Members of the grassroots community organization the Black Riders Liberation Party (BRLP) are outraged that the FBI and the LAPD are slapping them with gang enhancement charges that may ultimately lead to the dismantling of their organization.
At a press conference held in Leimert Park Thursday, spokesmen for the group as well as several members of the legal community gathered to decry what they claim is ongoing harassment and intimidation by local law enforcement.
The groups leader, Taco, and BRLP member Sechzwan White were recently jailed on weapons charges.
Members of the group, who dress in black clothing or in military fatigues are frequently seen on Crenshaw Blvd. or in the Leimert Park area, where they often solicit money for their programs. Group members are also a familiar sight at black events where they march in military style and deliver a Black Power salute.
Bloodhound, BRLP supporter, said that the group is loosely based on the Black Panther Party. They have a 10-point platform which includes redistribution of land and a large emphasis on self-defense and stopping police abuse, said Bloodhound. They talk about black-on-black crime, violence and self-destructive behavior in the black community.
Bloodhound said that the groups anti-police sentiment may have made them the target of the gang injunction and police surveillance.
BRLP supporter and CopWatch member DAngelo Jones agreed that the group has become a target of the local police department. Under these gang enhancement charges, a misdemeanor charge, like shoplifting or trespassing, can be turned into a felony with consequences being hard time in prison. How would you feel if you were walking down the street and some cop can take pictures of you if you have a tattoo, braids, a bald head or if youre just black? These gang injunctions which are forced upon our communities are nothing more than a restriction of movement and free association, said Jones.
Deputy Public Defender Aaron Jansen, who is representing BRLP White, said, They (the police) are trying to label the BRLP as a criminal street gang. They want to enforce a gang injunction in order so that they cant meet in public with more than two people at a time, meaning that they will have to register as gang offenders.
Johnson said that the BRLP solicits donations to keep the group going. The LAPD harass them. They try to get them to resist or run away to get them arrested on trumped up charges. Basically, they are trying to get intelligence on this group and place them in the CAL Gangs database.
Jon Huggins, a former Black Panther, said, Most of you werent even alive when the Black Panther Party was involved in the black liberation struggle. This group has been charged with bogus lies. Theres a price you pay when you take on the pigs, said Huggins.
A merchant on Degnan Boulevard in Leimert Park who wanted to remain anonymous said that she has no sympathy for the BRLP group. Ive seen them waving big buckets and aggressively panhandling on the streets, she said. They scare away my customers.