Dozens of supporters gathered in Venice on Monday night to protest the weekend arrest of a 20-year-old skateboarder, who claims LAPD officers used unnecessary force against him which resulted in a concussion and fractures in his nose and cheekbone.
Update, Aug. 21: Arrested Skateboarder Hires Trayvon Martin's Lawyer
Chanting "No justice, no peace," and "Crooked cops gotta go," some protesters carried skateboards while others held signs denouncing what they called police brutality and racial profiling.
"You could be the next vicim," said one demonstrator. "You're not safe in your own neighborhood."
LAPD has launched an internal investigation into the arrest of Ronald Weekley Jr., who is going into his sophomore year at Xavier University in New Orleans. Weekley says he was riding his skateboard in front of his home near Sunset Boulevard and 6th Street on Saturday afternoon when he was tackled and pinned down by LAPD officers.
The tussle was caught on cellphone video, which shows at least four officers on top of Weekley, one of whom lands what appears to be a punch on the student’s face.
"It was hard to hear him calling out for us while getting hit in the face and no one was here to help him," said Cheyenne Weekley, Ronald’s sister. "He was pummeled by the police."
LAPD officials say Weekley was riding his skateboard on the wrong side of the road.
"He was approached because the officers wanted to discuss his traffic violation with him," said Cmdr. Andrew Smith with LAPD.
"I’m not sure if they wanted to warn him verbally or cite him for that traffic violation, but our officers write hundreds of traffic violations, citations every day in the city of Los Angeles. This was just another one of them."
The 20 year old was arrested on suspicion of interfering and for three unrelated outstanding misdemeanor warrants, police said.
LAPD would not comment on the video and asked the public to reserve judgement until an investigation is complete. The Chief of Police, the LAPD Independent Inspector General, the Police Commission and the LAPD Internal Affairs Division are all handling the case, Smith said.
A crowd witnessed the confrontation. A woman can be heard on the video telling the officers to "step back." She seems to reference a recent spate of fatal police shootings in Anaheim that sparked weeks of violent protests in that city.
"I know this ain’t Orange County, but, you know, we’re just trying to make sure you don’t kill him," the woman said.
The responding officers are part of a special LAPD violent crime taskforce that patrols Venice on the weekends, in part because of high instances of burglaries in the area and the increased traffic to the popular tourist spot, officials said.
Weekley’s sister gives LAPD credit for reducing crime in the area, but says the incident with her brother has changed her perception.
"Things have gotten better," she said. "They’ve gotten people off the streets that need to be off the streets but, like I said, what they did on Saturday to my brother was a step back.
"At this point now, do you trust the police, or are you afraid that they’re going to attack you whenever they feel need to?"
Weekley was home from the hospital and jail on Monday night, consulting with lawyers and contemplating a court date in about three weeks.