Marchers Demonstrate Against Police Brutality

Carrying cardboard coffins representing the more than 615 people they say have been killed by police in LA County since 2000, marchers Tuesday called attention to police shootings and police brutality.

Members of the Youth Justice Coalition and United Families for Justice led marches — titled "Remember Me, Death By Cop" for the hundreds killed by law enforcement officers in 2000 — in four locations, converging in front of the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration.

The United Families For Justice is a collective of family members and others from Southern California who have lost loved ones in police shootings.

The group has been meeting since the winter in response to the high-profile killings of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and Ezell Ford.

"I'm here today just to stand in solidarity with 615+ lives that have fallen ... at the hands of law enforcement," said Jose Gallegos, as he carried a cardboard coffin.

Tanisha Denard echoed the sentiments.

"Officers need to get held accountable," she said.

Community organizers, frustrated by a lack of official data, provided a name-by-name listing of 617 people killed by law enforcement in Los Angeles County since Jan. 1, 2000, a number later confirmed by the District Attorney's Office.

More than 200 community advocates, many of them carrying cardboard signs in the shape of cemetery headstones with the names of people killed in officer-involved shootings, marched downtown and assembled outside the Hall of Administration, where the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors was holding its weekly meeting.

Lying down in the middle of Temple Street, which was blocked off by police officers, the protesters, who represented a coalition of youth-led groups, called for demilitarization of law enforcement, stronger oversight and investigation of police misconduct at every level of government, and more funding for youth jobs and community centers.

In addition to a list of detailed demands, the organizers handed out a name-by-name listing of the individuals they said had been killed by sheriff's deputies or one of the dozens of police agencies in the county.

Based on the coalition's analysis, 342 people killed in deputy- or officer-involved shootings between 2007-2014 ranged in age from 17 to 80 years old and 28 percent were black, though black residents comprise just over 9 percent of the county's population, according to the latest available census data.

Fifty-four percent of those killed were Latino, according to the protest organizers, while roughly 48 percent of county residents are Latino.

The coalition -- organizing as S.T.O.P. Police Violence -- called on the 57 law enforcement agencies in the county to release data on stop-and-frisk contacts, arrests and use of force and said the state should appoint a special prosecutor to investigate law enforcement use of force.

"It is unrealistic that county prosecutors, who must build all their cases with the close cooperation of law enforcement, will ever have the independence, intent or power to prosecute officer wrongdoing," the group said in a statement.

District Attorney Jackie Lacey opposes the appointment of independent counsel to review officer-involved shootings, saying that policies protect the integrity of investigations by her office.

"Specially trained prosecutors and investigators review all allegations of police misconduct in accordance with the law,'' DA spokeswoman Jane Robison said. "They roll out to all officer-involved shootings to ensure that the inquiry is conducted in a fair and professional manner."

Robison pointed to the successful prosecution of former LAPD officer Ronald Orosco, who was sentenced to five years in prison in 2001 for shooting an unarmed motorist.

The youth coalition also has ideas about what the pending Civilian Oversight Commission for the Sheriff's Department should look like, saying the group should have subpoena power and not include any law enforcement representatives, among other demands.

The first of a series of town halls to discuss the formation of that commission is scheduled for Thursday at a Florence-Firestone community center. The town halls are designed to gather feedback on the organization's mission, size, structure and authority.

"We just want to hear from people in the community," said Dean Hansell, an attorney and chair of a working group charged with setting up the commission.

The working group, which also includes Inspector General Max Huntsman and a representative from the Sheriff's Department, expects to report back to the Board of Supervisors in June with a draft ordinance governing the commission's work.

Hansell said the team was also hoping to strengthen the ordinance establishing the Office of Inspector General by creating an agreement between the OIG, the Sheriff's Department and the commission on investigations, as well as setting up subpoena power for the OIG.

The protesters departed Temple Street after more than two hours of speeches and chanting, but they left a message behind.

More than 100 cardboard "gravestones" bearing the names and some details of those shot by police or sheriff's deputies remained on the steps and littering the lawn into the late afternoon.

"It matters when you see their names. It matters when you know someone who was shot," one of the protesters shouted to sheriff's deputies monitoring the crowd from inside the building.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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