Demonstration turn violent as protesters honor Breonna Taylor
By Juliet Bennett Rylah
HOLLYWOOD — A protest in Hollywood on the one-year anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s death turned violent after police and protesters clashed March 13.
Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old medical worker, was fatally shot by Louisville police officers during a forced-entry raid on her home on March 13, 2020, Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker III, filed a lawsuit against the Louisville Metro Police Department last week alleging that his constitutional rights were violated by the shooting. The following day, numerous protests and vigils were held across the U.S. demanding justice for Taylor on the anniversary of her death.
In Hollywood, there were two events. The first, which started at 11:30 a.m., was peaceful. However, video posted to social media during an evening demonstration showed officers firing less-lethal rounds at protesters and someone throwing what appeared to be a microwave oven or other small appliance at an officer. According to the LAPD, 10 people were arrested, three officers and one protester suffered injuries, and nine buildings were vandalized.
The day’s events brought to mind last May and early June where in Los Angeles, the National Guard was called in after numerous days of clashes, arrests, vandalism, nightly curfews and allegations of police misconduct and excessive use of force.
The incident comes on the heels of a report commissioned by the Los Angeles City Council that found LAPD officers mishandled people during the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor protests last summer.
In late June, the City Council voted to commission a review of LAPD’s crowd control tactics and compliance with department policy. The review team consisted of several former members of the LAPD, including Gerald Chaleff, who previously oversaw a similar review pertaining to a May Day demonstration in MacArthur Park in 2007.
The Board of Police Commissioners will ultimately consider this report as well one authored by the LAPD and another by the National Police Foundation, both expected to wrap up this month.
The commissioned review heavily criticized the LAPD’s handling of last year’s protests, finding that officers had inadequate training, lacked experienced leadership due to personnel changes over the years, and had no consistent chain of command.
The report found the LAPD was not prepared for the small groups of people engaged in looting or other illegal activities during the largely peaceful protests, causing officers to be “reactive, rather than proactive.”
“The expertise, skills and experience necessary to manage a peaceful protest are different from the skills required to manage a protest that is violent and hostile,” the report said. “The lack of expertise and experience in this area impacted the department’s ability to control the protests and, in particular, to prevent the criminal element from creating the chaos and violence that ultimately occurred.”
The report further stated that officers weren’t trained in the use of less-than-lethal weapons in a crowd setting, which “requires well-trained, experienced and highly skilled individuals.” Several people were shot and injured with foam rounds, including one woman who said she was driving in the area when one flew into her open car window and a man who was shot in the head while backing away from officers with his hands up, an encounter captured via an officer’s bodycam.
The report also criticized the LAPD’s mass arrests. Between May 29 and June 2, 4,000 people were arrested. Many were handcuffed and held for hours in close proximity despite the pandemic, without water or bathroom access.
Not only did the department lack a plan for what to do with those it detained, but the report also argues the people shouldn’t have been detained at all. Since most were cited for infractions, the process should have been similar to issuing traffic tickets, where people are released after showing their identification and signing a promise to appear.
The city had previously paid out $3 million in lawsuits related to similar situations during Occupy LA in 2011 and Michael Brown protests in 2014, the report said.
“It is unfortunate that the same issues have arisen again and again, with the department being unable or unwilling to rectify the problem,” the report said.
Ultimately, the report contained 22 recommendations for improvement, though it will be up to city officials to decide if they should be enacted.
In its response, the LAPD said its officers have been trained in crowd management and control since the summer protests and that it would respond further to the report after it had a chance to “carefully review” it in its entirety.
The LAPD is currently facing a lawsuit from Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Community Action Network, and individual protestors alleging the department violated protesters’ constitutional rights, but according to the Los Angeles Times, it may take years to resolve that suit.
Juliet Bennett Rylah is a freelance reporter who covers Hollywood and West Hollywood. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.