Photos: In A Different Kind of Protest, Hundreds Clean Up South LA Streets
A demonstration of a different sort took place Friday morning in South Los Angeles. No chanting or signs in sight — just rakes, brooms and plastic bags.
More than 400 people spread out along Western Avenue between Florence and Manchester, picking up trash and cleaning graffiti as part of a protest action organized by Diamond Jones, who was born and raised in South Central.
"I felt like instead of going to clean up Fairfax and Melrose, we should be cleaning up over here where the actual police brutality, poverty and inequality is happening in the black neighborhoods," Jones said.
Jones said she hasn't participated in traditional protest marches around Los Angeles over the past 10 days, but wanted to find a way to channel Angelenos' energy and passion to give back to the local black community.
"I feel like everybody has their own place in what's going on right now, and this is my place," Jones said.
Many in attendance felt the same way, such as Stephanie Conde, who was excited to clean up the community where she was raised.
"I think it speaks louder than just going around yelling with a sign," Conde said. "This is an area nobody pays attention to, it doesn't get as much love as other communities. So, anyone wanting to do anything nice for the area I grew up in, I'm going to be down for that cause."
Some in attendance, such as Tanisha Jackson, said they'd been unable to attend other recent demonstrations because of work.
"So this is my way of protesting, to come to a community that I know and love and to help clean up, to show everybody that lives here that we matter and we love them."
Organizers chose to help beautify this particular stretch of Western Ave. because it's home to many black-owned businesses. Standing outside of his auto detail shop, Carl Croom said he was shocked to see a diverse group of young people cleaning up the neighborhood.
"It's definitely a new day," Croom said. "I'm wondering where did they all come from? It's fabulous. All the people coming together and making it clean. That's what we need on Western Avenue. It's a good neighborhood, but we gotta keep it clean. Do it more often."
As the volunteer cleanup crew moved South towards Manchester Avenue, countless passing cars issued supportive honks. Dozens more business owners and families waved from windows or opened doors to voice their appreciation.
"Very surprising," said Beverly Matthews, who runs the Los Angeles Film Kitchen along Western, a business that provides multimedia training in the community. "I asked everyone what group they were with and they said, 'We're here with L.A., volunteering.'"
Alejandra Cruz stood outside with her mother and siblings.
"We really appreciate what these guys are doing. It's helping the kids understand what was going on," Cruz said. "I'm really surprised how many people are here trying to clean the neighborhood and keep everyone safe. Everybody's looking out for each other, and that's really good."
At the end of the cleaning route, participants tossed bags of trash into the back of a garbage truck, and some purchased a meal from local black-owned food trucks. Organizers say the event raised more than $4,000, which will be donated to organizations in South L.A. and Leimert Park.
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