“Why is protest necessary for putting blatant murderers in prison?” read the sign behind local experimental punk-rock band WACKO as they performed for community members at an anti-police brutality protest organized by the local chapter of Black Lives Matter at Harvey Milk Park in downtown Long Beach on Friday, June 5.
Many people across the nation have asked the same question, as charges were filed against all four officers involved in the May 25 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota after 8 days of protests in all 50 states.
Floyd’s death was the latest high-profile killing in a long series of unarmed black Americans slain by both police and white vigilantes.
Charges have still not been filed against the three officers who shot Breonna Taylor, an unarmed black woman, to death in her own home on March 13 in Louisville, Kentucky after entering on the basis of a no-knock warrant to search for drugs that were never found. The downtown protest on June 5 coincided with what would’ve been Taylor’s 27th birthday.
Porter Gilbert, member of the Long Beach Citizen Police Complaint Commission, spoke to the crowd about the lack of accountability for police officers in Long Beach.
“The commission is a farce,” Gilbert said. “I have been on this commission for a year, I have been taking very detailed notes for a day like today so I can tell you what a farce and what a joke it is. There is no accountability for the police in Long Beach.”
Gilbert explained that the Long Beach Citizen Police Complaint Commission is not an oversight body, and was only able to make recommendations on LBPD cases of police violence and police brutality presented to them, but have no power to enforce their recommendations and are never told the outcomes of individual cases. Evidence is often withheld from commissioners and commissioners often dismiss cases, in open session, that they have not reviewed, according to Gilbert.
“Although required by the by laws, the commission has not submitted an annual report to the city council or mayor since 2015. The commission is a farce. I am a commissioner.”
Along with signs that bore the images and names of black victims who have received nationwide media coverage were those of locals that have been killed by LBPD, including Donte Jordan, Lionel Gibson and Feras Morad.
In all three local cases the LBPD officers involved did not face disciplinary measures after an investigation.
Donte Jordan was followed by police on Nov. 10, 2013 after two officers believed he matched a description of a shooter that was given to LBPD. Long Beach Police Officers Robert Cruz and Raymond Panek claimed Jordan had “items” in both his hands at the time of the shooting, and instead of stopping when ordered to, he questioned the officers about why they were confronting him, according to the Justice System Integrity Division’s memorandum on the investigation.
At the time of Jordan’s fatal shooting he was holding a black smartphone the officers claimed they mistook for a gun. Cruz and Panek both shot at Jordan multiple times, two of them hitting him from behind, one of them striking the front of his chest and one striking his arm from an undetermined location.
The investigation memorandum states that a gun was found 55 feet away from where Jordan was fatally shot. Cruz claimed he had seen Jordan drop the black .25 caliber Beretta Jetfire handgun on the sidewalk earlier, but thought it was a cellphone.
Jordan’s mother, Pamela Fields, spoke at the June 5 protest. She is also the aunt of Dante Parker, who was tased to death by Victorville police, and Derrick Hunt who was killed in an officer-involved shooting by LBPD.
“Thank you all for coming out and standing in solidarity with us,” Fields said to the crowd.
The crowd cheered and began to chant Jordan’s name.
Among the many other names besides “Donte Jordan” chanted in Harvey Milk Park by protestors before they began marching were “Feras Morad” and “Lionel Gibson.”
Morad was killed less than two years after Jordan on May 27, 2015. He was a CSULB student who was practicing for debate team with two friends in a second story apartment when he began to feel and act strangely and erratically. While the two people he was with tried to restrain him, they eventually asked a neighbor to call 911 after they were unable to prevent Morad from jumping out the second story window and seriously lacerating his arm.
According to the memorandum statement of one of his friends who witnessed the beginning of the altercation between LBPD Officer Matthew Hernandez and Morad, the 20-year-old “appeared confused and incoherent. It seemed as though Morad did not realize Hernandez was a police officer and did not notice his surroundings.”
Hernandez continued to give Morad verbal commands which he did not seem able to understand and tased Morad twice, tried to wrestle him to the ground and struck him with a flashlight before inflicting six fatal gunshot wounds. After shooting Morad, Hernandez handcuffed Morad before the Long Beach Fire Department rendered emergency care. LBFD had already informed LBPD that Morad was not armed prior to Hernandez being dispatched.
The statement taken from LBFD Captain Robert Grego says that Grego told Hernandez to let LBFD subdue Morad, but Hernandez did not respond to him.
Grego’s statement and the statements of other firefighters present at the time indicate that Morad was not attacking Hernandez, but seemed confused and dazed.
“Morad was not being violent or aggressive, but was not following directions,” Grego’s statement in the JSID memorandum reads, “Hernandez kept telling Morad to get on the ground. Morad got on the ground, but got right back up. Grego was ‘shocked’ when Hernandez drew his firearm, as Morad was ‘just standing there.'”
Grego and Morad’s two friends yelled at Hernandez not to shoot.
According to the JSID memorandum, Hernandez arrived on scene at 7:34pm and discharged his firearm at Morad at 7:37pm.
Hernandez said he feared for his and others’ safety when confronting Morad, which is why he used lethal force. The JSID investigation found that there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hernandez committed manslaughter.
Lionel Gibson died less than a year after Morad, when six LBPD officers opened fire and shot him 13 times after they claimed he reached for what turned out to be a fake gun, on May 7, 2016.
The Justice System Integrity Division’s (JSID) report about Gibson’s shooting has some inconsistencies between different officers’ explanations of orders they gave when they first arrived on scene.
According to Officer Brammer’s statements to JSID, he instructed Gibson and an acquaintance he was with at the time to lie on their stomachs with their arms stretched out. Brammer’s statement states, “both men failed to follow his instructions and instead sat on the cement facing the officers with their hands in the air.”
However, officer Rios’ statement reads “Rios and Brammer ordered Gibson and German G. (Gibson’s acquaintance) to sit on the cement with their arms raised above their heads.”
According to officer Barajas’ JSID statement, “German G. (Gibson’s acquaintance) was laying on his back with his arms extended. Gibson was seated on his buttocks with his arms extended above his head.”
Certain witnesses listed in the JSID investigation corroborated LBPD’s statement that shots were initially fired after Gibson began to lower his hands. However, after the initial volley of shots there are variations in how Gibson’s movements are described. After the officers’ initial shots to Gibson’s torso, Brammer’s statement says that Gibson “continued to reach for the grip of the weapon,” throughout the shooting. Brammer describes Gibson reaching for the weapon four times as he was being shot 13 times, while some witnesses instead describe him as being slumped over with his hands in his lap after the first shots by officers hit him.
The March to Garcia’s residence
From Harvey Milk Park the protestors marched down 3rd Street towards Pine Avenue, where they then turned right and continued walking up Pine, eventually turning right on 8th Street. The crowd congregated in front of the Temple Lofts LLC condominium complex on Locust Avenue, where Mayor Robert Garcia was believed to be residing. The amount of protesters was so big that the crowd wrapped around almost the entire block of his believed residency. Many residents came out to their balconies to record what was happening in the street. One woman yelled down to protestors “I love you,” which many yelled back. Garcia did not make an appearance during the protest.
The police presence near the Friday, June 5 protest was a stark contrast to the Sunday, May 31 protest which also took place in downtown Long Beach. LBPD officers did not make any attempt to disperse or stop demonstrators from marching.
National Guard troops lined storefronts at some downtown corners, but did not instigate or obstruct the crowd.
The protestors continued marching throughout downtown, including to the Villa Riviera, before ending at the George Deukmejian Courthouse where they sang “Happy Birthday” to Breonna Taylor on what would have been her 27th birthday,