In 2014, #JohnCrawford was killed by police inside of a Walmart store in Beaverton, Ohio. He was criminalized for holding a toy gun, that was Walmart merchandise, as he shopped. #YuvetteHenderson was gunned down by police in 2015 in the parking lot of a Home Depot in Emeryville, California, accused of shoplifting. #RedelJones, a mother of two who struggled with her mental health, was hunted and killed by LAPD after she was accused of stealing $80 from a local pharmacy in 2015. #DennisToddRogers and #AlbertRamonDorsey were both murdered inside the Los Angeles area 24-Hour Fitness locations where they were members in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Time and time again, we see White capitalism relying on state violence to protect what they see as threats to their profits at the expense of Black Lives.
Since 2014, #BlackLivesMatter has used the holiday season to highlight the relationship between White capitalism and Black death through its #BlackXmas efforts that encourage people to #BuildBlack, #BuyBlack and #BankBlack. Rooted in an abolitionist frame, the aforementioned tenets are a radical reimagining of the world. There is also an accompanying ridding of oppressive forms, in this case, White capitalism. Practically, ending White capitalism – the interlocking systems of racism and classism – begins with disruption of business-as-usual. By having a presence in spaces of White affluence, Black Lives Matter intends to compel those who have bought their way out of state violence, through White privilege and wealth, to face the pain and horror of the system that has been built to protect their status.
Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles (BLMLA) has led major #BlackXmas actions since 2014. In 2014, and 2015, there were demonstrations at The Grove. In 2016 BLMLA took over the dining room at Trump Golf Course in Rancho Palos Verdes. In 2017, there was a march in Beverly Hills. Last year there was a “Mass March for Justice,” that began at the CNN Building on Sunset Boulevard, followed by demonstrations outside 24-Hour Fitness where #AlbertRamonDorsey was killed by LAPD and then inside Walgreen’s where #SkyYoung was murdered by security. This year’s Mass March zeroed in on an epicenter of White capitalism – Hollywood & Highland, bringing nearly 1000 protestors, including many of the families of those killed by police.
With the families of #WakieshaWilson, #AnthonyVargas, #JohnHorton, #NephiArreguin, #KennethRossJr, #GrecharioMack,, #ZelalemEwnetu, #DavidJosiahLawson,, #LeeJefferson, #ChristopherDeandreMitchell, and #MeaganHockaday (all the way from Santa Barbara) present and the support of the families of #EricRivera, #KishaMichael, #AJWeber, #RyanTwyman, #ShayleneGraves, #RedelJones, #PaulRea, #JesseRomero, #JohnnyBonta, #Christian Escobedo and #DonteJordan, a crowd of Black Lives Matter activists and allies overflowed from Hollywood Franklin Park on the afternoon of Sunday, December 22nd. Young children and parents made signs, music played, and people embraced one another. The crowd was overwhelmingly Black, and people of all races joined as allies. The oldest of the marchers may have been Mr. Kei, who at over 80, carries his own convertible cane chair and insists on walking rather than being driven. Parents joined with children as young as one. There were even a few celebrity sightings and some aspiring politicians in the mix. The initial crowd of several hundred was called together by Paula Minor, a core organizer with BLMLA for the pouring of libation, followed by prayer from Pastor Cue of the Church Without Walls, and a land acknowledgment led by the American Indian Movement. After the intention of the march and an honoring of those killed by police was offered, “Baba” Akili lined folks up and the crowd took over a portion of the street as they marched three blocks to the crowded, tourist-filled plaza.
At Hollywood & Highland the massive crowd gathered, leaving security scurrying. Teams entered stores and restaurants singing justice carols, justice lyrics sung to popular Christmas tunes: “Hark the Fighting People Sing,” “Dreaming of a Black Xmas,” “Trump’s Nuts Roasting.” The crowd reassembled in the courtyard, joined by some who had initially come to shop. Three massive banners, each with a single word, were held over the balconies that read: BLACK LIVES MATTER. A speaker played “The Wobble,” “Cupid Shuffle,” and “Cha Cha Slide” as the crowd danced in celebration of the Spirits of slain loved ones.
As more than 20 LAPD moved in, the DJ switched to Janelle Monae’s “Hell You Talm Bout,” and the demonstrators marched out of the shopping center and into the intersection of Hollywood and Highland. For more than 30 minutes, people blocked traffic, held signs, chanted, and stood in their power, even as police surrounded them, threatened them with arrest, and pulled out tear gas and bean bag guns. The demonstration closed out with a gigantic human circle holding the intersection, with families of those killed and youth organizers at the center. The entire team chanted in unison the words of exiled freedom fighter Assata Shakur, “It is our duty to fight for freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and protect one another. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
Weather forecasts predicted heavy rain beginning at 5PM, but somehow it was held off until the moment the circle dispersed at 6:38PM. Black Lives Matter often invokes the power of Spirit, a practice uncommon to many contemporary radical movements. Under the chill of the winter sky, it seemed that the names chanted invoked their presence and a Divine energy that protected and powered the marchers.
The group pledged to continue their protests, their work and their commitment to #BlackXmas, a disruption of White capitalism, an honoring of the lives of those murdered by the state, and a building of Black community.