social unrest and we’re committed that we don’t go through it again.

“Nothing will break our resolve to bring prosperity to Watts, by the people or Watts, for the people of Watts,” Buscaino added. “Justice means that all offending officers involved in the George Floyd incident are charged and arrested. What I witnessed on TV — I was never, ever trained to deal with a combative suspect by putting a knee into someone’s throat.”

LAPD Deputy Chief Regina Scott said some of the officers she oversees were emotional when they watched the footage of Floyd’s videotaped death, as they may see it as a national indictment against all police, not just those in Minneapolis.

“We hear you,” Scott said regarding LAPD responding to people who are angrily protesting. “We heard you in ’92, and I swear if you would have thought that we would be here again in 2020, we would not believe that because we are working diligently to be partners, to build relationships and build trust with our communities.”

Scott said the LAPD would even be willing to facilitate peaceful protests, but she said anyone who engages in looting and rioting would be placed under arrest and taken to jail.

Everyone at the podium took a knee during an opening prayer instead of standing hand-in-hand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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