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Ford protesters camp outside mayor’s residence

LOS ANGELES — A group protesting the shooting death of an unarmed black man by police in South Los Angeles and demanding the dismissal of Police Chief Charlie Beck are camping outside the Hancock Park residence of Mayor Eric Garcetti Monday, getting into a scuffle with officers at one point, and vowing to continue the protest until Tuesday.

Garcetti, in a statement released by his office, said he had called Ford’s mother and, failing to reach her, had left a message “telling her my heart goes out to her and her grieving family” and that he looks forward to meeting her in the coming days.

Black Lives Matter – Los Angeles, which was behind the demonstration, said it would hold a news conference outside the mayor’s residence Monday morning to respond to his statement. A spokeswoman for the group said the thrust of the response likely will be that the statement isn’t enough.

During the night, a car transporting Garcetti left the residence through the back and protesters wanting to speak with him surrounded the vehicle, said Jasmyne Cannick, a spokeswoman for Black Lives Matter – Los Angeles. One woman was thrown to the ground by police, she said.

The woman could be seen after sunrise having an animated conversation with an LAPD officer and seemed unhurt as a result of the earlier encounter.

Police said the mayor was leaving for LAX to catch a flight when protesters surrounded the automobile, prompting officials to transfer him to another vehicle.

About 10 to 15 people slept outside Garcetti’s home overnight Sunday, according to Sgt. Karima Tahir of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Olympic Station, which had officers stationed outside the residence. The demonstration began Sunday.

Ezell Ford
Ezell Ford

The protest was organized by Black Lives Matter in response to news reports that Beck and Inspector General Alex Bustamante had found that officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas were justified in shooting 25-year-old Ezell Ford Aug. 11 near the intersection of 65th Street and Broadway.

Those findings reportedly indicate that Ford’s DNA was found on the officers, along with scratches apparently inflicted by Ford on the officers’ hands, and on one holster.

Los Angeles Police Commission President Steve Soboroff Friday disputed any suggestion that a decision had been made on the officers’ fate, asserting that to say “anything has been decided by anyone is unfair to the Ford family.”

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Police Commission — the civilian panel that oversees the LAPD — is due to consider the findings of the LAPD and inspector general investigations into the shooting.

Activists, including Los Angeles Urban Roundtable President Earl Ofari Hutchinson, National Action Network – West Coast Political Affairs Director Najee Ali and Voice of the People founder Pedro Baez have been distributing the Police Commission’s phone number and urging residents to make calls to “demand a fair, impartial and transparent finding” regarding the shooting.

The protesters outside the mayor’s home were joined by Ford’s mother at one point Sunday. They are demanding that Garcetti fire Beck, and they warn that they will work against Garcetti’s re-election if the chief is not replaced.

The protesters also demand that Tuesday’s Police Commission vote be held in public and not in closed session, and they want reparations paid to those who have been killed or injured by Los Angeles police, said Cannick, the Black Lives Matter spokeswoman.

“They do want to meet with the mayor to tell him this face to face,” Cannick said, adding that the protesters feel Garcetti vanishes when issues affecting the black community erupt, leaving City Council President Herb Wesson, who who is black, to face the music instead.

Garcetti, who traveled to Washington, D.C., Sunday night addressed the question of Tuesday’s Police Commission meeting in a statement issued by his office Monday morning.

“I have confidence that the Police Commission will conduct an impartial and fair-minded review of the investigations conducted by both the LAPD and the independent inspector general,” his statement said.

The shooting of Ford in the 200 block of West 65th Street sparked months of protests and calls by community activists calling for a swift transparent investigation.

It came after other slayings of un armed black men at the hands of police in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City.

Wampler, a 12-year veteran of the LAPD, and Villegas, an eight-year veteran, were both reassigned to administrative duties afterward.