Images of National Guard troops and Sheriff’s deputies with rifles watching protests in West Hollywood against police brutality and creating a barrier across San Vicente Boulevard have drawn criticism on social media from local residents.
A photo taken by Jon Viscott, a well-known local photographer, shows a helmeted deputy in what appears to be a jeep on San Vicente Boulevard watching the demonstrators through the scope on a rifle that he is pointing at them. Another photo, posted on the Citizen crime app, shows deputies in riot gear and with rifles on the roof of Rocco’s restaurant and bar on Santa Monica Boulevard and San Vicente. The deputies are watching those who marched through West Hollywood on Saturday and Sunday in peaceful protests of the deaths of black people at the hands of law enforcement officers.
“West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station’s overarching goal is to keep our residents, businesses, visitors, friends, and protesters safe in the City of West Hollywood,” said Capt. Edward Ramirez, who heads the station, in respond to an email from WEHOville about the complaints about the rifle-bearing deputies . “The men and women of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department are dedicated to protecting and defending everyone’s First Amendment Right to protest while ensuring a peaceful experience. In order to fulfill that commitment, we have set up barriers at certain intersections as there have been threats against the Sunset Strip, Sunset Plaza, the Melrose Shopping District, and our Station. These barriers also help to protect protesters from vehicles and allow them to walk and congregate safely.”
In a post on Facebook that included Viscott’s photo, Sepi Shyne, a lawyer who is a candidate in the Nov. 3 City Council election, said: “This is one of the reasons my wife, black friends, neighbors and protestors do not feel safe in West Hollywood or Los Angeles.”
“Just this past week, I have seen a video of the L.A. Sheriff’s department deputies shooting rubber or paint bullets at and chasing peaceful young black and brown people right outside of West Hollywood without warning while sitting in their car and yelling at them, ‘This is an illegal assembly’.”
“I have seen a video of a deputy or National Guards member literally holding a grenade in his hand in West Hollywood in the middle of a crowd during a peaceful protest, and now these pictures.
“The pictures and video of police and sheriff’s kneeling is nice, but until the entire force and system is de-escalated and has MAJOR reform then kneeling in a photo won’t change a thing.”
“Unacceptable. Why is this man looking at his fellow citizens as a target of his assault weapon during peaceful protests??” said Michael Ferrera in a reference to Viscott’s photo.
Residents commenting on the post asked why City Council members and city officials weren’t responding to the presence of heavily armed law enforcement officers.
In an email message to City Council members, Frank Voci, who described himself as a 20-year West Hollywood resident, said the city should “demand that the sheriff’s department meet humanity with humanity. This doesn’t get better and things don’t change when the sheriff’s deputies are only a wall of defense. They can both protect our safety and property and meet with protesters eye to eye. Given the substantial presence of our sheriff’s department, I have no doubt they can handle both tasks in a single afternoon.
“If the sheriff cannot do this and if they cannot see that they—like all other law enforcement departments—need to listen and engage at every single opportunity, I think it’s time to re-examine the city’s contract with them. They work for us. It’s time they did the work for us. It’s time they got out of their shiny SUV’s and walked the streets.”
In his email to WEHOville, Ramirez said: “Because of the measures we have employed, we have been able to keep looting and vandalism to an absolute minimum. We have deployed less lethal weapons in the field, which are meant to deter looters and rioters, certainly, never peaceful protestors.
“The variety of Station security measures has been in response to credible threats, agitators who have thrown rocks and bottles, both at our Station and police precincts across the nation, attacks on law enforcement officers, and the burning down of the Minneapolis Police Precinct. “
What what what, you’re asking why? Maybe because it’s what we saw that happened prior in Santa Monica, Long Beach and even in West Hollywood to name a few. We were prepared for the worst and thankfully the worst did not come.
“I have seen a video of a deputy or National Guards member…“
I am sorry, but you cannot indict the Sheriff’s department if it was something the National Guard/s did.
Not defending, just clarifying here.
What about Latino lives matter? We are the largest minority in the United States. And it looks like we’re now at the back of the bus.
You are welcomed and encouraged to protest.
As has been mentioned, there are similar measures taken during Pride and Halloween. While not in WeHo, I must also mention that the Oscars see armored vehicles, SWAT teams, and heavily armed officers on site. As long as they aren’t utilized recklessly or without justification, I see no issue with having such measures available in reserve. They provide a visual deterrent and emergency backup option against potential extremists from both sides of the issue. I would much rather see heavily armed officers in the background, who ultimately weren’t needed, than see unprepared officers, caught off guard, in an extreme situation.
I was a resident of WeHo for 20 years and always thanked the Sheriff’s for keeping the streets safe and doing their job. Now people are asking why they need to be out monitoring the protestors. I’ll only say that if any violence breaks out and some white kid gets clipped in the mayhem, his family will surely sue WeHo and the county for NOT being there to protect people. You know how fast the town will go bankrupt from liability issues? No one has any interest in that happening.
I’m glad that the businesses are being kept safe. Those barriers are certainly keeping them safe from the threat of my patronage.
The deputy in the top picture (the picture that seems to be most offensive to the author) is holding a pepper ball gun. This is a less lethal weapon. Very painful but not deadly. Research maybe?
Thank you Weho Sheriffs for your preparedness and for securing that social justice demonstrations continue without distraction.
West Hollywood sheriffs dept/
LAPD, We can not thank you enough from the bottom of our hearts for keeping us safe during the riots. You supported our believes. AND u kept us save. You risked your lives. thank u thank u thank u.
They chanted “Why are you in riot gear?! We don’t see no riot here”… Earlier today on the start of our walk…we saw police lined up in tanks and riot gear…it was a strange sight so I walked over and asked them what was going on. They received orders from the top that a rapper was giving a concert outside Capitol Records and he told the crowd of 20,000 people to rip up the city and kill the police…so they were expecting problems. It seemed strange since all the protests were peaceful, especially in WEHO, where they were all headed…and… Read more »
….and had it not been peaceful and they weren’t prepared, then what???
I commend the Sherrif’s Department for protecting our Resident’s personal safety and the protection of property. Given the recent history of the protests, anything could happen at any time. Fringe groups who have nothing to do with peaceful protests could have split off, entered Residential neighborhoods or caused problems within the group. The Law Enforcement presence was well thought out. There wasn’t too much or too little. They are highly trained to look for trouble makers. We in West Hollywood should be proud that, while our City is geographically surrounded by entry points, we have such good protection from Law… Read more »
Thank you for this!
The strategies used for the protests are the same strategies used during PRIDE and Halloween. The dumpsters and other barriers are used to ensure we don’t have cars or trucks attacking attendees and there are foot patrols, roof patrols and lots of police with rifles in riot gear. And these events are typically peaceful celebrations. Are the same tactics used during a celebration unacceptable during a protest? Both have large groups of people and businesses exposed to potential threats. I haven’t seen much concern about the measures used during our celebrations in the past and would like to understand more… Read more »