About 20 people gathered outside of Long Beach City Hall Tuesday evening chattering among themselves when one amplified voice broke through the conversations.
“What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now,” Winston De Laurier, one of the leaders present at the ANSWER Coalition’s protest, cried out over his megaphone to those inside the building and people passing.
He called for the firing of chief Robert Luna, and asked police to look back into potential false convictions and end alleged cover-ups.
The crowd surrounding De Laurier was made up of members from organizations such as People of Long Beach, a local Black Lives Matter chapter and the Long Beach Reform Coalition.
The protest was fueled by what they believe to be a series of scandals surrounding the Long Beach Police Department, along with a recent report from Al Jazeera in which unnamed current and former officers claimed that the department was using self-deleting messaging app Tiger Text to conceal communications and evidence among themselves.
“[The] ANSWER Coalition called this rally in the hopes that community members and other organizations would come out to take a stand against LBPD,” Doug Kauffman, rally organizer from the ANSWER Coalition, said. “[To stand against] the recent scandal that’s made international news, that they’ve been destroying evidence from 2014 to now and willfully so.”
Kauffman said he found the city’s lack of knowledge on the subject was a sign of its ignorance and raised the question of the “legitimacy” of the city government, including elected officials.
“It’s really important that they do have better working knowledge of what they’re doing, because Long Beach police are one of the most violent and brutal in the country,” Kauffman said. “An incident report from the Metro shows that [the LBPD] has been working on the trains for only a year, and yet they account for over 72 percent of all the arrests in the entire Metro system of L.A. County.”
In addition to the Tiger Text report, family members of those who lost their lives in incidents involving the LBPD were present, including Pamela Fields, whose son Donte Jordan was murdered in an officer-involved shooting in November 2013.
“[My goal] is bringing awareness and letting them know that I have not forgotten about my son,” Fields said. “None of these other family members [have forgotten either]. I’ve been coming for five years now, whenever somebody is killed, I’m probably one of the first ones on the scene, because I know what it feels like, especially as a family and as a mother.”
Fields was also joined by another mother, Rosa Moreno, whose son allegedly lost his life at the hands of the LBPD.
“We’re here because on August 29, 2017, at the Metro station, the police threw my son in front of an oncoming train,” Moreno said. “Ever since then, my family has been devastated. He was my only son, the only son I’ve ever had.”
Moreno, whose daughter Evelia Granados helped translate, was the mother of Cesar Rodriguez, a man who was reportedly thrown in front of a Metro train by an LBPD officer last year. The officer is still employed by the city and working for the police department, according to a report from CBS News.
De Laurier and the other protesters called out for justice for the lives of various family members, shouting their names multiple times before moving to the next name.
After about an hour of protesting in front of City Hall, the group headed toward the Long Beach Police Department in Downtown Long Beach, attracting the attention of drivers who honked in response to the group’s message of exposing corruption and scandal in the department.
“We don’t get no justice, you don’t get no peace!” the group cried out in unison to the department. “Jail killer cops! Lock them up!”
The protest outside continued and attracted the attention of a few of the police officers inside. One black officer had racial and anti-police slurs shouted toward him as he headed to his car, smiling and ignoring the words said at him.
Vincent Pina, a local supporter, called out to the apartments and businesses across the street, asking them to open their eyes to the fact that their “neighbors are killers,” with one neighbor responding, “power to the people.”