They came marching and chanting down the street … “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now! No justice, no peace.”
They are the young African American and Latino students participating in the Community Coalition (CoCo) Freedom School program, and they were on the way from their morning session to a meeting with Mayor Eric Garcetti to discuss an issue that has captivated the attention of America—the Trayvon Martin verdict.
Mayor Garcetti thanked the young people for responding to his last-minute request to meet with him.
“I’m here because this is my job (as mayor). I told my staff I wanted to talk with young people right now, today. I wanted quiet conversation with youth leaders (away from the glare of media cameras),” Garcetti told the youth assembled at the CoCo office located on Vermont and 80th Street in South Los Angeles. His intent, in the wake of the civil disturbances Sunday and Monday nights was to let young people know that someone is listening.
The mayor acknowledged the underlying frustration he sensed in the youth there as well as those in Leimert Park.
Many of the 100 students in the CoCo Freedom Schools attended the Sunday rally in Leimert Park after the “not guilty” verdict, and two days later as they spoke with Garcetti, the anguish and frustration they felt was still very palpable.
“I’m frustrated watching the news,” said Sylvia about the images she saw broadcast in the aftermath of the Leimert Park rally. “We tried to do things right, but other people …. The laws are always against people of color,” added Sylvia, who struggled to finish her sentence through tears.
“… with Trayvon Martin, this is our Emmett Till,” a young lady named Hope told Garcetti. “It’s tangible, we feel it. This is our time to make a difference, and we see that times have not changed … the fact that they have not changed is real to us and makes so much difference.”
Celia, who too was overcome by emotion and began to cry, lamented the fact that while she and others were at the Leimert Park rally to voice their frustration, others were there simply to party.
Fremont student Alphonso Aguilar answered Garcetti’s question about feeling safe in Los Angeles with a disturbing no.
“I don’t feel safe as it relates to the LAPD. They automatically profile me as a gang affiliate just because of the way I’m dressed. And it was the same cop, asking the same questions three times in a row. I can’t even walk to school without being looked at by police officers. Cops profile us because of the color of our skin, and the way we’re dressed. They ask, ‘what’s in your bag, what’s in your pockets?’ ‘Do you have a weapon?’ They’re abusing their power by doing what they do,” said Aguilar.
Aguilar’s comments were echoed by others in the audience
Third-year UCLA student Tyla suggested a meeting with the LAPD to talk about the tension and “to have a honest conversation with them about how they patrol us.”