The Los Angeles Police Department has yet to address its officers’ altercation with demonstrators at a tenant-led protest that marched through Boyle Heights Sunday.
Several protesters were injured and three were taken to the hospital according to a Union de Vecinos press release. One LAPD officer is reported to have also sustained injuries, the extent of which remains unknown.
Police did not respond to several requests from Boyle Heights Beat, for information regarding the clash or the extent of the officer’s injuries.
The march was organized to protest a proposed rent hike by The LA Housing Department that would bump the annual rent increase for rent stabilized units in Los Angeles to nearly 9%, almost triple to what the allowed increase was before the pandemic.
The event was led by Union de Vecinos, the Eastside local of the Los Angeles Tenants Union, and began at Hollenbeck Park Sunday morning. As the group marched up Chicago and onto 1st Street, Leonardo Vilchis-Zarate, a volunteer organizer for the tenant’s union, said the air around Hollenbeck was energizing and exciting.
“It was the largest march of Union de Vecinos and somebody got a count of at least 500 people there,” Vilchis-Zarate said.
Vilchis-Zarate said that the group had an assigned security team wearing high-visibility uniforms to keep protesters in line and not impede sidewalk or street traffic.
“They were making sure people didn’t veer away and kept people focused and oriented on the goals of our march, which was to present our demands and make ourselves visible to the public,” Vilchis-Zarate added.
But when the crowd of mostly Latino families, including elders and children, arrived at the intersection between Boyle Heights City Hall and LAPD’s Hollenbeck Station, the climate shifted.
“Somebody was like rallying the crowd and then preparing to give these testimonies and then all of a sudden, from one shot to the next, there was no warning, no order to disperse. No warning at all,” Vilchis-Zarate said. “And there was this big, big skirmish.”
Vilchis-Zarate said he turned and immediately saw groups of people being pushed and falling onto the street. He tried to separate officers and protestors and direct the march back onto the sidewalk.
“I saw police officers with their batons and they were prodding people and pushing them up with the long end, but also just the short end, pushing people with it,” he said. “So I know that they got hit in the chest and in the stomach and in the arms.”
Vilchis-Zarate said he saw people leaving bruised and bloody and recalled seeing a woman with blood coming from her ears and nose rushed to an emergency room for concussion evaluation. But for those who were able, he encouraged them to stay and complete the march.
“This isn’t going to stop us, we’re going to keep going,” Vilchis-Zarate said he thought to himself. “We can’t be drawn in by the police’s antagonisms. This is important and that’s why we have to keep marching.”
Those who could recomposed their composure and continued the march up to Cesar Chavez and even arranged a short performance on the sidewalk before marching back to Hollenbeck.
“Our march was peaceful from the beginning,” Vilchis-Zarate said. “We had no intention of getting into conflict with anybody. Like we said, children, elderly adults and women were the main people there. Our back was to the police department. We had a security line that was keeping people from going past where the police allowed us to be. And all of a sudden we just got hit from behind. It was really bizarre.”