Mayor Garcetti Calls For 'Safety of Demonstrators And Police Officers' After Chaotic Protest Outside His Home
Los Angeles police response to a Sunday protest outside the official residence of Mayor Eric Garcetti drew accusations of excessive force from politicians and activists, after officers arrested one individual and were seen on video using batons to strike others.
Three days after KPCC/LAist requested comment from the mayor's office, his spokesperson Alex Comisar e-mailed a written statement on Wednesday:
"Mayor Garcetti appreciates those expressing their free speech rights and the difficult job that police officers have to do every day. We hope that the situation will deescalate because the safety of demonstrators and police officers is of the utmost importance."
The response from the mayor's office fell flat with Jamie Penn, a street medic who was arrested Sunday after she said she attempted to help a protester who had been knocked to the ground.
"It's just more performance from Garcetti," said Penn, who is critical of the mayor's governance on policing and homelessness. "It's what we've come to know, what we've come to expect."
Garcetti's residence has been the site of daily morning protests in recent weeks by activists drawing attention to his record as mayor in a bid to derail any possible role in the Biden administration. Trump supporters upset over stay-at-home orders have also been demonstrating there at night.
In a follow-up phone call with KPCC/LAist, Comisar was asked for more detail about the mayor's reaction to the frequent protests outside his Windsor Square residence, known as the Getty House. Comisar referred to the e-mailed statement, which had been published previously by other outlets. He confirmed that the mayor and his family continue to reside at the Getty House.
The chaotic scene unraveled Sunday morning outside the Getty House after police attempted to arrest a protester for using a bullhorn in violation of a city noise ordinance.
Here's a close up of when the police move in. As they start to push, people fall down. As they fall, batons begin to swing. https://t.co/HPIoC5odum— Cerise Castle (@cerisecastle) December 6, 2020
The protester had been part of a group that had been gathering outside the Getty House since late November in hopes of blocking Garcetti, a loyal Biden supporter, from a cabinet appointment.
Video from Sunday showed officers in riot helmets lining up on the sidewalk outside the mayor's residence, then striding across the street to the crowd.
LAPD said in its statement Sunday that officers used their batons to keep protesters from helping the individual with the bullhorn evade arrest, but that the "suspect ultimately got away."
Officers instead arrested Penn for "forcefully attempting to remove the suspect from Police custody," LAPD said.
Penn said she had been arrested while trying to help an older protester, Baba Akili, who had fallen to the ground in the scuffle that ensued after officers came toward the crowd. Akili is with the LA chapter of Black Lives Matters, which has been a lead organizer of #BlockGarcetti protests.
Penn, who said she was providing medic services and guiding traffic at the protest, said she ran over to keep Akili from being trampled.
LAPD described a crowd that had "moved in on the officers, punching, pushing and kicking," leading to an "officer needs help" call, and declaration of an unlawful assembly.
Protesters challenged LAPD's account, pointing to footage posted to social media showing officers using batons on people, even those standing on the sidelines. These included a man who was helping another person get up, and a legal observer with the National Lawyers Guild who had been filming the event and had her back turned when she was struck.
Within hours politicians began to respond on social media, including Congressmember Jimmy Gomez, Councilmember Mike Bonin and Councilmember-elect Nithya Raman and state Assemblymembers Wendy Carrillo and Miguel Santiago.
Santiago (D-Los Angeles) was the first to respond:
LAPD's brutal actions this morning are unacceptable and must be denounced by everyone. I stand w/ you in denouncing police brutality demanding the immediate release of Jamie! #FREEJAMIE https://t.co/JUOXRkrdfc— Miguel Santiago (@SantiagoAD53) December 6, 2020
Penn, a representative for the Wilshire Center Koreatown Neighborhood Council, was released on her own recognizance after about five hours in custody, during which she said police joked about her gender identity as a trans woman. Carrillo (D-Los Angeles) stressed her concern of Penn's treatment by police:
With regards to events at the Mayor's house this afternoon: pic.twitter.com/JGrXw71qei— Wendy Carrillo (@AsmCarrillo) December 7, 2020
The daily protests that have taken place outside the Getty House since Sunday have been comparatively uneventful. Video footage shows a reduced LAPD presence by the residence.
Spell, the LAPD captain, wrote Wednesday that "the department has continued to maintain adequate resources available to address any concerns that may arise. There have been no issues since Sunday."
LAPD said one officer suffered a head injury on Sunday. Asked about the officer's condition, Spell would only divulge that the officer was treated for the injury, citing federal regulations protecting medical privacy.
Penn is currently sitting out protests out of concern she may have been exposed to COVID-19 while in jail. She said she is evaluating legal options and is in contact with other Angelenos who say their rights have been violated at protests.
This story has been updated.
WE LOVE TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTIONS