On Tuesday, Democratic presidential hopeful Julian Castro joined Black Lives Matter activists in front of LAPD headquarters to raise awareness about the police shooting of 30-year-old Grechario Mack, who was killed in April 2018.
Mack was running with a kitchen knife through the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall when police responded to reports of a man in a mental health crisis. The civilian-run police commission found the officers violated policy when they shot him while he was on the ground.
Black Lives Matter activists -- and now Castro -- are calling for the officers to be fired.
“I'm here to join the family of Grechario Mack [and] Black Lives Matter Los Angeles … to call for Sergeant Ryan Lee and Officer Martin Robles to be terminated for their violation of LAPD policy that caused the loss of life in this case,” said Castro.
Democratic presidential candidates have been all over LA this year, stumping for our votes on Super Tuesday. They’ve eaten tacos, appeared at Hollywood fundraisers, and talked to entrepreneurs and striking workers.
Black Lives Matter co-founder Melina Abdullah said she invited several Democratic presidential candidates to participate in local events to end police violence, and she had good conversations with their campaign staff. But Castro was the only one who showed up.
“We appreciate you for being here in a genuine and authentic way. And we pray that your presence here is a challenge to everybody else to use this moment to say that we have to do the work of justice, regardless of the outcome of elections,” Abdullah said of Castro at the Tuesday event.
BLM-LA does not endorse candidates, but Abdullah said she believes the federal government has a role in securing justice for communities facing police brutality.
Castro agreed. During the October presidential debate, he received a lot of attention after he highlighted the police shooting of Tatianna Jefferson, who was killed in her home in Texas. “Police violence is gun violence,” Castro said.
Abdullah said Castro has stood out from other candidates because he directly and authentically calls out violence from police officers.
“[Castro] called the name Tatiana Jefferson. He called the name Laquan McDonald. He called the name Mike Brown from the debate stage. We haven't heard any other candidate do that,” said Abdullah.
She added, “It's not just a matter of him kind of trying to win some additional support. I think that this is something that we've seen in the campaign from the beginning, although many of us weren't paying attention.”
During the event, Castro pointed out that the federal government should hold police departments accountable by insisting that use-of-force policies be reformed, and creating a database of officers who’ve been fired for deadly shootings.
Abdullah emphasized that ending police brutality requires more than reforming police departments. “It's important that when we think about holding police accountable, that the emphasis is on accountability, not additional investment in police,” said Abdullah, who wants cities to spend less money on police forces and more money on rebuilding communities.
Abdullah added, “Police are not the best responders to people with mental health crises. We need mental health resources. We need youth workers. We need after-school programs. We need housing. We don't need more police.”
Abdullah is open to having this conversation with other candidates too. She has talked with the campaign staff of Bernie Sanders, who’s planning to visit L.A. next week. She hopes he will come to an event by Black Lives Matter while he is in town.
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