Looters do not reflect the main goal of the protests. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
Fairfax Senior High School

Column: The protests are awesome, the crime is not

Today is May 30, a Saturday, and I am currently writing this piece at 11 p.m. as I hear helicopters flying by, sirens and explosions. Today’s piece is something that I, as a minority who is very politically active, but also as a resident of Los Angeles would love to say: The mostly peaceful protesting is awesome, however, the looting, arson, violence and vandalism are not.

Today many of my friends, classmates and fellow Los Angeles residents participated in a protest against police brutality and racism, and in honor of George Floyd, a man who was killed by a policeman as he pushed his knee into his throat as he gasped for his last breaths of air until no more came. His three fellow officers stood idly by and let this horrendous event occur as onlookers and residents looked in horror and pleaded to the officers.

The protests at first were largely peaceful and a demonstration of a powerful movement especially of the younger generation. Thousands upon thousands descended upon Pan Pacific Park and marched in solidarity on Third Street and into the Fairfax District.

A skateboarder falls as a result of a small fire burning on 3rd Street in Los Angeles. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

However, what soon ensued became a night of terror for residents, businesses, business owners, employees and the police force.

A significant number of individuals started to riot and cause problems. Video footage from local news stations aired live people burning trash cans, lighting cop cars on fire, destroying businesses, looting merchandise and other crimes. Now it is important to not associate the protesters who were exercising their first amendment rights with the criminals who were using George Floyd’s name to commit a crime.

This frenzy soon turned worse as these criminals ravaged the city of Los Angeles from the afternoon until well into the night. Fires broke out all throughout the city, local shops destroyed, merchandise stolen and criminals ran through the streets. It was like a scene from a movie such as “The Purge,” which detailed a night in America where all crime was legal.

What hurt more about these acts of violence is that these areas that were 100% wrecked are right next to my school: Fairfax Senior High School.

These are places I have frequently been to, places where I hung out with my friends, places where I could eat, places I could shop, places where I knew employees and owners. That Fairfax district has been a place where I have cherished and where I have so many memories in, and to see it on fire, in ruins and full of violence really struck something inside of me.

Protestors take on the 110 Freeway. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

What hurts the most about these acts all across the city was that not only were innocent lives being ruined with the destruction of businesses many worked so hard to build, but the fact that we could do so much better.

How does a crime spree that hurts innocent people justify anything? How do these nonsensical acts of destruction make what the four Minneapolis police officers did that was so horrible and wrong OK now? If you really care about the problems of police brutality, racism, and the death of George Floyd, why do you destroy communities that you believe that the police ruin all the time? How is it any fair to take out your anger and greed onto people that have done absolutely nothing wrong?

Violence is never the answer and never will be. We saw in the civil rights movements led by leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that violence is never the way to create any systemic change.

Why are we as a society moving backward and going against what the civil rights movement fought for by going against their primary ideals of change through peaceful protest to criminal activities?

To those that try and justify these acts of cruel and unjustifiable violence and crime, there is no justification. There is no justification for destroying lives, ruining businesses and ruining communities. We should be the most united right now as there is a nationwide awakening when it comes to social justice issues like these.

Violence and destruction do not help that movement in any way. I understand you are angry because I am too, but there are other ways to express it including peaceful protests that so many people did today or through other methods that have spread over social media.

Let us continue to show our anger through more peaceful means, and not through criminal actions that force Los Angeles to have to rebuild again just like after the riots in 1992 that took decades to rebuild.