Kendrick Sampson: Why I’m Protesting to Defund Police

Kendrick Sampson

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Kendrick Sampson (“Insecure,” “Miss Juneteenth”) co-organized a demonstration at Pan Pacific Park in Los Angeles Saturday with his BLD PWR initiative and Black Lives Matter Los Angeles. After the powerful tribute to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Sean Reed, Atatiana Jefferson and the more than 600 Black people who have been killed by police in Los Angeles County, the event ended. But shortly thereafter, a group of protestors ran up against Los Angeles police, so the actor and activist stepped in with his cell phone, streaming live from Instagram for more than four hours to show viewers how everything unfolded in real time, while being hit with a police baton and shot seven times with rubber bullets.

We know from protests in Ferguson or Standing Rock (where I participated in demonstrations) that brutalization happens and then the media spins it and the cops spin it as protestors being aggressive — in the case of Standing Rock, water protestors being aggressive or committing crimes and, in 2015, the media was widely calling Black Lives Matter protestors “thugs.” So, I wanted to make sure that I utilized my platform to tell the truth, the real narrative — that whatever happened during the protest is just like in life when we see somebody getting pulled over, especially if they’re Black, brown or indigenous, that we know anti-Blackness is real and we know that that Black people get brutalized at an unreal rate.

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We want to make sure that we capture whatever happens on video, because that’s been our true media in so many cases. So, I wanted to keep that live stream on to show, first, how beautiful our demonstration and power building session at Pan Pacific Park was and to make sure people knew that we were on indigenous land, on stolen land currently occupied by colonization; to show us honoring our liberation-oriented ancestors like Ida B. Wells and Harriet Tubman and those who have been murdered by police — over 600 in L.A. County alone. There’s so many and it’s endless, but not anymore. I believe that these protests will make a difference.

The police were targeting folks; it’s what they do when they go to protests, they try to identify leaders. I think because my livestream was being picked up in the media, they singled me out. I don’t think it’s a mistake that I was hit, seven times rubber bullets. I know a lot of folks that were hit one, maybe even two times, but they also tried to grab my phone twice. One officer pointed at me, and I pointed at myself like “Me?” and they pointed again and said “Yeah.” I believe they were targeting other people, including one protestor with a megaphone who said that anybody in the crowd that was throwing things at police were undercover LAPD officers. He said “turn your cameras on those people if they throw anything” and then very shortly afterward, police tackled him to the ground, arrested him and brutalized anybody around him to an unreal degree, because he said that, I’m certain of it. Because they hadn’t arrested anyone else at that point.

I don’t necessarily advocate that protests have to be peaceful especially after we faced such violence — I’m not saying that at all. I’m not bragging about our peaceful protest, I’m just saying that that those are the facts and that’s what it was. I’m not condemning anybody else’s right to process, when they have every right to their rage and they have every right to tear down the policing system that has been tearing us down for centuries, that is a continuation of that slave-catching system.

But if we learned anything Saturday from the protests all over the country, it’s how powerful we are. If we weren’t powerful, they wouldn’t send out armies — military in the form of the National Guard and military in the form of militarized police in riot gear — brutalizing us, and ramming us with cars and using all weapons. One cop with a bulletproof vest and a baton and a gun on his hip and all of these different compartments on it and a helmet and a face shield is protection and intimidation and to be completely honest in the way they utilize it, it’s cowardice. You have all of this armor and all of these weapons and we’re being completely peaceful. So, we wanted to be sure that we highlighted that system and why that system needs to go — why we need to defund the police.

That was our first demand with BLD PWR — defund the police and utilize those resources for new systems that actually care for our community and make us safe. Housing, education, healthcare, mental healthcare, jobs — those are the things that make us safe, not police. If police made us safe, Fortune 500 CEOs would live in the hood, because there’s no shortage of police there. But they don’t. And our second demand is to prosecute killer cops like the citizens they are. Then, specifically for L.A., we have to get Jackie Lacey out of the DA’s office. She must go because she refuses to prosecute killer cops and she continues to cover up their crimes.

In terms of healing mentally, I need to process, and unfortunately, we don’t get a whole lot of time to do that, because our grief and our mental health process and our expression of our rage and our mourning is criminalized. And we are already experiencing the disproportionate effects of the COVID crisis. We haven’t ever gotten time to work through the crisis that we’ve been in for centuries. It’s just been compounded trauma over and over again, largely exacerbated by the system of policing and prison.

I’m still working through stuff that happened when I was a kid, stuff that happened at Standing Rock four years ago, working through these videos of public Black death, these lynchings that we’ve continued seeing, so I don’t know the scope of the trauma that I experienced Saturday. I feel very strong and I’m really exhausted at the same time. But I also feel a resolve to move forward. I feel like we need to liberate folks and we cannot let up.

I feel like our movement is moving and that these protests, demonstrations, rebellions, whatever you want to call them, are working. And they show how powerful we are, and that gives me energy. But I also feel traumatized and I’m trying to work through that. And I’m ready to move — I’m ready to get back out there — and also heal and figuring out the best way to do that for all of us, because we all need healing. And we can’t continue this type of life, this world with this type of police terror and anti-blackness.

I am not doing this for applause, and followers and private texts of support — “We stand with you” and all that, I don’t need that. What I need is for us to end this system. What I need is for us to build better systems. The police are the largest organized crime gang in the country —their union, they are not part of organized labor, they are organized crime. They cover up the murder of our people, the rapes, all of the allegations of abuse of authority. And they have they intimidate our politicians into not passing any legislation that actually protects us from that.

We know what happens when people actually threaten the power of police. We know what has happened to our leaders in the past. I’m not calling myself a leader at all, but what I’m saying is, I’m not putting my name out there, face out there and going after these folks, putting my life and my body on the line for support and positivity and good energy and thanks and gratitude.

I want us all to participate in tearing this system down and building better for our community. That is the point of this — defund police and prosecute killer cops. Get involved in those movements. I don’t give a fuck if you support me. It’s about this movement for a better world for our children, for Black children.

— As told to Angelique Jackson

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