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Hosting the LAPD’s Town Hall meeting, Commander Snell explains the events that transpired after the Trayvon Martin Trial verdict was announced. (photo by Troy Tieuel)
In the wake of the Travon Martin Trial and George Zimmerman’s acquittal, many in Los Angeles and around the country rallied together in protest and marched, spurring a criminal element to engage in negative behavior including vandalism, assaults, theft and other illegal acts. These activities have garnered the attention of the Los Angeles Police Department who sponsored a town hall meeting at Audubon Junior High School, to discuss with the media and public what they plan to do in response and to promote the proper procedure for groups to follow when planning and conducting legal rallies and marches.
The criminal element, made up of mostly non-protesting youth and adults blended in with the protesters and wreaked havoc along the Crenshaw corridor and in other parts of the city, including mass looting, or what has come to be known as “wilding” in Hollywood.
The Town Hall meeting was hosted by Captain Paul A. Snell, commanding officer of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Southwest Community Police Station, who was on the scene during the Trayvon Martin rally and marches.
“Some of the things that we are going to talk about tonight have to do with our youth,” explained Snell. “No matter what happens, they are our kids, and we are going to have to find ways to deal with them. What you are going to find, is that a lot of those people arrested are kids. Last night in Hollywood, 11 to 17 [year olds], and out of 12 people, I think, 11 of them were under 18 [years of age].”
Snell went on to explain how the youth are joining up with negative elements and getting involved in illegal activities. According to Snell, “99 percent of those people were law abiding citizens. And that select few that started this, it escalated to a point where you had other people who were coming from outside of Southwest Division Proper, and in some respects, outside of the city, just to cause problems.”
He also explained how the Police Department’s command made an on the spot decision to allow the marchers to exercise their first amendment rights and took the position to protect the marchers rather than disband them or prevent them from marching.
“We chose to maintain a posture of restraint, but we wanted to be effective and make sure we are still protecting the public when doing that. We adjusted some of our normal protocol to allow those that wanted to demonstrate to demonstrate effectively, but lawfully.”
Assisting Snell was Francisco Ortega, from LAPD’s Human Relations Commission, who conducted the question and answer segment of the Town Hall Meeting. “The LAPD comes in to provide that temporary peace that you need in your community,” said Ortega, “They are not here to provide long term peace in the community. Law enforcement does what law enforcement does. They arrest people when they have crossed those lines. And they are also there to really be of service as much as possible. What the peace part of it is, the coalition building, the heavy lifting, like we like to call it in our office, is done by you. It’s done by the mothers and the fathers and the faith givers and the business owners and the clergy.”
Also in attendance, was Councilman Gilbert Cedillo, and Councilman Curren D. Price, Jr.
Among the residents and business owners were Dulan’s on Crenshaw’s owner Gregory Dulan. Jason Lombard, community outreach director for the Crenshaw Baldwin Hills Plaza offered the plaza as a staging area for the police department. Lula Washington, owner and director of the Lula Washington Dance Company, also located in the Crenshaw corridor, made an emotional plea for changes on how the police dealt with the youth.
“We want to get more activities for the children here,” said Tori Baily of Mothers in Action. “One of the suggestions that I want to do is the community policing. I’ve done the community policing class through the Inglewood Police Department. We need more activities for our youth. I’ve been to at least 30 states. Other states, in the malls, they have bumper cars for the children, they have bungee-jumping in the mall. At our church, I’m at Holman, we have three tiers of parking. The children use our church for skateboarding. Now I’ve gotten them to write letters to the city council so that they can get a skate park. There is a lack of focus on the youth here, as far as activities. We need more places for them to be safe.”
Rev. Mark William Glory of Morningside Church offered his “Trayvon Martin Monitoring Our Community Project” as a potential rout to solving some of the city’s protest-inspired issues. “We monitored our community,” added Glory, “We worked alongside of the police department, the Crenshaw Shopping Plaza and the other business owners and constituents and stakeholders to let them know that their businesses will not be trashed, their cars will not be vandalized, and the kids will not be jumped on at the bus stop.”
For more information on the efforts of the Los Angeles Police Departments or how to properly apply for a permit to march or gather for a legal rally Captain Snell can be contacted at (213) 485-2580 or via the LAPD’s website at www.lapdonline.org.