SOUTH PASADENA, Calif. (CN) — In the quiet suburb of South Pasadena, California one man was inspired to start an anti-police violence rally after his sister was shot with rubber bullets during a protest.
At first London Lang, 21, protested alone as thousands were demonstrating in downtown Los Angeles, about 10 miles away, over the death of George Floyd. But he was soon joined by hundreds.
Violent clashes between peaceful protesters and police escalated on May 30 and 31, just as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti requested the California National Guard to the city to stem reports of looting. Videos of police in riot gear hitting protesters and firing pepper balls into crowds began circulated and thousands marched in Hollywood and downtown LA.
After his sister was shot by the projectiles during a protest in West Hollywood on May 30, Land said he “just had thoughts of revenge or just complete anger at police.”
“I wasn’t in the right place. I wasn’t myself and I knew I wanted to see change. The next morning I felt like I had to do something.”
His hometown of South Pasadena is an idyllic city with a population of about 25,000.
As protests raged after the death of George Floyd, South Pasadena remained relatively quiet. Passing through, you would have been hard pressed to find signs that demonstrations against police violence were happening across the country.
Lang says his protest began when he walked to the corner of a busy intersection with a sign that read, “We Are Not Toys.”
“We’re not their toys because we’re not meant for target practice,” said Lang. “We’re people and it has to stop.”
Nine days after Lang started his protest hundreds have stood at the same intersection with him to demand police reform.
Robin Dodds and her daughter, Alice, said they have attended other rallies in recent days. They found themselves at the South Pasadena protest on Tuesday.
“I’m going to keep going to protests until there’s big enough change,” said Alice, 17. “Slavery is over and yet we’re still seeing people treated so inhumane.”
Friends Sofia Sotomayor, Lucy Loken and Jesse Newman explained some people prefer smaller-scale protests because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
“It’s important to start conversations with your local community,” Sotomayor said. “So young people can see a protest they can get involved with.”
A man passing by shouted at the protesters, “All lives matter.”
Maibelyn Ruiz and Jennifer Zendejas did not know each other before the protest but found common ground on their beliefs for police reform.
“I’m glad that people are waking up to what’s been going on for far too long,” said Ruiz. “I just want to see change.”
Sora Vincent and Marissa Buie have protested in other parts of LA County in the last few weeks but wanted to protest in a place that might otherwise be overlooked, like South Pasadena.
“It’s important to have these smaller protests in order to keep the conversation going,” said Buie.
Vincent said little by little change is being made and she’s optimistic.
“It’s a slow, long road,” said Buie.
Lang asked anyone who protested in South Pasadena to not run into the street and stop traffic. His immediate outlook is to remain a constant fixture on the corner.
“I’m going to be here until we start to see a more transparent police department in South Pasadena, a department that serves the people,” said Lang.
Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Police Department announced a temporary moratorium on the use of carotid restraints or chokehold used by officers, while the South Pasadena Police Department on Monday announced the complete ban of the chokehold.
On Tuesday, the LA District Attorney’s Office says its investigators would also stop using chokeholds in the field and update its use-of-force training.
In 2014, Eric Garner was killed while put in a chokehold by a New York police officer. Garner was approached by police on the suspicion of selling single cigarettes and screamed, “I can’t breathe” in video footage from the incident. At the time, the chokehold was prohibited by the NYPD.