By Krista Schwimmer
In a strange, dark twist of fate, a state-wide, two day protest organized by more than a dozen groups representing the voices of First Nations, black, brown, and poor people united with the Venice community’s outrage over the recent LAPD officer killing of an unarmed, houseless young man, Brendon Glenn. Although planned well before Glenn’s tragic death, the protest, centered around housing injustices and police abuse, was already poised to address the issues that contributed to this particular death by cop. The result was a powerful day of community outrage and grief played out before the larger public.
The two day protests were held on May 7th and 8th, in six cities: Oakland, Salinas, Venice, San Francisco, San Jose, and Vallejo. As part of the protest, organizers came up with a list of eighteen demands, centered around curbing hypergentrification statewide. These demands include a state-wide moratorium on Ellis Act/for profit evictions of children, families, elders, and disabled peoples from ANY rental property; implementation of the Homeless Bill of Rights; and the conviction of police officers who murder their citizens. (For the complete list, see http://www.poormagazine.org/node/5295)
At noon on May 7th, the protest set in Venice began in the parking lot of the Brigg. While preparing for the actual march, people took up signs like “California, Not Only for the Rich” and cardboard shaped coffins, colorfully decorated with the names of people who have been killed by police. One woman, Karen Matulis, who was born and raised in Venice, held up the coffin decorated for a man named Dennis Der. She said she came to be a part of the community that day, hoping by doing so, she could make a small difference. Citizens, she said, have to hold the police accountable. “My heart breaks for this boy and the other boys killed.”
At noon, the march began. The first stop along the way was across the street, at Tami Pardee’s real estate business. Organizers placed two large, “Eviction Notices” on the front of her business. One asked Pardee to “Show Us the Prospectus or Quit.” According to Mark Lipman from People Organized for Westside Renewal (POWER), every Pardee development project has a Prospectus to show investors how much profit can be made by evicting existing tenants from their affordable housing units. The second “Notice” called on Pardee to “cease & desist displacement of people and families” and become part of the loving community.
As a variety of speakers testified how Tami Pardee was culpable in their evictions, a drone eerily appeared in the sky and hovered near the crowd, creating a Big Brother atmosphere.
After the stop at Pardee’s, the protest then marched north on Abbot Kinney Boulevard. Throughout the march, protestors shouted chants like: “No Justice! No Peace!”, “Put People First” and “People Over Profits”. Business owners, residents, and other passerbys came out and watched, many videoing what they witnessed.
The protestors turned west on Westminster, then south on Main Street. At Windward, they turned west again, their next destination the location where Brendon Glenn was killed. When they reached that spot, marked by a memorial in front of the Townhouse, the protestors asked everyone to take a moment of silence and lie down in the street. Termed a “die in”, this symbolic act is currently prevalent in the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
At this location, a young man calling himself “CR” spoke to the crowd about the moments before Brendon was shot. As he began speaking about how Brendon was the brother of love, a man wailed out in grief.
CR said that he had heard from a credible source that right before the deadly altercation, Brendon had gone to make a phone call to his mother at the youth center called P.A.D. He got some bad news and was crying. Brendon then returned to his spot near the Townhouse to “get some change for his frigging’ dog.” And the bouncer said he wasn’t allowed to be there. “He’s an ex-marine,” CR continued. “He’s allowed to be wherever the fuck he wants to be.” CR also stated that another source said “that a cop was seen clearing Windward out. Clearing the street! Before the incident. A little fishy.”
CR revealed that, according to his source, Brendon was shot as he was reaching for his I.D. after the police had pressed him for it twice. “It was an execution,” he said. CR concluded with “Release the video!”
After the die-in, protestors marched to their last location – the Police Substation right off Windward and Ocean Front Walk. As they approached the station, protestors raised their arms and chanted: “Hands up! Don’t shoot!”
The remainder of the protest was centered around addressing police brutality specifically. Speakers from groups like the Youth Justice Coalition, and Young Survivors, as well as Skid Row activists such as General Dogon and Adam, educated the crowd on the depth of this problem, as well as offered their advice.
During her speech, Kim McGill from Youth Justice Coalition stated that Brendon was the 621st person killed by law enforcement in Los Angeles County since 2000. She said the reason why most people do not know this large number is because the data is not widely released. McGill also stated that the District Attorney’s office “have a memorandum of understanding with every fifty-seven police departments in LA County that they don’t investigate a single use of force until the police departments have exhausted their investigation.” Unlike the Carolina’s and Baltimore, this process can take anywhere from six months to a year. When the D.A.’s office finally gets the box of information from the police, McGill said they decide, “Oh well, it looks like a justifiable shooting.”
McGill also gave the following statistics concerning the 621 people killed. Although Los Angeles county is only 9% African-American, 28% of those killed by law enforcement are African-American. Similarly, although LA county is only 47% Latino, 53% killed are Latinos. Other victims come from the homeless and the mentally ill. In at least seven cases, where law enforcement was called to the scene by family members concerned about a suicide, law enforcement ended up killing rather than protecting the troubled people they were supposed to protect.
Adam, an activist from Skid Row, had direct advice to give to Venice residents in regards to their own community. Calling the Venice Neighborhood Council “a bunch of gentrifiers,” he told the community they need to take back their Neighborhood Council. “It is time for the people of Venice to stand up – to stand up to the Nimbys, to stand up to the cats who want to take your entire neighborhood and turn it into a damn vacation spot,” Adam said.
The protest ended mid-afternoon. Organizers and participants alike dispersed into the day. Some went on to the Town Hall meeting that night, organized by city officials to address the recent shooting. Others returned to their regular lives.
As day turned to night, a light rain shower dispersed over Venice – unusual in this drought stricken time. Still, such rains are not enough to wet a parched land or to cleanse a community after a wrongful killing. No doubt there are mighty storms coming. It is simply a matter of time.
Above: May 7 community rally die-in
Above: May 7 community rally
All photos by Krista Schwimmer