Dozens gather at Hall of Justice in LA Monday, call on district attorney to investigate police brutality

About 50 demonstrators gathered Monday in front of the Hall of Justice in Los Angeles to call upon District Attorney George Gascon to investigate police killings dating as far back as 2012, something he promised in December.

people hold signs in front of a building in Los Angeles
Supporters for the Coalition of Community Control Over Police gather in Los Angeles Monday to call on District Attorney George Gascon to follow through with promises he made to the community. Photo credit: Andrea Ramos

Organized by the Coalition for Community Control Over Police, the “Lean on Gascon” protest came just a few days before a judge reinstated a third-degree murder change against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the killing of George Floyd.

demonstrators gather in front of a building, some holding signs and flowers
Cliff Smith, an organizer with the Coalition of Community Control Over Police, speaks at the “Lean On Gascon” event, pressuring District Attorney George Gascon to prosecute officers involved in police killings. Photo credit: Andrea Ramos

Members of “Say Their Names LA,” the National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles and “UNITE HERE Local 11” were in attendance, offering support and services including representation for active cases.

Several mothers of individuals who have lost their lives due to police violence spoke during the event, which occurred on International Women’s Day. One mother, Valerie Rivera, traveled by bus from San Bernardino to share the story of her son, Eric, who was shot in 2017 by a Los Angeles Police Department officer.

a sign that reads "Prosecute killer cops" is held in front of a building
During a demonstration in Los Angeles Monday, the Coalition for Community Control Over Police offers support for families who have lost loved ones due to police negligence. Photo credit: Andrea Ramos

“He was shot 17 times, and then they ran over him by mistake,” Rivera said. “So justice would be for my son to be alive. Justice would be for all of our loved ones to be alive.”

Many participants voiced their concerns with Gascon’s failure to follow through with his promise of looking into cases relating to police brutality, which he vowed to do when he replaced former DA Jackie Lacey. After three months, Gascon has yet to fulfill his pledge to review over 600 police shootings dating back to 2012 for prosecutions, according to members of the coalition.

CCCOP, which was formed after the killing of 13-year-old Devin Brown by an LAPD officer in 2005, has helped to provide support for impacted families and put pressure on elected officials to look into these cases. However, for organizers Keyanna Celina and Cliff Smith, their fight for justice has been going on since the early 1990s.

people stand, hugging, while holding signs
Demonstrators hug as families share stories of their loved ones’ experiences with police brutality. Photo credit: Andrea Ramos

“We have a lot of families out here, and it doesn’t stop. If [Gascon] is sitting in that seat, he better be making those charges,” Celina said. “He’s an elected official now, he doesn’t get to be police chief too.”

Celina called attention to the Qualified Immunity legislation implemented in 1983, which she believes is a “free pass” for officers and needs to be revised. The doctrine was originally set in place to protect government officials from being held personally responsible for breaking the law.

Qualified Immunity was most recently called into question in the case of Breonna Taylor, in which murder charges against the offending officer were dismissed and lowered to Wanton Endangerment for firing shots recklessly into neighboring homes.

For many families present at the event, the doctrine means that members of law enforcement aren’t held accountable for their actions.

“These are cowards in uniform getting away with murder,” Rivera said.

Lisa Simpson, who lost her son Richard Risher in 2016, said she believes the fight will not stop until the the police system is abolished. At the event, Simpson was wearing a shirt that included images of her son and the number 637, which represents the number of individuals who have died in California since 2013 as a result of police violence.

a woman stands in protest, raising her arm
Lisa Simpson, whose son was killed by the LAPD, poses in front of the Hall of Justice in Los Angeles, donning a shirt with pictures of victims of police violence. Photo credit: Andrea Ramos

“It’s sad that this club, that I don’t want to be in, just keeps growing,” Simpson said, referring to the increasing number of deaths caused by police. “We have to keep coming down here to change the system while they’re sitting up there getting their nails clipped.”

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