Protest vs. LA District Attorney: No Going Back to Business as Usual!

February 16, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


From an LA Revolution Club member:

In reflecting on the Stop Mass Incarceration Network national meeting in Atlanta, I was re-invigorated with the urgent need to continue taking the struggle of resistance to police brutality and murder to a higher level with a nationwide #ShutDownA14 on April 14. (See “Atlanta Conference Calls for NO BUSINESS AS USUAL April 14 to STOP POLICE MURDER.”)

On Wednesday, February 11, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey gave a lecture on “Criminal Justice Mental Health Project” at UCLA. This is the same DA who presides over the neighborhood where Ezell Ford, a mentally ill man (well-known to the police department), was killed eight months ago. (The autopsy report released December 2014 showed he was shot in the back at close range—see article on this.) Besides the hypocrisy in the title of her lecture, Lacey was given a platform to speak at a time when—as the call from the Call for April 14 from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network has identified, “We are at a crossroads: will the authorities succeed in suppressing our resistance, or will we move forward on the offensive and bring even more massive waves of struggle to STOP the murder of Black, Brown, and all people by the police?”

A group of students called on “anyone interested in demanding that killer cops are charged with murder” (this is a paraphrase) to protest this event. I took up the call. We were six strong (students and non-students). And, as we gathered, there was a real sense of determination. We got into the crossroads this movement of resistance is at: with some struggling with their friends and peers to join the protest. And posing the question “Do you think Black and brown lives matter?” with some students avoiding the question or strongly affirming their agreement.

As we entered the lecture hall where Lacey spoke, we were swarmed with questions: “Why are you here and what’s your purpose, do you plan to disrupt this event?” We affirmed we had every right to attend this lecture. DA Lacey’s posse assigned a person to surveil us while the program began. Meanwhile, the person surveilling us began insulting one of the students for their weight.

Eventually the program began. Lacey had ample time to speak (and lie) about her role in “improving” South Central LA. But, as she began to talk about mental health, one of the students (rightfully so) got up, went to the front of the stage, and unfurled his banner that read “Black Lives Matter.” We all got up and started chanting. And, questions were sharply posed: Why is this event being held by an institution that is supposed to be about the underprivileged? What about the treatment of Ezell Ford? Lacey immediately walked off the stage. A young woman sitting behind us began gleefully clapping. As we continued to chant and agitate “Black Lives Matter,” a speaker from the stage threatened us with arrest. The students were shocked and condemned this behavior. The organizers had to concede in letting us pose questions to DA Lacey (even as that was not our intent).

DA Lacey walked back on stage and (like a robot) continued her lecture. We all collectivized on what questions we would ask. Eventually, the Q&A began and the first question posed was on mass incarceration. The next question was on the murder of Ezell Ford. Lacey was put on the defensive. She said, “It’s complicated,” “I think Black lives matter,” and “protesters have a right to express their first amendment.” To which we replied: “It’s been eight months since the murder of Ezell Ford,” “the autopsy report has been out for months,” “what about the mass arrest and repression?” She quickly ended the Q&A and walked off the stage again.

Gleefully we all got up—marched and chanted out of the event with a couple of students joining us. As we were collectivizing on our experience, a couple of people from the event came up to thank us. An older alum said our behavior reminded him of the ’60s and told us to keep up the fight.

The organizers of the event are furious with our actions (given the chancellor and vice-chancellor were in attendance) and are threatening repercussions. But, actually this is more of what’s needed. As we’re heading towards a national #ShutDownA14 we need to have the backs of the defiant ones continuing to resist and we need to be calling on many more to join us. We cannot go back to Business as Usual!

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