Lakewood Sheriff’s deputies fire pepper balls at protesters after peaceful demonstration

Sheriff’s deputies fired less-lethal rounds into a crowd protesting police brutality outside of the Lakewood Sheriff’s station on Friday afternoon after a largely peaceful protest.

The protest, which began with about 300 marchers at Long Beach City College, eventually found its way to the Lakewood station where protesters were told to stay in the street. The protesters did and chanted and gave speeches. At about 3 p.m., the majority of the marchers, about 500 at that point, left the site.

After about 30 minutes, a smaller group of about 100 people returned to the station and blocked Clark Avenue, according to Sheriff’s deputy Lt. Michael Shaw. Video from the scene shows people screaming as Sheriff’s deputies fired pepper balls and a type of smoke ball into the crowd to disperse them.

Shaw said when the deputies declared an unlawful assembly, someone threw a piece of brake rotor at the line, prompting them to spray the crowd with pepper balls and “sting balls” that contained inert smoke to show the deputies which way the wind was blowing, he said.

Lakewood Mayor Todd Rogers wrote on his Facebook page that “deputies deployed pepper ball rounds and inert smoke adjacent to the suspects they identified as assaultive and it eventually succeeded in dispersing the crowd. One suspect was arrested. I am told that no tear gas was used.”

A participant in the march, who declined to give their name, said that sheriff deputies had told marchers to move from the street to the sidewalk and, soon after, started firing into the crowd, causing a panicked rush away from deputies. The participant was hit in the leg with what they assumed was a rubber bullet and said nothing was thrown at the deputies and shared a video to support that claim.

Asked about the deputies’ actions, the marcher said they believed it was “overkill.”

When the march began at LBCC, about 300 people lined up along the sidewalks of Carson Street in front of the campus holding signs and chanting the names of Floyd, who was suffocated by a white police officer in Minneapolis on May 25, along with Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot in March by police in Louisville, and Ahmaud Aubrey, who was shot by armed white residents in South Georgia.

This group swelled to 500 people in less than two hours.

When the traffic light on Carson turned red, the protesters would take the opportunity to step into the street, chanting “black lives matter” and prompting loud horn honks from motorists.

“We’re protesting for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and all the black lives that have been lost to police brutality and it’s about time that everyone realized that black lives matter,” said Rylan G., an LBCC student who organized the protest with classmates through social media.

Caitlyn Lam, holding a sign that says “We all bleed the same color,” said she’s there to protest inequality.

As the group marched deeper onto the college campus, they sang “Happy birthday” for Breonna Taylor, who would’ve been 27 today had she not been killed by Louisville police.

Protesters then marched to the Lakewood Sheriff’s station, chanting, “no justice, no peace, no racist police,” “don’t shoot” and “black lives matter” and took a knee in front of it.

Hundreds of people gathered at Long Beach City College and marched to the Lakewood Sheriff’s station calling for police reforms in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Photo by Sebastian Echeverry.

The protest was peaceful and ended at about 3 p.m. where most of the participants dispersed.

After about 30 minutes, a smaller group of about 100 people returned to the station and blocked Clark Avenue again, Lt. Michael Shaw said. Video from the scene shows people screaming as Sheriff’s deputies fired pepper balls and some type of smoke balls into the crowd to disperse them. Shaw said when the deputies declared an unlawful assembly, someone threw a piece of brake rotor at the line, prompting them to spray the crowd with pepper balls and “sting balls” that contained inert smoke to show the deputies which way the wind was blowing, he said.

A participant in the march, who declined to give their name, said that sheriff deputies had told marchers to move from the street to the sidewalk and, soon after, starting firing into the crowd, causing a panicked rush away from deputies. The participant was hit in the leg with what they assumed was a rubber bullet and said nothing was thrown at the deputies and shared a video to support that claim.

Asked about the deputies actions, the marcher said they believed it was “overkill.”

Across town, a smaller group that grew to about 200 people gathered on the Naples bridge in Belmont Shore for the same reason. The group held signs against police brutality and received what seemed like supportive honks from passing drivers. Eventually the group took up the sidewalks on both sides of the bridge.

Organizers said they’re hoping for a 100% peaceful protest. They shouted, “black lives matter” and “say his name: George Floyd.”

Shelly Maudlin said she was protesting with her daughter, Amelia, who encouraged her to come out.

“There aren’t a lot of black people, people of color in this neighborhood, but it’s always felt mostly liberal, so it’s nice to actually see that people are behind the cause,” Maudlin said. “It’s unfortunate that it took this sort of heinous crime, but it’s nice to see it here.”

Protests are planned throughout the day in Long Beach, including a gathering at Harvey Milk Park at 5 p.m. Friday.

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Sebastian Echeverry is the North Long Beach reporter through the Report for America program. Philanthropic organizations pledged to cover the local donor portion of his grant-funded position with the Long Beach Post. If you want to support Sebastian's work, you can donate to his Report for America position at lbpost.com/support.
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