With their fists raised, protesters on Saturday gave the Hollenbeck Police Station and two officers looking down from the roof the middle finger and chanted “F— the police!” – a phrase that was heard throughout the day and that became common at protests across the United States in the last year.
“We need to abolish the police. They don’t serve us!” said Sumaya Aden from the back of a stake bed truck. “We know who keeps us safe? We keep us safe!” she said, repeating the question and leading a chant.
“Say his name!” Sumaya shouted. “Isak Aden!” the crowd shouted back, the exchange repeating itself several times. In 2019, Sumaya’s older brother, Isak Aden, 23, was killed by police in Minnesota.
About 200 protesters attended the Boyle Heights International Workers’ Day march and rally organized by Centro CSO. The march started on Mathews Street and headed down Avenida César Chávez, stopped briefly at Breed Street, then went down Chicago and west on 1st Street to the LAPD Hollenbeck Station. The march ended at Mariachi Plaza where the protesters were joined by other May Day participants and Aztec Dancers who marched from L.A.s’ City Hall to participate at the Boyle Heights rally.
With pain in her voice, María Hernández told the crowd at Mariachi Plaza that a police woman killed her son on April 22, 2020 in South LA. Daniel Hernández, 38, was shot six times.
“They will always win,” Hernández said in Spanish. “They will always win because they cover up for each other.”
“Fuera toda la gente corrupta,” added Hernández, calling out corruption.
Deanne Sullivan said her 19-year-old son, David, was driving a vehicle that did not belong to him and he was “obviously in crisis” when he was pulled over in 2019. She said her son was unarmed when he was fatally shot by two Buena Park police officers.
“We need to hold them accountable! There needs to be a national registry!” Sullivan said about police officers who unnecessarily use deadly force. “They do not follow protocol. They do not follow the rules.”
Sullivan said her son could pass as white but he was Mexican. “We are the working class,” she said.
During the march, protesters stopped on Breed Street and held a moment of silence for Jesse Romero. According to a speaker, the 14-year-old had his hands up when he was killed by LAPD officers on that spot in 2016.
Family members of Anthony Vargas, 21, also spoke at the rally. Vargas was shot 14 times from behind, twice in the head, by East LA sheriff’s deputies on August 13, 2018.
“Black Lives Matters, we wanted to be here because our focus is ending state sanctioned violence in all its forms: social, political, and economic,” said BLM-LA activist Baba Akili.
Luis Sifuentes of Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO) and Centro CSO said police have too much power.
“In our organization we are fighting for community control of the police where we demand we have hiring and firing power of these crooked cops, have power over their funding which includes defunding the police. The state can no longer be trusted in holding killer cops accountable. Time and time again, these crooks let these murderers off the hook,” said Sifuentes.
Melina Abdullah of Black Lives Matter L.A. (BLM-LA) underscored the importance of solidarity and said it’s a false narrative that black and brown people are in constant conflict.
“White supremacist capitalism continues to exploit black folks and brown folks. They need us to be divided from each other so that we don’t work together to topple their [expletive]. But we aresmarter than that!” Abdullah said.
She said BLM is an abolitionist organization that seeks freedom for all. “So, on this International Workers’ Day we are saying abolish police, abolish jails, abolish prisons, abolish capitalism, abolish f—ing borders!”
In 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown forced most May Day rallies to be cancelled. The Boyle Heights event went on but was scaled down to a caravan protest. According to Carlos Montes, a Centro CSO organizer, this year’s was the sixth annual May Day rally in Boyle Heights
In 2021, Centro CSO’s May Day rally demands were legalization for all, no more deportations, prosecute “killer cops,” stop the evictions, and protect public education.
“We demand Biden introduce an immigration bill… we’ve got to pressure and push them to pass a legalization bill this year,” Montes said.
Protesters wearing face masks carried flags depicting Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, César Chávez, Martin Luther King Jr. and Che Guevara, among others. The Black Lives Matter flag was also prominent. Some signs read “Legalization for all,” “Deferred Action for the whole family,” “Working class solidarity,” and “East LA Sheriffs are cowards with badges.”
Some participants at the rally spoke against charter schools, claiming they contribute to gentrification. Also represented was the group Save Our Seniors, which held an earlier event in Boyle Heights Saturday protesting the impending closure of the Sakura intermediate care facility that caters to Japanese American elders.
While many joined in the call against the unwarranted use of force, not everyone at the rally expressed disdain towards police.
Chris Miranda, a Boyle Heights resident, brought his lowrider bike to the march but abstained from flicking off the police.
“I came to the march because my girlfriend’s brother died after an encounter with Long Beach police officer,” he said. “That’s what I hate. Like, why [use deadly force]? It’s a job, it gets to their heads and they’re stressed out, but still, lives are in their hands.”