Southland community leaders and elected officials continued to plead for calm Monday in response to news that a white Missouri police officer will not face any criminal charges for the shooting death of an 18-year-old black man.
The decision not to indict Ferguson, Missouri, Officer Darren Wilson for the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown, however, sparked outrage among some Southland activists.
About two dozen California Highway Patrol officers stopped a group of 40- 50 protesters from getting on the eastbound Santa Monica (10) Freeway at La Brea Avenue in an attempt to stop traffic, KCAL9 reports.
In a statement issued from Asia where he is on a trade mission, Mayor Eric Garcetti said, “Michael Brown’s death has ignited deep passions across the nation, and Los Angeles is no exception.
“Tonight’s decision is one that will be heatedly debated — but we should do so through dialogue and peaceful action. City departments are mobilized to assist in the exercise of peaceful protest.”
Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, lamented “the grand jury’s decision not to indict (Wilson) for the senseless death of a young unarmed man.”
“As immigrants seeking to be part of the American Dream, we painfully realize the dream for other U.S. citizens is also short-handed, outright denied and fraught with injustice. Life, liberty and justice still needs to be guaranteed for all citizens.”
Salas urged the public to use its “anger and disillusionment” as impetus to “continue fighting for justice and equality for all.”
Some activists gathered in Leimert Park to hear the announcement from Missouri. Some people in the group began marching on some South Los Angeles streets. Some reacted with tears.
“It seems like it is never going to come around where communities of color even matter,” Leisette Rodriguez of Long Beach told the Los Angeles Times.
While acknowledging the frustration, city and county officials, clergy and police urged residents not to resort to violent protest.
“I certainly understand the strong feelings surrounding today’s decision,” Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said.
“Here in Los Angeles, although we still have much to do, we’ve come far in building trust between those who enforce our laws and the communities they serve. It is even more important today to continue that focus, working constructively together toward a society that is safe, just and fair for everyone.”
Los Angeles County Sheriff-elect Jim McDonnell said he was confident people would maintain calm in light of the decision.
“I urge those who may be disappointed by today’s decision to nonetheless respect the outcome and processes of our legal system,” McDonnell said. “The greatness of our nation comes from our ability to come together peacefully and lawfully, to speak up about what is on our minds and to respect one another.”
The Los Angeles Police Department went on a citywide tactical alert in advance of the announcement of the grand jury’s decision, allowing them to keep officers on duty beyond their normal shifts.
Members of some community groups, including the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police, the Youth Justice Coalition and the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, indicated previously they would likely stage a protest at 3 p.m. Tuesday at Crenshaw and Martin Luther King Jr. boulevards.
“LAPD will facility peaceful demonstrations and will allow your voices (to) be heard,” Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck wrote on his Twitter account this afternoon in advance of the announcement.
Beck said last week the department was reaching out to the community to encourage peaceful protests in response to the Ferguson decision.
“We’ve done significant outreach in all our communities,” Beck said. “All our commands are ready to increase deployment if that is needed. We believe the outreach we have done will ensure that people are not only able to protest if they so desire, but will protest in a lawful matter.”
On Sunday, Capt. Paul Snell, commanding officer of the LAPD’s Southwest Area, repeated that call in a letter to the community.
“We all join with Michael Brown’s father, President Barack Obama, community leaders and a vast array of public and private officials who plead for calm, non-violent peaceful demonstrations and we will support those demonstrations in the spirit of the law,” Snell wrote. “However, we cannot condone nor allow acts of vandalism, violence or the lawlessness of a few to disrupt or bring dishonor on those who seek to exercise their First Amendment rights lawfully and nonviolently.”
A group of elected officials and area clergy held a prayer service in Carson to call for calm. Rep. Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro, and Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, were among those in attendance at the City on the Hill Church, 16425 Ishida Ave.
A group of clergy gathered late this afternoon to also urge peaceful protesting.
“In my 59 years (as pastor), I have seen many things happen in our neighborhood, in our community,” said the Rev. J. Benjamin Hardwick, pastor of the Praises of Zion Baptist Church.
“But as a people, as a police department, (we’ve) always been able to pull ourselves together and work for lasting peace. … I appeal to the community during these times — the clergy and the police department are working diligently together and I would say to those who break ranks with the citizens of this community, this is not the time to do it.”
Community activist Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, recently announced a three-part “instant-response action plan” in the event Wilson is not charged.
The plan includes sending “peace monitors” into the Crenshaw District immediately following the Brown decision; the start of a nationwide petition campaign calling on outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for a “fast track” federal civil rights prosecution of Wilson; and a campaign in which black and Latino residents will discuss with police officers and officials ways to improve their interactions on the street.
“The instant-action response plan provides L.A. residents, activists and police and city officials a way to ensure calm in the city,” Hutchinson said. “And equally important, provides short- and long-range constructive and productive ways to insure that another Michael Brown tragedy does not occur in L.A. and other cities.”
— Staff & Wire Reports