LOS ANGELES (CN) — Hundreds of police accountability activists rallied outside law enforcement buildings in Los Angeles on Wednesday, marching through the city’s downtown to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.
Blake, a Black man, was shot in the back seven times by white Kenosha, Wisconsin police officers on Sunday, sparking immediate protests as a graphic video of the shooting circulated on social media and generated national attention.
The officers involved in shooting Blake, 29, have been placed on administrative leave and state and federal authorities are investigating the incident. Blake is currently paralyzed from the waist down and remains in serious condition at a Milwaukee hospital.
The shooting took place during an ongoing nationwide reckoning over police violence against Black people, with protests sparked in large part by the murder of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by Minneapolis police on Memorial Day.
Outside the Hall of Justice in LA on Wednesday, activists with Black Lives Matter prayed for Blake’s health and performed a ceremony to honor the people killed by police in LA County in recent decades.
Sherlyn Haynes, whose son Christopher Deandre Mitchell was fatally shot by Torrence Police Department officers in 2018, said police robbed her of a lifetime with her son and that the nation needs drastic reforms of the current policing structure.
“No one will call me mama again,” Haynes said.
Valerie Rivera, whose son Eric Rivera was fatally shot by LA police in 2017, called for the resignation of LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, who faces a difficult runoff election in November that’s seen as a referendum on her record.
“She has blood on her hands and she’s ok with it,” Rivera said of Lacey, who has declined to criminally charge police officers who kill people in all but one case, even when former LAPD Chief Charlie Beck recommended an officer’s termination.
After speeches by BLM activists and families of victims of police shootings, the crowd of 200 protesters set off on a march down Spring Street in downtown LA, past City Hall and the LAPD headquarters.
An LA resident who joined the march and identified himself as Samerai The Seventh said in an interview he took part in the protest because he believes the LAPD should be defunded and that officers who act unlawfully should be criminally charged.
“Jacob Blake is just the most recent story of something that happens almost every day,” Samerai said, adding that he believes the most important election this November in LA County is the DA race, not the presidential contest. “We’ve got to get rid of Jackie Lacey.”
The rally kicked off amid a nationwide action by NBA and Major League Baseball athletes protesting the Blake shooting and calling for nationwide police reforms.
The wildcat strike comes during the NBA playoffs, taking place in a “coronavirus bubble” at the Walt Disney Resort in Florida.
In Kenosha, police in riot gear fired tear gas at demonstrators amid reports of arson at government buildings and courthouses.
On Monday, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, who condemned the shooting of Blake, mobilized state National Guard forces in what he described as a supporting role for local police ahead of anticipated protests.
During protests Tuesday night in Kenosha, two demonstrators were fatally shot and a third was seriously injured when a white man armed with a rifle fired multiple times into the crowd of protesters.
Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year Illinois resident, was arrested and charged with murder Wednesday, accused of fatally shooting the two protesters before fleeing across state lines.
Also on Wednesday, law enforcement agencies from across the LA region announced criminal charges for dozens of people who participated in protests in recent months against police violence and who later allegedly committed crimes including arson and burglary.
Officials said the arrests were part of an ongoing effort to criminally charge individuals who used regional protests against police violence as a distraction to allegedly commit crimes.
“This is not an attempt to deter or discriminate against protesters lawfully expressing their First Amendment rights,” LAPD Chief Michel Moore told reporters. “These voices are being suppressed by acts of violence. There must be consequences.”
Moore most of the agencies’ investigations stemmed from tips from county residents and other protesters.
LAPD investigators are also probing unlawful force complaints lodged against at least 110 of its officers after recent protests against police brutality, Moore said.
Demonstrations are planned for a fourth night Thursday in LA.
The march continued into the late hours Wednesday and videos of the action were circulated on social media. Two videos reviewed by Courthouse News show police blocking protesters from exiting downtown LA’s Third Street tunnel.
A video uploaded to Twitter by user @DjMontecito shows protesters being fired upon at close range by LAPD officers using less-lethal ammunition.
“Absolute panic as police trap protesters at entrance of tunnel in DTLA shooting rubber bullets & other less than lethal rounds into the crowd,” says the caption on the tweet, using the acronym for Downtown Los Angeles.
A second video by Twitter user @cogeian shows officers blocking protesters from exiting the tunnel, a strategy that is often referred to as “kettling.”
An LAPD spokesperson said Thursday officers arrested seven people at the protest on charges of burglary, battery on a police officer and trying to remove someone from police custody.
The spokesperson did not immediately confirm whether LAPD officers fired less-lethal weapons at protesters Wednesday night or verify whether police blocked both entrances to the tunnel.
LA Sheriff’s Department spokesperson James Nagao said deputies responded to the protests but did not report firing any less-lethal weapons at demonstrators.