On June 7, dozens of people gathered around Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights for a march in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and those killed by police.
The march, which was organized by local youth activists with support from community groups like Centro CSO, included a caravan that was strategically planned as a way to provide a protective barrier for protestors.
The organizers, who were between ages 16 and 18, spoke about the importance of Black and brown unity.
Lukas Tekolotl beat his drum while singing a song to honor the Tongva, who are Native Americans in Southern California. Tekolotl is no stranger to violence at the hands of state agents. His brother was killed by a sheriff’s deputy in 2019.
As the crowd marched down 1st street, onto Chicago Street, and through Cesar Chavez Boulevard, cars followed suit, honking and waving signs.
Natalie Carrillo beat her drum and led chants for Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. “We need a heartbeat, a rhythm to the march,” she explained.
At 3rd and Indiana Street, the crowd made a circle around a group of Danzantes Aztecas as they danced, drummed, and lit copal incense in honor of those killed by police.
Lisa Vargas, who lost her son Anthony after LA Sheriff’s deputies shot him in the back 13 times, addressed the crowd. “They cannot give me back my child, they cannot give me back my heart, they cannot give me back my future,” she said. “But I can give the community something, and that’s the promise that I will continue to fight.”
In East LA’s Atlantic Park, another contingent of the protest congregated. Organizers from Centro CSO, who were mostly between ages 16 and 18, spoke about the importance of Black and brown unity. “I’’m a queer Chicana, and if a Black woman didn’t stand up for me during the Stonewall riots, I would not have rights, so who am I not to stand up for my Black brothers and sisters?” said Samantha Barrientos, a 17-year-old organizer and East LA native.
The group then marched to the East Los Angeles Sheriff’s station, where a line of deputies stood guarding the station in riot gear, some carrying semi-automatic rifles. The families of five people killed by state agents stood in the front, including Lisa, the mother of Eric Rivera. She faced the deputies and exclaimed, “I might be alive, but I’m suffocating!”
Then Sumaya Aden, whose brother was killed by police in Minneapolis last year, delivered the news of the Minneapolis City Council’s vote to disband the police. The crowd cheered. She emphasized that this could be done in Los Angeles too.
As the protest wrapped up, Aden took to the megaphone, the Belvedere Park lake glittering behind her as she led the crowd in an Assata Shakur chant: “It is our duty to fight for freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and support one another. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”