Laurie Perez describes the chaotic scene in Beverly Hills over the weekend when police fired tear gas at crowds forcing many, including Perez herself (in green shirt), to flush the pepper spray from their eyes
Thanks to social media, The Laurel has been able to follow the reporting of South Windsor native and former Fox61 reporter, Laurie Perez, as she has covered the George Floyd protests in Los Angeles as a reporter for KCBS/KCAL. Perez has been all over the city and region covering the protests and was caught in the crossfire as law enforcement fired tear gas at crowds over the weekend. The Laurel recently asked Laurie what it has been like to cover the protests and the clashes between law enforcement and protesters.
Here is her poignant, powerful response, unedited in her own words:
Protests are continuing for an eighth day here in Los Angeles and the surrounding area as thousands will once again take to the streets to express their outrage and demand change. For days now I’ve been on the ground with the crowds as they’ve tried to spread their message — sometimes peacefully, sometimes more aggressively.
I’ve seen peaceful unity of voice and purpose, and I’ve seen fury erupting with crowds smashing and destroying police cars. We watched young people kneeling in front of the National Guard yesterday begging the soldiers to take a knee with them and we saw protesters screaming in the unmoving faces of police standing in line. All of it – people wanting to be heard.
The one interaction that captured it all for me was sudden and unexpected. We were in Long Beach getting video of an outdoor mall that had been looted the night before. Dozens of locals had come with their own cleaning tools to help store owners clean up and the National Guard was there to prevent further looting. One teen who’d been protesting the night before came with friends to help. We were next to him as he asked a Guardsman if he could take a picture and the soldier agreed. As you do when you take a picture, they put their arms around each other’s shoulders and smiled…and then the soldier, voice breaking, said, “I love you, man.” The soldier went on to explain how the protestors look at them and think they’re the enemy, that they’re part of the problem. But, he said, he was on their side, he wants justice for George Floyd, too. A young black man, his emotions overflowed as he voiced how he gets judged twice – by those who see his uniform and others who see his skin color. How when he takes his uniform off, he’s just another black man who has to fear getting hassled, or worse, by police. He had the teen and his friends, a group of Latinx boys, listening with tears in their eyes.
It was only a three minute exchange but it was remarkable. I haven’t seen a soldier, especially when they’re in uniform, especially when they’re on duty, speak that candidly and publicly. The teen said to me afterwards, “He’s part of what we think, the wrong side. For him to speak to me like that, they’re not all against us.” It was an extraordinary moment of understanding.
So of all the moments I’ve witnessed these past few days – the massive marches, the clashes, the rage, the hope – this is the one I think I’ll remember the most – a moment of raw emotion and connection.