LA ‘Ferguson’ Protesters Block Freeways, Nearly 200 Arrested
LOS ANGELES—One hundred and ninety six people have been arrested in protests in Los Angeles in response to Monday’s announcement that white police officer, Darren Wilson, would not be indicted for the killing of black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
The protests carried on on Wednesday in front of the Federal Courthouse in Downtown L.A. with people waving signs like “Racism is this Nation’s Cancer” and “Stop Police Brutality, Arrest the Killer Cop.”
“Michael Brown’s death has ignited deep passions across the nation, and Los Angeles is no exception,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti in a statement. “Tonight’s (Nov. 24) decision is one that will be heatedly debated—but we should do so through dialogue and peaceful action.”
Despite the Mayor’s call for restraint, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said 167 people were arrested Tuesday night for disturbing the peace by blocking traffic and refusing to disperse. He said the police were forced to step in when the protesters became unruly.
Protesters shut down the 101 Freeway at Grand Avenue for about an hour in both directions by barricading the road with debris.
“The police department wants to facilitate people’s ability to speak out as they choose on Ferguson issues … However, we will not condone, nor will we allow individuals to trample the rights of others,” said Beck.
One person was arrested for a felony assault after throwing a frozen drink bottle at a police officer’s head. Fifteen minors were also arrested for curfew violations.
On Wednesday, demonstrators again blocked lanes on the 101 Freeway at Alvarado street during morning rush hour, which police said resulted in nine more arrests.
Some minor vandalism like spray-painting and protesters walking on police cars was also reported on Tuesday.
“We have given folks a wealth of opportunity to make their case known, and we will continue to allow people to do that in a peaceful and lawful way,” said Beck.
“However, we cannot continue to expend resources chasing people around the city of Los Angeles to do that.”
Police said they would be taking a “more direct stance” on the protests at this point, although what that meant exactly they did not clarify.
The announcement touched a nerve in L.A. where a similar situation played out just two days after the shooting in Ferguson.
On August 11, Ezell Ford, a 25-year-old mentally ill black man was fatally shot by white LAPD officers in Los Angeles. Similar protests occurred in Los Angeles at the time, and local protesters say they are marching for Ford as well.
“It’s just like a lot of frustration,” said Leisette Rodriguez, a Long Beach resident who was protesting in Leimert Park right after the announcement on Monday. “There seems to be no dedication to doing what’s right.”
L.A. was also where black construction worker Rodney King was beaten nearly to death by white police officers in 1991. The acquittal of the four police officers in a preliminary trial is attributed to causing the 1992 race riots in L.A. that killed over 50 people and caused $1 billion in property damage. Later, two of the policemen were sentenced to almost three years in prison while the other two were acquitted.