SOUTH LOS ANGELES — Chanting “Time’s up, that’s the truth, police ain’t protecting, they’re killing our youth,” a large crowd of South Los Angeles residents took to the streets Feb. 21 in what was billed as a March for Unity and Justice.
With the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and, more locally, Ezell Ford spurring them on, the group gathered at the Southwest Police Station on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and after a rally featuring speeches by U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, and other leaders marched to Leimert Park, where another rally was held.
Among those taking part in the rally was 9-year-old Danny Williams, who said “we all need to let the police know that killing black people is not OK.”
Williams told a reporter, “we don’t want racial police, we want protective police.
“Ezell Ford, Trayvon Martin and many people before them were killed by white racist police,” the young girl continued. “I am here today because I need to tell them that it’s not OK. And as a little black girl myself, I’m afraid that if I go out at night time and the police sees me with a fake gun, I will risk my life just for being on the street that night.”
Also attending the march and rally was Tritobia Ford, the mother of Ezell Ford, who was shot and killed by Los Angeles police in August in a shooting that resonated across the country like the shooting death of Michael Brown at the hands of police in Ferguson, Missouri, and the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York.
Danny’s mother, Chimbuko Tembo, the associate director of the African American Cultural Center, told the crowd of the demands that have been made of local police. Speaking of the demand that all police officers, sheriff’s deputies and Highway Patrol officers be issued cameras to be worn in the field at all times, Tembo said: “If you forget to turn it on, if your dog eats it or if it mysteriously breaks, we want you charged with obstruction of justice.”
Rep. Bass stirred up the crowd when she got up to speak. She started by chanting “no justice,” to which the crowd responded, “no peace.”
“Several people asked me when I came to the park, what is the point of the march,” Bass said. “Why did we come together to do this today? Do you really think anything is going to change?
“I absolutely believe things are going to change because in my lifetime I have seen that change take place,” Bass continued. “We are not done. We have more to do and we have further to go. Stand your ground laws need to be eliminated. Racial profiling needs to end.
“People ask me what is different today. You know what is different today; a cell phone camera is what is different today. You can’t get away with it anymore. I remember 30 years ago, Los Angeles police and the struggles that we had and some of the younger people today say how much longer are we going to have to wait. I have to tell you for those folks that are older here, understand that LAPD has changed, there have been reforms, but we have a lot further to go.
“And the way that change is done is through organizing, is through Black Lives Matter, is through marching, protesting,” Bass added. “All of the things that we have done have kept the memory alive of Ezell Ford, of Michael Brown, of Trayvon Martin.
“We have to continue to say, ‘I can’t breathe.’ We have to continue to say, ‘Stand up, don’t shoot.’ We have to continue to say, ‘Without justice, there is going to be no peace.’
“If we can’t have justice, then you can’t have no peace.”
Bass said that she and her colleagues in Washington are working to address some of the problems, such as racial profiling and other issues.
“Let me tell you on behalf of the Congressional Black Caucus, we were all involved during the King Day celebration, we were in Ferguson,” Bass said. “Legislation is being introduced; we are going to keep this up. But while we are working in the halls of Washington, we need you to stay on the streets.”