Protest Season

by Jack Dunphy

Los Angeles — So far, at least, protesters in this city have confined themselves to mostly peaceful means in expressing their displeasure at George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the death of Trayvon Martin. There have been some incidents of vandalism in Hollywood and South L.A., and as I write this Monday night there is a group causing a ruckus on Crenshaw Boulevard, disrupting traffic, vandalizing cars, and briefly storming a Walmart. LAPD officers are in the area but I infer from watching things on television that someone high in the chain of command has ordered a minimally confrontational stance.

To the extent that any of this is organized, it is done so by organizations such as MoveOn.org, the Revolutionary Communist Party, and the Occupy movement, all composed of people for whom outraged protest is their raison d’être. Among the familiar faces at Leimert Park, the locus of protest activity in South L.A., is Najee Ali, a “community activist” who identifies himself as the director of Project Islamic Hope, of which he seems to be the sole member. “Let’s keep it peaceful,” said Ali, who worried about a repeat of the Rodney King riot of 1992. 

And he knows of what he speaks. Formerly known by the less colorful name of Todd Eskew, Ali was an eager participant in that riot, as detailed a 2002 article in the Christian Science Monitor. “He can’t recall how many windows he broke,” said writer Daniel B. Wood, “or how many fires he and his friends started. They’d light anything in a store that would burn and spread flames quickly and then run.”

Except for a few torched trash cans, there were no fires and no widespread looting in L.A. Monday night. But that could change if this keeps up.

— Jack Dunphy is an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department. “Jack Dunphy” is the author’s nom de cyber.

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