Dispatch From USC Protests over Ferguson
“It began at 1st and Main,” recalled USC student Chelsea Kirk. “Many roads were blocked. Cops began barricading us at LA Live, but they let us go as long as we walked along the sidewalk. But we soon took over the streets again. Eventually every street we turned there were cops, so the leaders of the protest would tell us to run in the opposite direction.”
Kirk and a group of about six friends had joined protests that broke out as soon as the verdict in the Darren Wilson Grand Jury was announced on Monday. Los Angeles had been on edge all day with memories of the Rodney King and Watts riots surfacing.
“We were barricaded at Broadway and Temple,” Kirk said. “Everyone was told to get out of the intersection. We all scurried to the sidewalks. We were then told we were all being arrested for ‘unlawful protesting.’ I didn’t believe this. Then about 10 people went into the circle and sat down. Started singing Bob Marley. Everyone joined in, clapping hands. Not before long, I think about four cops went up to the circle and just grabbed a few of the people from behind. Then the whole group was arrested. Then they went to the corner opposite where I was and grabbed about four or five individuals and arrested them as well. There were buses. About three buses. That’s when I knew we were getting arrested.”
According to Kirk, what looked like 200 protesters were cornered on Broadway and Temple around 1 a.m. The protesters were arrested in small groups and taken to local jails in Downtown, East Los Angeles, and Van Nuys. Cal Poly Pomona student Heather DeCosta described it as “kind of just boxing us in at all four sides of the street.”
Rumors quickly started that police were aggressively clamping down on protesters. “We heard people were getting hit over by Cesar Chavez and Grand and we didn’t know if that was going to happen at Temple and Broadway,” DeCosta said “We were just complying. They weren’t saying anything. One of my friends asked a cop ‘What is my crime here?’ He said ‘I don’t know.’ They didn’t know what they were doing, and they were waiting for higher ups to tell them what to do. They were saying on the intercom, ‘You are not free to go, you are subject to arrest.’”
By 1:30 a.m., protesters began surrendering to arrest in pairs. Two buses were waiting at Temple and Broadway to take the protesters to the Metropolitan Center Jail for disturbing the peace. Kirk and DeCosta met on the same bus, which was filled mainly with 26 women from various colleges and graduate programs in the Los Angeles area. The Metropolitan Center did not have enough room to keep the 26 women overnight, so they had to drive out to Van Nuys Jail. After arriving in Van Nuys at 3:30 a.m., Kirk said protestors had been advised to be incredibly cooperative while getting “stripped, searched, patted down, and finger printed—the typical routine.”
She also recounted how several officers referred to the women as “criminals” and made statements like “you just had to go monkeying around.” After placing Kirk in a cell by herself, she says one LAPD officer “asked to give him a five star Yelp review.” Women who could afford to make bail started being released every two hours early Wednesday afternoon. Although officials at Van Nuys Jail had originally threatened to keep protesters who could not afford to make bail until Monday, the remaining six women were released by 6 p.m. on Wednesday. After talking to five of the women, they all mentioned that they were never read their Miranda rights prior to, during, or after their arrest.