LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Supporters of a black college student who says he was severely beaten by Los Angeles police who stopped him for skateboarding in traffic rallied on Wednesday at the scene of his arrest to protest what they called excessive force and racial profiling.
A racially mixed crowd of about 200 demonstrators gathered in front of the Venice, California, home of Ronald Weekley Jr., 20, who was taken into custody by Los Angeles Police Department officers on Saturday in front of a group of angry bystanders.
Part of the confrontation was captured on a cell phone video by an onlooker. The clip, which has been broadcast on television and the Internet, shows Weekley sprawled face down on a patch of grass outside his apartment as four officers pin him to the ground and one punches him in the face.
Weekley, a student at Xavier University in Louisiana, said he was grabbed by the hair and punched repeatedly by an officer while handcuffed. Weekley said he suffered a broken nose and cheekbone and has been restricted to a liquid diet since then.
“I thought I was going to die,” Weekley told Reuters during the protest on Wednesday. “The only thing going through my mind was that I was going to die on my front porch in front of my family and friends.”
Weekley’s family has retained civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who represented the family of black Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, who was shot to death by a neighborhood watch volunteer earlier this year.
The boisterous but peaceful demonstrators, many of whom live in Weekley’s middle-class neighborhood, chanted, “Justice now!” while some carried signs with such slogans as “Enough is enough” and “We demand peace from our police.”
Weekley’s father, Ronald Weekley Sr., said the family was demanding that the charges against his son be dropped and that officers involved in the incident “to be identified and held accountable publicly and professionally.”
LAPD spokeswoman Karen Rayner said police officers tried to stop Weekley for illegally skateboarding in the street against traffic, and “he was subsequently arrested and booked for obstructing (and) resisting a police officer with force.”
She said he also had three outstanding warrants against him, which Weekley’s father said he believed related to curfew and bicycle-riding violations and driving without a license. She declined to give any further details of Weekley’s encounter with police or what led to his arrest.
“As with all such use-of-force incidents, it will be investigated and reviewed at the highest levels of the department,” Rayner said.
Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Paul Simao