Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore on Monday defended officers seen on video hitting protestors with their vehicle while attempting to leave amid protests decrying the death of George Floyd.
The chief said the police cruiser was being swarmed by a group that began attacking it Sunday in downtown Los Angeles. “That unit, in an effort to leave that area, took evasive action and in the course of that, struck an individual or more than one individual and fled that area,” he said.
Video showed the cruiser accelerating forward and knocking at least two people to the ground before reversing, turning swiftly and driving off as a group hurled objects at the vehicle.
“The people who want us to do something different, what would they have us do?” the chief said. “Have the officers remain there? We’ve seen what’s happened to those vehicles. We’ve seen the smashed windshields, we’ve seen the vehicle set on fire, we had an MTA bus just three days ago that was set aflame.”
Moore apologized to those hit by the cruiser, but told them, “you cannot attack a police officer. You cannot attack the very essence of our system of government, and be injured in the process, and then claim that that those police officers’ actions were wrong.”
The department had released a statement Sunday saying the incident is under investigation.
Over the weekend, largely peaceful protests were followed by looting, fires and clashes between officers and protestors that saw bricks and bottles thrown at officers and rubber bullets fired at protestors. “It was anarchy,” Moore said.
On Sunday, nearly 700 people were arrested across the city. Nearly 400 were taken into custody the day before, and another 500 the day before that, the chief said.
The U.S. National Guard moved in Sunday, arriving in downtown L.A. and Santa Monica ahead of officials enacting curfews.
Moore acknowledged the measures don’t help dialogue.
“The mechanisms that we’re having to resort to — nighttime curfews and National Guard mobilization of our resources and deployment of having resorting to forces necessary to restore order— those are things that are toxic to relationships of trust,” he said.
He said that while there were thousands of protesters who have been involved in the violence in the city, there have been tens of thousands who haven’t been.
“We all recognize that the vast majority that have been out there, feel hurt, and they’re angry they’re upset, and they feel like they they’re not having a voice,” he said.
The police chief called on organizers of the protests to take responsibility for those he says are hijacking messages by looting and attacking officers.
“I continue to extend an olive branch to Black Lives Matter. I’ve yet to have them take me up on that conversation,” he said. “And yeah, I recognize that they may not feel that that’s legitimate or I have any standing in this conversation, but as protest groups and as organizers, they need to step into this and take responsibility, more than just distancing themselves from those that are trying to hijack this.”
In response, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors told KTLA that though the “olive branch” is kind, conversation isn’t enough, and officials know what they need to do.
“Conversations aren’t enough,” she said. “A conversation didn’t stop George Floyd from dying … And what we need is structural change, and that looks like a defunding of local law enforcement, it looks like holding lots of cops accountable, and it looks like really seeing these protesters as people who have righteous rage who also want change.”
She had a message for the police chief: “When you tell me that you want to meet with me and at the same time, I’m witnessing your law enforcement officers rubber bullet and tear gas our community members, that’s not actually wanting to meet with me,” she said. “That’s just putting a bandaid over decades long of pain.”