Thousands Protest Police Brutality

Kirt Ramirez
PROTESTERS marched through the streets of Downtown Long Beach on Sunday, followed by looting and setting fires to businesses.

Thousands of mostly young protestors from all races angry over the needless killing of George Floyd marched through Long Beach’s downtown area last Sunday.

Activists held up signs and chanted phrases to honor Floyd and protest police brutality. Floyd, an unarmed and handcuffed African American man, was suffocated in Minneapolis on Memorial Day as white police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds – despite Floyd stating multiple times, “I can’t breathe.”

A 17-year old girl captured the homicide on cell phone video and protests resulted across the country.

Protest signs included “Peace for George Floyd,” Prosecute killer cops,” “Black lives matter,” “Justice is essential,” “No police state” and “Long Beach united against police brutality,” among others.

As the masses filed through Ocean Boulevard and surrounding streets, marchers shouted “Hands up, don’t shoot,” “No justice, no peace,” “Say his name: George Floyd,” and “I can’t breathe.”

The mostly-peaceful event brought lots of people together for a common cause and demonstrators wore masks for COVID-19 protection.

However, a small number of dissenters – also with face coverings – tagged property during the rally. And criminal opportunists and organized looters with masks infiltrated the crowd and started trouble later on by breaking store windows and taking merchandise.

The peaceable protest ended and the riots began – which knew no racial bounds.

A middle-aged man who appeared Caucasian was observed taking a metal pipe from a pickup truck’s bed in front of a pharmacy on Long Beach Boulevard. He then broke the store’s window to gain access.

Several young African American men pulled down a metal security gate to get into a business. Walgreens, a pawn shop and numerous businesses were broken into and items stolen.

Resident and City Council candidate Robert Fox joined business owners on Broadway in chasing away looters from businesses near Temple, and helped restore a security gate and put chains on it. He confronted pillagers.

“I confronted them and stopped them and they went running away around the corner,” he said. “In lieu of police presence and enforcement, our community must come together to protect and help secure each other.”

The Long Beach Police Special Weapons And Swat team was deployed and tear gas and rubber bullets were used to control civil unrest downtown.

A woman washing her eyes out with milk said she was trying to walk up Pine Avenue when police released tear gas near a T-Mobile that was being looted.

The Ventura County Sheriff’s and other agencies came in for extra help. The California National Guard was positioned.

During an ABC 7 live news broadcast, Long Beach police arrived at a boarded-up Outfitters clothing store on Pine Avenue and Third Street, with looters inside and their bikes outside.

As police stood at the front entrance, looters broke through an un-boarded portion of a window and then exited, doing flips, before safely landing on the floor. Police watched but did not take action.

Then a few protesters pulled away a board to free the remaining robbers.

“Wow, I’ve never seen that before,” said anchor Marc Brown during the broadcast, which went online. “I am just absolutely amazed at what I’m seeing.”

When Chai Sirisute learned riots were taking place, he and friends stood guard at his popular 10th Planet Long Beach gym on Pine Avenue and Seventh Street, which in addition to teaching Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, sells fight gear and apparel.

Sirisute, an award-winning black belt fighter, said he saw three waves of invaders. Upon arriving, he said looters were getting ready to smash windows but scattered after gun shots went off.

Then police arrived and shot rubber bullets at the people still present, including Sirisute and his friends.

“They didn’t know who was rioting and who was protecting, so they were shooting at us,” he said.

After police left, a larger group of thieves returned, he said. Then another.

“After the third group came, there was nothing left in the store,” he said, adding looters threw mannequins and other items into the street to create road blocks and police returned.

“We were standing there about five hours defending the business,” Sirisute said. “I’ve never experienced anything like that in my life; I’ve competed; I’ve fought professionally; I’ve been on Pay-Per-Views.”

He said he couldn’t tell who was coming from where.

“It was just a state of high alert the whole time,” he said.

After things calmed down, Sirisute thought it was over. He and his friends prepared to go home when all of a sudden someone threw a Molotov cocktail into an adjacent business connected to the building.

In about two minutes, flames were coming out of the building and in seven minutes it was gutted, he said.

The fire department arrived, but it was too late.

“By the time they got there, our business was already on fire,” he said. “There was nothing I could do at that point.”

He said people had warned him earlier not to defend his business and risk his safety.

“But I worked too hard,” he said, before breaking down crying during the phone interview. “We thought we had saved the place. And for it to get burned down in like seven minutes, I really can’t describe how it feels. I’ve spent days and nights building it up. I spent all my savings. This is hard for me right now. I’m sorry.”

Long Beach resident and retired firefighter Edward Arnold used to work for Los Angeles City Fire and was in the 1965 Watts riots, where he said a teammate was crushed by a fallen marquee.

“It really affects me,” he said of the tragedy.

Arnold owns several apartment buildings in Long Beach and spoke highly of Sirisute, who rents a small apartment from him.

“In the summer, he would bring underprivileged kids in and provide martial arts workshops for free,” Arnold said. “He’s just a good guy. He makes a difference in the community.”

Arnold said Sirisute, who is the father of a daughter; 20, a son; 11, and a newborn son; four months, lives modestly and saved whatever he could to put back into the business.

For the business to go up in flames, Arnold said, “This thing breaks me up just thinking about it. This isn’t right.”

It appears Sirisute’s liability insurance does not cover riots or arson.

A GoFundMe account was setup with keywords “Rebuild 10th Planet Long Beach.”

Arnold said he would donate and promote the fundraiser to others.

Arnold’s son also worked as a firefighter and served in the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

“Now my grandson was in this one,” Arnold said. “Now you’re talking three generations.”

In an email to constituents Monday, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said he joined thousands of residents in cleaning up and repairing the city.

“What began as a peaceful protest yesterday turned violent and dangerous as looters and criminals vandalized and damaged small business in our city. These agitators do not represent the vast majority of community members that were demonstrating peacefully and with purpose.

“We had no loss of life last night, no major injuries of police officers or firefighters, and only one major structure fire. Our police officers and firefighters acted heroically. I want to thank them, our agency partners, and the National Guard for their assistance.”

In a press conference Monday, Garcia referenced business owners affected, “Please know that this city stands with you, and we promise you, we will work to rebuild and ensure your business bounces back.”

During the conference, Long Beach Chief of Police Robert Luna opened up about the Floyd video.

“I can actually tell you that not only myself, but almost every member of my police department feels the same way that a lot of the peaceful protestors felt,” he said. “We were offended and appalled by what we saw on that video. We don’t want law enforcement to be represented that way.”



It's easy for Long Beach Chief of Police Robert Luna to say he was offended and appalled by what we saw on that video. Every police chief in the U.S. is diplomatically saying the same thing. The big question is what is Chief Luna going to do about police brutality and racism in Long Beach. I can name 10 things he has historically resisted. Martin Luther King Jr. said "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

In my opinion, there is a difference between enforcing the law and going too far. The protests are happening because many in law enforcement have crossed the line of enforcing the law by violating the rights of all colors of people and haven’t been held accountable. And the protests are accentuating these violations.

There is a website (below link) that communicates the volume of recent police misconduct. This website has collected over 440 cell phone videos (and counting) showing police violence upon protesters, the vast majority of it unwarranted and unnecessary, most since protests began two weeks ago. And the author of the website says he has another 1,000 videos sent to him that haven’t been opened yet.

This kind of documentation serves as a counter-narrative to repeated denials of responsibility from the police, who are routinely claiming protesters were the ones to grow violent first, or that a man who they pushed to the ground, cracking his head open, simply tripped. It also combats media coverage that downplays police violence or even goes to lengths to obscure what the police have done.

Unfortunately, with leaders in most major cities turning a blind eye to the violence enacted against protesters by the police, and with law enforcement itself deliberately obfuscating the truth, it seems that the need for this kind of footage (and the amount of it in circulation) is only going to increase. At the very least, we know that many, many people are watching.

At least ten of the videos from the above link captured police shooting out the eye of someone with their non-lethal weapons. At least one was a reporter. One person was merely watching the demonstrations when police shot out her eye from inside the police car. At least eight of the videos captured police shooting children, most from point blank range, with their non-lethal weapons. All of these incidents were captured on video over the past two weeks. You can only imagine how many incidents that weren't captured on video.

How many of those children shot by police, people blinded by police and their families, will resent Law Enforcement the rest of their lives and the lives of their children. The police are their own worse enemies. They are turning the tax paying, voting public against them.

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