From Compton to Hollywood Boulevard, protests keep growing around L.A.

Arit John, Richard Winton, Kevin Rector, Laura Newberry
The Compton Cowboys, a club of close-knit friends, joins protesters Sunday making their way along South Tamarind Avenue to Compton City Hall.  (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Thousands of protesters flooded Hollywood Boulevard Sunday night as part of a growing national movement to end police brutality and systemic racism in the United States.

The demonstration, organized by Black Lives Matter and the rapper YG, appeared to be one of L.A.'s biggest protests yet in the wake of George Floyd's death. Protesters demanded police reforms and for the Los Angeles Police Department to be defunded in favor of programs that benefit poor Angelenos.

A candlelight vigil filled part of the intersection with Highland Avenue near the Dolby Theatre. President Donald Trump’s nearby star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was defaced with graffiti.

Cesar Castillo, 30, who was born and raised in Los Angeles and still lives in the city, held a sign depicting Mayor Eric Garcetti kissing LAPD Chief Michel Moore.

Castillo said he is “frustrated” with Garcetti, who he believes “took some action but not enough action” to reform the LAPD.

Castillo said he believes Garcetti should fire Moore, who has “proven he is not the right person to take us through this moment.”

In the middle of Hollywood Boulevard, a 39-year-old white man who only wanted to give his first name, Benjamin, held a massive sign reading, simply, “DEFUND.”

“The primary function of the police is to protect and defend white property,” he said of why he believes the department’s budget should be slashed. “As a white male, I have a responsibility to speak out against this.”

Protest organizers on a bullhorn repeatedly praised the diversity of the crowd.

Love Alvarez, 23, of downtown, stood on the roof of a car at the intersection of the Hollywood and Highland, where the protest had consolidated as night fell, holding a sign that read “Black is Beautiful.”

“I needed to give out a different message today, something positive,” she said. “We are not just criminals like they make us out to be.”

Several other protests and vigils were also held Sunday in Compton, East Los Angeles, Glendale, Beverly Hills other communities across Southern California.

Straddled atop their horses, the beloved Compton Cowboys joined a spirited caravan of motorcycles and hundreds of sign-waving protesters on foot in Compton. The procession began its noon-time parade at the Gateway Towne Center and slowly wound its way through the city.

"My Color Is Not A Crime," one sign read. "A Riot is the Language of the Unheard," declared another.

Shahara Warren, 44, attended the march with her 8-year-old daughter and her troop, the Compton Girl Scouts. Warren said she was worried about bringing her daughter to a protest, but her daughter insisted.

Warren said she had been raised to be proud of who she was, and it was exciting to see her daughter's willingness to participate. "It means a lot to me to know that she's going to be going forward with the same idea of peace and helping our community," she said.

The mood of the march was upbeat, a mix of black and community pride and anger at the death of Floyd and the men and women who came before him.

As the march made its way down the residential street of Tamarind Avenue, people came out of their homes to film the march and hold up their fists in solidarity.

The Compton Cowboys, a group of close-knit friends who formed a horseback riding club in 2017 aimed at dispelling stereotypes against African-Americans, brought particular joy to the demonstration. The crowd also heard speeches from Mayor Aja Brown and NBA star Russell Westbrook, who plays for the Houston Rockets but was born in Long Beach and grew up in Hawthorne.

Paul Cannon, 48, of La Puente was visiting a friend when the march went by. He said it was a beautiful sight to see people coming out to protest.

“We go to work and pay bills just like everybody else, and all we want to do is make it,” he said. “We want the white picket fence. You laid the dream out. We didn’t ask to come here, but you brought us here.”

The march stopped at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Monument at the Compton Civic Center. The crowd held a moment of silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time that prosecutors say Floyd was pinned to the ground under the knee of Officer Derek Chauvin before he died.

The Compton march came one day after thousands of protesters participated in more than two dozen demonstrations across Southern California. There were no apparent reports of vandalism or burglary on Saturday in Los Angeles County.

Amid the many demonstrations, officials said the National Guard plans to pull out of the Los Angeles area Sunday.

The National Guard has been a visible and controversial presence in the region for the past week, guarding landmark buildings like City Hall and assisting with crowd control. A small number of units will be stationed nearby until June 10 "to provide emergency support if needed," Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement.

"I’m proud that our city has been peaceful this week — and that our residents are leading a powerful movement to make Los Angeles more just, equitable, and fair for Black Angelenos, communities of color, and all of our workers, youth, and families," Garcetti said.

National Guard troops were still seen on the streets Sunday in some locations, including in downtown and Hollywood.

Garcetti called in the Guard on May 30 after protests in the Fairfax District that ended with some burglaries and thefts by people police believe were not associated with the demonstrations.

At its peak, there were more than 1,000 Guardsmen in the L.A. area, some toting M-4 rifles. Humvees and military trucks were present in the city in a way not seen since 1994, in the days after the Northridge earthquake — and during the 1992 riots.

Bringing in the National Guard sparked criticism from Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who represents a portion of South Los Angeles. “Our fear is real that additional law enforcement will only further violence against people of color,” he said May 31.

There have been no major reports of illegal activity tied to the protests since Monday, when some businesses in Hollywood and Van Nuys were affected by looting. Stores in Long Beach, downtown L.A. and Santa Monica also experienced vandalism and stolen merchandise.

LAPD officers arrested thousands over the last week, many of them for violating curfew rules.

The decision to end the curfews Thursday came a day after the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against Los Angeles city and county and the city of San Bernardino to end the curfews, saying they were an unconstitutional violation of free expression.