On July 14, the day after a Florida court exonerated George Zimmerman, killer of Trayvon Martin, the Los Angeles Coalition for Community Control Over the Police and the International Action Center organized a rally to be held at the corner of Crenshaw and Martin Luther King boulevards in South Central Los Angeles. More than 1,000 people attended, speaking out against the verdict and other racist injustices. With the crowd overflowing into the streets, it was decided to march. The following is one participant’s recounting of the day’s events.
We started July 14 at the corner of Crenshaw and Martin Luther King Jr. boulevards. The rally, which was scheduled to be held only on this corner, had a sudden change of plans when a few of the protesters decided to challenge the rule of the police. They walked to the middle of Crenshaw Boulevard, and the rest of the crowd followed.
Heading south on Crenshaw towards Leimert Park, the march proceeded for about a mile and, after a U-turn, headed back north. Many, like me, thought that the march would end where it started. But some of the organizers decided to continue marching to Hollywood – about eight miles – to join another demonstration for justice for Trayvon Martin.
When the march reached Exposition Boulevard, police officers made it stop and said that they would not allow it to proceed beyond that point. The crowd was not intimidated and, after a brief struggle, continued the march.
As the march approached one of the busiest freeways in the state, the I-10, some of the protesters had the idea to go to the on-ramp and shut it down. I immediately agreed with the idea and, along with my companion, a young Vietnamese woman who was participating in a civil disobedience for the first time, started to tell the other people to go down and stop the flow of cars on the freeway. Almost everyone went. Drivers, in large numbers, honked and raised their fists in support of the demonstration. The “security guards of the elite” – aka, the police officers – were caught by surprise. Everyone noticed their looks of astonishment and anger.
With the arrival of more police troops, the protesters were surrounded and not allowed to proceed, even to leave the freeway via the other ramp. The police threatened to arrest everyone if they did not leave, but would not let anyone leave.
The people, determined to continue marching and not get arrested, climbed the hill on the side of the highway through a rough terrain and, reaching the top, helped each other to climb over the freeway wall. Bikers used their bicycles as ladders. Mothers with babies and young children were given priority.
As the police intimidation and repression escalated, many marchers became nervous and panic almost took control. The situation was alleviated when some of the demonstrators teamed up and knocked down two gates that were hindering the people’s passage.
After leaving the freeway, the march, this time much smaller, continued through the neighborhood until it again reached Crenshaw Boulevard. But at the corner of Venice Boulevard, the police did not let it continue. The cops were getting more and more aggressive and escalating threats. The march headed back to the starting point with the police following behind. Later, it was reported that the police shot rubber bullets at and arrested some demonstrators.
The closure of the I-10 freeway was a brave act that, in my opinion, describes what the people want: to shut down not only the freeways, which are scenes of injustice, racism and police brutality, but also the whole corrupt and unjust capitalist system and the institutions that allow crimes against the working class to continue and go unpunished. The killer of Trayvon Martin is free. Racism is the norm in the U.S. injustice system. This has to stop!
The unheard masses were united for a cause and the message was clear: Shut down this system! The revolution will be the voice of the masses!