A crowd of about 200 demonstrators descended peacefully but boisterously on the LAPD’s Rampart police station to protest an officer’s fatal shooting of a Guatemalan immigrant two weeks ago.
As a small group of bicycle patrol officers watched on 6th Street in the predominantly Central American and Mexican immigrant Westlake neighborhood, activists led chants on bullhorns of “assassins.”
Manuel Jamines was shot and killed two weeks ago after police said he advanced on officers with a knife. Residents and the LAPD agree that Jamines was intoxicated at the time of the shooting, but there is disagreement over whether he had a knife or whether he represented an imminent threat to the officers. The LAPD has said that Jamines had drunkenly threatened people before the fatal encounter.
As he stood on the corner of 6th Street and Union Avenue, just yards from where Jamines was killed Sept. 5 at about 10:30 a.m., LAPD Commander Blake Chow said he expected the rally to remain calm and organized.
“It’s a lot quieter than it was in the beginning,” he said. “The vibe today is of a group that’s really organized and respectful.”
The demonstration was part police brutality screed and immigrant rights rally. Many of the organizers, young and old, were veterans of immigrant rights rallies. A few protesters denounced capitalism while wearing caps and shirts with the sickle and hammer, Che Guevara and other revolutionary symbols.
But others were residents of the neighborhood who said they had no larger agenda beyond showing support for a man they said did not deserve to be shot to death.
A woman who spoke to the local NBC affiliate, however, while generally supportive of the police, said the officer who the LAPD says pulled the trigger — 13-year veteran of the force Frank Hernandez — has a poor reputation within the Hispanic community, an observation echoed by others. “He’s always grouchy,” she told the station in Spanish, “just not a nice person.”
The Los Angeles Police Protective League, meanwhile, which represents more than 9,000 LAPD officers, says protests over the shooting incident are much ado about nothing. “Various community ‘activists,’ including the Revolutionary Communist Party, are attempting to gin this shooting up into a controversy, agitating a small handful of others to conduct ‘protests’ of this shooting,” declares a blog post on the group’s website. “The pathetic attempt to excuse the armed advance on the responding officers by claiming the man ‘did not speak English’ only highlights the inanity of the ‘protest.'”