A Justice for Breonna Taylor protest in West Hollywood began peacefully, but ended in a blaze of rubber bullets, tear gas and several arrests on The Sunset Strip this past Saturday night, September 25th.
Demonstrators gathered in front of William S Hart Park, located at 8341 N De Longpre Avenue to protest the recent decision by a Louisville, Kentucky Grand Jury to not prosecute the police officers that killed 26-year-old Taylor. According to a flyer, it was supposed to start at 7pm, but the group did not start moving until 8:30 p.m. The crowd was led by the same individuals that staged the Dancing for Black Lives demonstration the previous Saturday, September 19th.
The protest began with speeches against racism and police brutality, with repeated calls for justice.
“What do we want?”
“If we don’t get it?”
“Burn it down.”
Despite the message to torch the city if justice for Breonna was not served, there was a lot of concern for safety and warnings to stay within the caravan of cars and trucks lined up at the front and back of the marchers to avoid having them injured from oncoming traffic. There were also a number of individuals walking with flashlights to direct traffic away from the marchers as the crowd moved through busy WeHo intersections.
Two pickup trucks led the protest down De Longpre Avenue, west on Fountain Avenue, south on La Cienega Boulevard, and west on Santa Monica Boulevard, towards the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station, where deputies once again sealed themselves behind yellow barb wire and formed a human shield in full riot gear with rubber bullet guns.
As the crowd made their way down Santa Monica Boulevard, a group of about ten individuals, mostly young men with a few women, used black umbrellas to cover themselves from being photographed while they graffitied WeHo businesses at random. They tagged Breonna Taylor’s name and messages like “FTP” and “Breonna Taylor couldn’t sleep.” The Wells Fargo Building, Framing Gallery and several bus stops were vandalized.
The protestors gathered at the intersection of San Vicente Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard to face off the Sheriff’s deputies. One Deputy used a bullhorn to threaten the crowd to disperse or risk lethal force and arrests. He called the protest an unlawful assembly per penal code section 407, which refers to whenever two or more persons assemble together to do an unlawful act, or do a lawful act in a violent, boisterous, or tumultuous manner, such assembly is an unlawful assembly. He warned the crowd a second time to disperse and stop blocking traffic or everyone would be arrested and they would use what he referred to as non-lethal or less lethal weapons.
The two trucks leading the protestors continued moving west on Santa Monica Boulevard towards Beverly Hills. They were blocked by Sheriff’s vehicles at Robertson Boulevard, forcing the protestors to move up Robertson Boulevard towards The Sunset Strip. Deputies used two giant construction dumpsters to control the flow of traffic on Sunset. One was located near Doheny Avenue and another was closer to Crescent Heights Boulevard.
The protest on the Sunset Strip escalated with deputies shooting at the protestors with pepper balls and noise-making devices to push oncoming protestors back. Video footage on social media shows a deputy beating a protestor with a riot shield. It us unclear why this protest was different from previous protests, or why deputies decided to use force at this particular demonstration. There are also questions about who authorized LASD to respond with force.
Eight protestors were arrested. The driver of the black pickup truck that lead the march from De Longpre Avenue, was one of the men arrested. His truck was seen being towed on the back of a flatbed tow truck and hauled down Sunset Boulevard.
The driver of the truck and another protestor who was arrested describe their arrests in the post below:
Seven of the eight protestors were released. The remaining protestor under arrest was transferred to Twin Town according to reports.
Photos by Paulo Murillo for WEHO TIMES.