Summary: Los Angeles youth demonstration to abolish school police faces counterdemonstrators — Editors
In the last month alone, I have attended over 10 actions for Black Lives Matter and allied groups across Southern California. Particularly notable was a September 15 youth demonstration to abolish the Los Angeles Unified School District’s police force outside District headquarters in Downtown LA. As part of the creeping militarization and criminalization of everyday life, many US school districts have created their own specialized police forces. Beyond the intrinsic absurdity of harassing schoolchildren for schoolyard brawls as if they were adults, these police also treat children of color worse than white children.
As a result, one of the demands of the Black Lives Matter movement is to abolish the school police just as they demand the abolition of all police. They seek to transfer the money spent on school police officers to education aid. This includes social workers, nurses, and school supplies. Black Lives Matter Los Angeles Youth Vanguard led the demonstration. High school students spoke most of the time and testified eloquently about the school police’s interference in their education. Other students brought drums and made noise to capture the attention of passersby.
A crowd of over 100 people, mainly youth of color, was there. We took up the street and some comrades brought their cars. They parked the cars in the middle of the road and redirected traffic away from us. The event started off spiritually as do all Black Lives Matter actions. BLM-LA takes great care to recognize Indigenous and African traditions as part of a greater project to restore the history of oppressed peoples. Parts of the action took on a joyous bent as many rhythmic chants took place. Eventually, one of the speakers helped teach the crowd a dance to celebrate the movement.
Much of the jubilant mood was interrupted by the sudden appearance of around 15 Blue Lives Matter protesters, interestingly also mainly people of color. They came with a stream of American flags and chants that at times successfully drowned out the student speakers. Their signs bore words that varied from Bible verses to statements insinuating that abolishing the school police would help pedophiles. The Twitter account of one of the opposition organizers later said that the recent shooting of two police officers inspired them to come out. A man on a motorcycle drove by and revved his engine to signal the counterprotesters’ full appearance.
This man would later rev his engine whenever speakers would reach the crescendo of their speeches. Counterprotesters tried several times to infiltrate the crowd and take attention away from the person on the microphone. In response, a crack effort from half the crowd ensued, forming a human wall. The wall succeeded in blocking most of the opposition. However, amidst the fray of insults and cursing, the motorcycle rider revved his engine too loud and too long. An enraged young Black man threw his water bottle at a counterprotester. This sparked a huge commotion among the crowd that was eventually deescalated by BLM LA leadership. Leadership is strongly opposed to erratic and undisciplined forms of violence as this gives legal opportunity for oppression. The revving stopped after consequences for it took place.
Since many of the counterprotesters were off-duty police and representatives of the police union, they eventually called uniformed police officers to the scene. When this occurred, our organizers told us to get off the streets and onto the sidewalk to avoid police harassment. The action continued as we pledged to fight for justice irrespective of violence and interference. A speaker resolutely stated that the presence of counterprotesters proved the vitality of our movement. Judging from this and the many other protests that continue to take place persistently in Southern California, I predict that this is true. Further examples of police brutality, which I am sure will continue, will only galvanize the movement further.
Months after the Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd and inspired a hurricane of rage, the anger on US streets remains, even as the numbers of attendees have gone down. At the height of this year’s Black Lives Matter uprisings, the world saw political hacks from the Republican Mitt Romney to the Cop Democrat Kamala Harris lie by saying they supported Black Lives Matter and its aims. Many corporations, including Amazon and Google, also publicly stated their solidarity with this liberation movement as they continued their inhumane treatment of their workers, including many Black folks, other people of color and poor whites as well.
Despite the police murdering and deporting ever more people of color, the political figures and associates of the state continue to offer lip service to the masses while doing next to nothing for people of color. In California, under the sway of a one-party Democratic majority, the Democrats destroyed every single police reform bill. The Republicans and moderate Democrats lecture the most radical segments of Black Lives Matter, telling them to behave nonviolently, even as constant barrages from rightwing militias and riot police batter peaceful protesters. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, the face of the politically respectable opposition to Donald Trump, oppose police defunding and universal healthcare in a nation with the most bloated state budgets for violence in the history of humankind. They do this in the middle of a pandemic that kills Black folks and people of color at a far higher rate than white Americans.
One can expect further lies from politicians in support of Black Lives Matter while these same politicians are not supporting any of the actual goals of the movement. The cries of police defunding, prison and police abolition, an end to felon disenfranchisement, and disarmament of civilian public safety agencies in exchange for healthcare, jobs, and freedom for people of color are simply being ignored. The powerful groups in both capitalist parties send in the police to repress the people, whether the Democrats in Portland and Los Angeles, or the Republicans in Washington, D.C. and the Southern. A further radicalization is growing, especially as rightwing violence, both legal and illegal, continues. The murders by militiamen protected by the state prove this. Trump and his advisors’ declarations that they may use naked force to keep themselves in power irrespective of official election results in November also brings further credence of this. Given a left that is skeptical of both the Democrats and Republicans and is exhausted from being taken for granted by the so-called progressives in the Democratic party, Black Lives Matter and other Afro-Socialists have a grand opportunity to lead the country in a humanist direction.