During a June 7 rally in Boyle Heights, Danzantes Aztecas surround the family of Anthony Vargas, who was killed by deputies two years ago. Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.

Photos: With drums, dancers, and lowriders, Boyle Heights and East LA residents rally for Black Lives Matter

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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.

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Dozens of people gather in Boyle Heights’ Mariachi Plaza to stand in solidarity with Black lives. Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.

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. 

IMG_8923.jpgThe Eastside protest and caravan in solidarity with Black Lives Matter makes a stop at 3rd and Indiana Street in Boyle Heights to observe Aztec dancers. Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.

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!” 

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Deputies waiting in line as protestors arrive at the East LA Sheriff’s Station. Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.
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A group of young organizers and activists kneel and hold their fists in the air while facing the East LA Sheriff's station in Belvedere Park. Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.

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.” 

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Sumaya Aden, whose brother, Isak Aden, was killed by police in Minnesota last year, leads the crowd in a closing chant by Assata Shakur. Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.
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Protestors make their way down Cesar E. Chavez Avenue in Boyle Heights while chanting Breonna Taylor and George Floyd’s names. Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.
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A caravan of cars drives behind a protestor in Boyle Heights. Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.
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Danzantes Aztecas in Boyle Heights danced, drummed, and lit incense in honor of those killed by police during Sunday’s Eastside march and caravan. Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.
IMG_6103.jpgA protestor observes the Aztec dancers in Boyle Heights while holding a sign that reads “Black Lives Matter” in Spanish. Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.

IMG_6559.jpgProtestors march down Atlantic Boulevard in East LA, calling for the end of police brutality. Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.
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Many of the organizers of the East LA march were teenagers who wanted to stand up for Black lives and call for an end to police brutality. Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.
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The mother of Cesar Rodriguez addresses the crowd, demanding justice for her son. Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.
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Protestors march in East LA and call for liberation of Black queer people. Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.
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A lowrider follows protestors in solidarity with Black lives. Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.
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A caravan follows the march in East LA. Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.
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John Reed-Torres, a Black Chicano from South Central, raises his fist in solidarity during the caravan in East LA. Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.