Photos: Anti-'Sanctuary City' Protester Arrested For Brandishing Gun After Cudahy City Council Meeting
An anti-"sanctuary city" protester was arrested for brandishing a gun in a gas station after a city council meeting in Cudahy on Monday night. The weapon was pointed at local activists in the parking lot of a Circle K about a block away from the park where the council meeting was held. The individual brandishing the weapon—a white male who appeared to be in his 40s—was in the driver's seat of a white Toyota Corolla at the time. There were three other members of the pro-Trump, anti-immigration group in the car at the time of the incident.
Along with a number of other small, largely Latino cities in southeast Los Angeles County, the tiny city of Cudahy has become a flashpoint in the "sanctuary city" debate. Like several of its municipal neighbors, Cudahy voted to call itself a "sanctuary city" a few years back. Despite being largely symbolic, the designation has still brought protests and ire from anti-immigration groups since it passed in 2015—and tensions have increased drastically since President Trump took office in January. The predominantly working-class, 96% Latino city of Cudahy is located about ten miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles.
Earlier this month, a self-described "American nationalist" group called American Children First announced plans to make Cudahy the initial target of a sweeping campaign to try and partially defund sanctuary cities through local ballot initiatives. Although the leaders of ACF were not present at this particular city council meeting, several other pro-Trump, anti-sanctuary city activists spoke during the public comment section of the meeting. With only about 50 spectators present and at least 20 Sheriff's deputies on the scene, Monday's council meeting was far quieter than recent Cudahy meetings. The public section of the meeting concluded relatively uneventfully a little before 8 p.m; tensions escalated drastically after the meeting, as both sides exited Clara Park, where the Cudahy city council meetings are held. The predominately local pro-sanctuary activists chanted at the outsider anti-immigration protesters to leave as the crowd moved across the street.
"We were leaving the council meeting and making our way towards this gas station. The car that the gentlemen were in pulled in and they were saying something. I approached to see what they were saying, because the whole time they were taunting us and saying a lot of smack," Jose Manuel Ramirez told LAist. "Once I approached the car, I saw the guy pull out a black handgun. He waved it around and he pointed it at some of the guys and acted like he was going to do something." Several other eyewitnesses told LAist that they saw the driver of the white Toyota Corolla point the gun at the Cudahy activists. The video below was shot by 16-year-old Cudahy resident Anthony Diaz:
A large number of Sheriff's deputies quickly surrounded the car in the Circle K parking lot as people yelled "gun" and urged others to run and duck. "The police came right away and blocked the car in the gas station," Circle K employee Rocky Reddy told LAist. In a video shot from inside the car during the brief standoff, prominent local Trump activist Harim Uzziel said that the driver had "a conceal-carry [permitted] weapon and he showed it to those guys."
"They got us surrounded, they got the guns pointed at us, they told on us that we had a gun," Uzziel tells his audience during the Facebook Live video, while Sheriff's deputies can be heard in the background demanding that the passengers in the car step out one at a time with their hands up.
At least one of the individuals in the car had spoken out against sanctuary city policies during the public comment section of the meeting, shortly before the weapon was brandished.
"We do not support sanctuary cities. Personally, I think that sanctuary cities are a nest of lawlessness," a woman named Elsa who identified herself as an immigrant from El Salvador and a member of Latinos for Trump said during the meeting. "If you're illegal, get your papers ready because Jeff Sessions is going to deport you," she continued. She could later be seen exiting the car with her arms raised.
At least four individuals appeared to be detained at the scene as they exited the car, but Sgt. Kim of the East Los Angeles Sheriff's Station told LAist that only one individual was arrested. A person who Sgt. Kim described as a "bystander not involved with the protesters" was also separately arrested for throwing a glass bottle at deputies nearby at some point.
"We saw how real shit could get," Cudahy native and activist Alan Garcia told a small group of people shortly after the incident ended. "Today, we got lucky that nothing happened. We got really lucky."
"A part of me is surprised [by what happened], but a huge part of me isn't," Silvia Merlos, an immigrant rights activist who grew up in Cudahy, told LAist. "We know that they are coming here with violent intentions. We know that they're coming armed, and that their intention from the very beginning has been to hurt our community. "
"This isn't about policy," she continued. "It's about hatred and bigotry."
Update [5:00 p.m.]: According to a statement from the Sheriff's Department released on Tuesday afternoon, the man arrested last night was 51-year-old Culver City resident Thomas Green. The Sheriff's Department also confirmed that Green was the driver of the vehicle. He was booked at East Los Angeles Sheriff’s Station and released on a Notice to Appear. The firearm was held for evidence.