From Ferguson to Los Angeles, Movements Demand End to Police Brutality

On Sunday, hundreds of demonstrators marched through the streets of Downtown Los Angeles to protest against the shooting and death of Ezell Ford, a 25 year old African American. According to witnesses, Ford did not resist arrest and was shot without any justified reason by unidentified LAPD officers. In the other hand, LAPD stated that Ford was resisting arrest and attempted to grab one of the officer’s gun which prompted them to shoot him.

The protest started in front of the headquarters of LAPD at around 3:30 P.M. and marched through Union Station, Little Tokyo, and Plazita Olvera. Protesters shouted chants such as “Cannot ignore us anymore, we’ll be back even stronger” and “Don’t shoot, hands up” while they held their hands up and kneeled on the ground. Among their main demands was the filing of charges against the two police officers involved in the shooting of Ford and community control over the police force under a civilian elected board. The protest was hosted by Ford’s family in collaboration with organizations such as Los Angeles People’s Media, Coalition for Community Control Over the Police, and the Black Youth Project.

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The protest was also inspired by a national outrage against police violence towards people of color. One of these cases includes the shooting of African American and 18 years-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri by police officer Darren Wilson. The shooting of Brown sparked a wave of protests in Ferguson. In response to these protests the governor of Missouri declared a curfew which Amnesty International declared unnecessary.

“We stand in solidarity with the freedom fighters in Missouri. They ain’t letting down, they ain’t backing down,” said Keynna Celina, a member of Coalition for Community Control Over the Police. She later added “We know they have tanks, we know they have helicopters, we know they have rubber bullets, tear gas, we know that. We know that, but the thing they don’t have is the unity of the poor folks, of the oppressed folks.”

The protest was also accompanied by the family of Omar Obrego, who died after being beat up by LAPD officers nine days before the shooting of ford. Obrego’s widow and son spoke at the rally against LAPD’s actions. “We want justice for Omar Obrego” Obrego’s widow said, “The cops are killers…they’re not suppose to be killing people, their suppose to protect our community.” Latter she added as she held the shirt of her daughter that had an imprinted picture of Obrego, “He was coming from work..They kill him instead of giving him a ticket.”

At around 5:30 P.M. the main organizers of the march called off the protest to prevent a violent confrontation between the demonstrators and the police. But many demonstrators still felt the need to continue the protest and blocked streets surrounding LAPD headquarters. After the number of protestors decreased to around a hundred, a march ensued again through the streets of Downtown and ended in LAPD headquarters at around 9 P.M.

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The next day, at around 5 P.M., By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), an organization concerned with civil rights for people of color and immigrants, hosted another march in South Central Los Angeles. Latinos and blacks marched together through the streets while community members peeked through their doors and front yards. Some of them lifted their fist in support of the march while others simply took picture with their cell phones. South Central community member and demonstrator.

David Brain, a South East Los Angele resident, was frustrated at the apathy of members of his own community.

“Why does this happen? Because we have become so passive… We do nothing. This kind of insanity has to stop…Unless we do something on the radical bases” said Brain.

Police officers riding bicycles followed the protest from a distance and some protesters pointed out that there were undercover police officers watching near the march.

The marched stopped in front of the house of Omar Obrego and the memorial place of Ezell Ford where family members of the deceased and community members spoke against police brutality towards people of color. Community organizers and activist plan to continue their actions until the police involved in the shooting of Ford are charged and punished.

San Diego Mobilizes in Solidarity with Palestine

San Diego is known for being a more pacific and less hectic region than Los Angeles. However, a group of San Diegan activists were ready to politically shake up the region. During the past weeks, there have been more than five pro-Palestinian rallies and other organizational efforts in San Diego with the purpose of showing opposition to the Israeli occupation and actions in Gaza.

On August 7th, 32 socialist, students, and community members gathered in City Heights Community Center to create a forum addressing the Israeli occupation on Palestinian territory.  The San Diego branch of the International Socialist Organization, in collaboration with the San Diego State University (SDSU) branch of Students for Justice in Palestine, created this forum in which three panelist shared their thoughts on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and their experience as pro-Palestine activists.

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Osama Alkawaja, a student at SDSU and the president of the Students for Justice in Palestine, was one of the panelist who had spent time in Palestine before the conflict intensified. He said that witnessing the raids of Palestinian homes by Israeli soldiers first hand revitalized his efforts to create a pro-Palestinian solidarity movement in the United States. “There are oppressed and oppressors… There are those who support the status quo and those who set to change history,” Osama said.

Lorain Riham, another panelist and pro-Palestinian activist, addressed the dilemma regarding the right of Palestinians to engage in arm resistance.  “When 10 thousand homes are destroyed… should they submit to their oppressors? At what point do Palestinians have the right to resist?” Lorain said.

On August 8th, around 150 people participated in a rally in front of the Edward J. Schwartz Federal Building. The rally started at 4:00  P.M. and it lasted for more than three hours. The event was organized by Al-Awda: The Palestinian Right to Return Coalition, with participants from Students for Justice in Palestine at SDSU, the Palestinian Youth Movement, and other organizations.

Bo Elder, member of the International Socialist Organization, also participated in the rally because he believed It was important for people to speak out against U.S. and Israeli crimes against Palestinian people.

Protesters also interconnected the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with other struggles. Enrique De La Cruz, member of Colectivo Zapatista (an organization in solidarity with the Zapatista movement in Mexico), participated in the rally in solidarity with the Palestinian people and the indigenous Zapatista movement in Mexico. “I think the struggles is worldwide connect. If you think of the Zapatistas, they struggle and fight for the same thing Palestine fights… indigenous people who live in their land are being kicked off of their land,” De La Cruz said.

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Nesser Barghoute, member and director of the San Diego Boycott, Divest, and Santion Committee, explained the demands of Palestinians toward the international community during the rally. “The Palestinian civil society, which means organizations for students, and women, and farmers, and unions in Palestine, in 2005 came out to the call and ask the whole world community to follow the example of the pressure movement that was built in the 70’s and 80’s against apartheid in South Africa…[to create] a pressure movement internationally for Palestinian rights and the movement goes for three tactics: boycott, divestment, and sanctions,” Nesser said.

Boycotting and divesting means that society and institutions will not use products or services from companies that are directly profiteering from the Israeli occupation in Palestine. The demand for sanctions are demands towards governments to restrict international cooperation, such as trade and weapon supply, with Israel if the occupation continues.

Among the demands of the protesters was the end of the military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, and also the end of what they considered a system of apartheid discrimination inside Israel against non-Jewish citizens. Furthermore, they emphasized the need to allow Palestinian refugees, that were moved out of Palestine in 1948 and 1968, to go back to their homes. These group of activists are planning to continue protesting and organizing until the occupation ends.

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Dancing Beneath the Stars

As the orange summer sun began to fade into darkness, a string of twinkling lights radiated throughout the Skirball Cultural Center’s courtyard for the second performance of their annual Sunset Concert Series. On Thursday, July 30th, the Skirball hosted the talented Cuban group Conjunto Chappottín y Sus Estrellas. Standing from the balcony, I was able to get a great view of the entire audience sharing in this wonderful musical experience. Both young and old made up the group and I could tell right away that it was going to be a night with lots of dancing.

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Women wore their twirling dresses and pumps for dancing. The men, on the other hand, impressed the crowd with their fashionable blazers and button-ups. Once the group finally made their appearance, the crowd cheered and eagerly searched for their soon-to-be dancing partner. Within a couple of minutes of the first song, we were informed the event was officially full and could not accept any more guests. It was definitely a blow-out show!

When I finally made my way to the dance floor, my obvious inexperience became apparent to me and I was frozen in awe. There were many couples who could have very well been professional salsa dancers. All of the spinning, stepping, stomping and quick movements made me dizzy. Their bodies moved so effortlessly to the beat of the drums and the whistle of the trumpet, that I could not help but feel a little envious. However, I spotted a neophyte dancer (about two or three years old) in the crowd dancing with his mother. His small legs could hardly keep up and he stumbled a few times. However, he and his mother laughed and smiled at one another clearly enjoying the music and ambiance, despite a few wrong steps.

After a few songs, the group needed a break (the dancers, too). During this time, the audience was introduced to the various members of the group that made all the musical magic happen (there were a lot, too!). However, this small interlude made me nostalgic for my own family dance parties. It rekindled my memories of my cousins or uncles playing the bongos while my grandmother rhythmically moved her body to the music. This moment was extremely intimate, and a special way to get to know the group.

When the music finally started again, I decided it was time to stop being a spectator and start being a dancer. After stepping on my partner’s feet a few times (sorry Marcel), I got the hang of it and enjoyed all of the spinning and stepping that intimidated me earlier in the night. When Conjunto Chappottín y Sus Estrellas’ set came to an end, the audience applauded appreciatively for a fun night. Walking off of the dance floor, I smiled. I thought about how wonderful it was to dance beneath the stars–spinning, stepping, and stomping like one of the experts.

All photos are courtesy of Skirball Cultural Center | Photo by Timothy Norris.

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Chicano Batman at the Getty

It’s been a month and I can still hear Bardo’s Yamaha YC-30 humming inside my ears. I get chills as I reminisce about the electric set that had everyone dancing at the Museum Courtyard of the Getty Center on July 12th. Chicano Batman performed for free as part of the Saturdays of the 405 concert series, held every summer by the Getty Center.

Chicano Batman entered the stage with smiles and waves for the audience. “We are Chicano Batman,” uttered Brado Martínez as they began the performance, after a quick set up. They then began the set with the instrumental sounds of “La Tigresa.”

The spiritual, mysticism and charged energy flowed throughout the four members, all dressed in their signature, matching sky blue dress shirts. Throughout an instrumental piece in the middle of the set, Bardo took the time to be thankful for everything important and even swayed the crowd towards the ocean to thank it.

The sweet rhythms that flow from the rhythm guitar of Carlos Arévalo, the energetic underlining bass that jumped out from Eduardo Arena, and the unforgiving liveliness of rhythm from Gabriel Villa create the danceable atmosphere that infected everyone on the floor. Bardo Martinez’s enchanting, transcendent voice also shrouded the Courtyard throughout the deep, soulful journey.

My soul felt cleansed. The humming hasn’t stopped.

Get Cycles of Existential Rhyme. Out now! Chicano Batman will also be playing at FigAt7th in Downtown Los Angeles with Las Cafeteras, Friday August 1st. Free!

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