LOS ANGELES—Echoing the Black Panther slogan of “All Power to the People,” thousands of protesters took to the streets Wednesday to protest police brutality and the prison industry.
After assembling in Pershing Square, a cacophany of groups—from the Revolutionary Clown Bloc to the Jericho Amnesty Movement to Free Political prisoners—took to the streets, led by a sound truck which blasted hip hop through the canyons of downtown L.A.
But the day belonged to the youth, whose fervently held principles stand in stark contrast to the barbs of their critics, who say the kids wouldn’t know a good cause if they met it. “We will not take rape, we will not take robbery, we will not take injustice into this new millennium!” proclaimed a young Ethiopian woman on stage. “The youth of the world ain’t gonna take this anymore!”
The mostly young crowd roared in agreement. “The cops have to know, this has to stop now, and it’s gonna stop,” said Christal Magana, a 17-year-old from L.A. who took a day off from her job at Burger King to march with her friends.
“The police don’t care if another cop shoots someone for no good reason. They really don’t,” said Erin Lares, 17, of Orange County, who was sporting a “Wage Peace” pin given to her by her mother. “The police are here to defend the ruling class and private property, but the rich don’t care if a cop dies.”
Her friend, Miguel Alcarez, 18, of San Francisco, displayed an upside-down American flag to protest the disenfranchisement of Native Americans. “I got Aztec blood, and my people are homeless,” said Alcarez.
The march on the LAPD headquarters followed a deftly choreographed civil disodience action in which some 20 activists were arrested outside the scandal-ridden Rampart Police Station, which is currently under federal investigation for mulitiple civil rights violations. While the arrests remained entirely peaceful—this was an event staged for the TV cameras, entirely prearranged with the police—tensions rose in the back of the 400-plus march, where cops charged the crowd in an effort to split them up.
The mood flared once more in the afternoon, when protesters massed outside the Staples Center, the site of the Democratic convention. Although the protests were meant to conclude with a rally inside the permitted “protest zone,” only 100 activists marched into the pen. Police surged on the several hundred demonstrators who remained outside, pushing some into the pen and some into neighborhing streets. “People were scared to go in the pen, especially after what happened there on Monday,” said Peter Chung of the People of Color Direct Action Network. “We all know it’s a big trap if the cops follow us in there.”