Black Lives Matter organizers, faith leaders and other advocates held a memorial in downtown Los Angeles for George Floyd and other victims of police violence Monday afternoon, a somber culmination of four “funeral” processions that began in Long Beach, Reseda, Santa Ana and Leimert Park.
There were symbolic caskets. On stage, preachers spoke and sang for justice.
Advocates addressed the crowd as well as bereaved family members of people of color killed by local law enforcement.
Valerie Rivera, whose 20-year-old son Eric was shot to death by LAPD officers on June 6, 2017, spoke through tears as she held a poster bearing a photo of her child.
“I can’t believe it’s already been three years,” she said.
Melina Abdullah of the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter described Rivera as a force of the movement.
After her son’s death, Rivera regularly attended the Los Angeles police oversight commission’s meetings to demand that the officers who fatally shot and ran over Eric be held accountable. But the panel eventually cleared the officers of wrongdoing in a 5-0 decision.
“True justice would be for my son to still be alive today,” Rivera told the crowd in downtown. “But because I never believed in justice from this corrupt system, I gotta come out and fight for my justice.”
Abdullah, one of the most vocal voices of Black Lives Matter in L.A., echoed a rallying cry of protesters to defund the police.
“We are going to build new systems of community safety,” she said. “A new system can be built.”
Before the mourners convened in downtown, Dawn Modkins of the Long Beach chapter of Black Lives Matter gathered with family members of individuals killed by local police.
She said in addition to Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, the group wanted to commemorate the lives of Tyler Woods, Lionel Gibson, Donte Jordan, Sinuon Pream and Barry Prak.
Referring to Long Beach police, Modkins said “the corruption here is rampant.” She highlighted the death of Frederick Taft, who was shot by a white man in a public restroom in 2018. Modkins asserted that Long Beach police did little to solve the case that his relatives called a hate crime.
“We are tired of the harm and abuse against black bodies,” Modkins said. “I want [Floyd’s] family to know Fred Taft’s family, Lionel’s family, Donte’s family, for them to know that they are not alone, that we are in this struggle together, and that we have been for 400 years and will continue to be.”
A teacher who was also preparing to take part in the procession said she wanted to do the right thing.
“I don’t want to look back on this historic moment and tell my students that I didn’t do anything,” she said.