By Michael Livingston
HOLLYWOOD — Sherlyn Haynes’ only child, Christopher DeAndre Mitchell, was killed by a Torrance police officer weeks before Christmas.
On the evening of Dec. 23, Haynes held a poster with Mitchell’s picture at a rally with hundreds of protesters led by Black Lives Matter Los Angeles in Hollywood.
“It’s like I’m dying inside,” Haynes said about living without Mitchell, 23, who was killed Dec. 9 in a Ralph’s parking lot in East Torrance. “He was the light of my life.”
Haynes was one of around 20 people who spoke during the rally about the pain of losing a family member to police brutality — and the anger of no accountability for the officers involved.
“He was taken away, and I need justice,” Haynes said.
“No mother is alone. Not when you’re with us,” said Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles.
“We’re in pain. We’re sad everyday. … But we’re going to fight for every life that they took,” said Helen Jones, the mother of John Horton III, 22, who was found dead in a Los Angeles County jail cell in March 2009.
“It is sad that a black kid can’t walk down the street without us thinking, ‘is he or she going to make it?’” Jones said.
Haynes, Jones and dozens of family members spoke from inside the Walgreens on Vine Street, where protesters stormed the pharmacy.
Black Lives Matter Los Angeles led a rally to encourage supporters to boycott Walgreens and 24 Hour Fitness after the killings of Jonathan Hart, 21 and Albert Ramon Dorsey, 30 happened inside those businesses
The rally started at 3 p.m. at the CNN building on Sunset Boulevard. Abdullah criticized the network for failing to cover fatal shootings by police officers.
“Even if CNN won’t broadcast it, we’re going to broadcast it ourselves,” Abdullah said to the crowd’s cameras and cell phones.
The organization asked the family of victims of police brutality to lead the march near the 24 Hour Fitness on Sunset Boulevard to demand a boycott of the gym after the fatal shooting of Albert Ramon Dorsey, 30.
Dorsey was fatally shot by an Los Angeles Police Department officer in the locker room of the gym on Oct. 29.
“We’re not here to hold hands and sing ‘Kumbaya.’ We’re here to demand change, to demand justice,” activist Joseph Williams said.
Afterwards, the rally stormed into the Walgreens on Vine Street, the location where Jonathan Hart, 21, was fatally shot by an armed security guard on Dec. 2. The guard shot Hart in the neck after suspecting him of shoplifting.
Melanie Bryant was a friend of Hart and said that seeing so many people support her and his family and friends in the Walgreens helped comfort her.
“It means a lot,” she said. “It means that a lot of people love him.”
Inside the pharmacy, a “Boycott Walgreens” banner was unfurled as family members of victims of police brutality spoke about the pain of their loved ones not being here for Christmas — and their anger at law enforcement for their role in the deaths.
“Black lives, they matter here!” was yelled continuously as the crowd grew in size.
A dozen LAPD officers followed the crowd inside the Walgreens, watching as the rally disrupted business inside the store.
The demonstration never escalated into violence, as protesters spent almost two hours inside the Walgreens for their rally.
As the crowd thinned out, the protesters moved outside to collectively sitting outside the front doors to prevent any more guests from entering the pharmacy.
This article appeared originally in the Wave Newspapers.