West Hollywood comedy club The Laugh Factory saw a different kind of crowd forming on its doorstep Monday, as peaceful protesters gathered for a third night in Los Angeles in recognition of the killing of George Floyd.
Chanting a call and response of “Say his name! George Floyd!” as drivers honked in support, the crowds were met with nearby businesses boarding windows at Sunset Boulevard and Laurel Avenue. Shopping hub 8000 Sunset — which boasts a dine-in AMC Theater, Trader Joe’s shopping mart, CVS pharmacy and more local staples — barricaded parking garage and foot traffic entrances.
Just a block to the east, in the shadow of the Directors Guild of America headquarters, around 60 uniformed police officers with riot gear were on standby. A block in the other direction, at the base of Laurel Canyon, two National Guard officers in fatigues surveyed the perimeter.
Several blocks south, at the intersection of La Cienega Blvd. and Santa Monica Blvd., the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Department blocked westbound traffic into the city, a heavily trafficked LGBTQ destination. A lone man, who identified himself as filmmaker and actor Gabriel Sunday, stood at the intersection in a face mask and sunglasses holding a sign that read “Black Lives Matter,” adorned with the gay pride flag.
“I’m a comedy filmmaker, but there’s not a lot to laugh at right now,” Sunday told Variety, saying he took up space on the traffic median because “no one else was here.”
The whole of the neighborhood seemed to be bracing for something uncertain, as young people with homemade signs and more than a few of them toting bundles of flowers headed toward the iconic Sunset Strip. Backtracking east along Santa Monica Blvd., beloved local spots like the diner Hugo’s boarded up all windows and doorways, spray-painting their own barriers with phrases like “love” and “equality.”
At La Boheme, a gothic little dining spot often used for private events and film and TV productions, glass windows were adorned with photos of Floyd calling for prayers for his family.
On Saturday, southern sects of West Hollywood were impacted by initial protests, with luxury retailers like Vivienne Westwood and Marc Jacobs seeing vandalism and storefront damage hours after shopping destination The Grove became the site of a nationally covered protest. The continued demonstrations have come with curfews as early as 5 p.m. for some areas in Los Angeles County.
California governor Gavin Newsom praised protesters on Monday, saying “the black community is not responsible for what’s happening in this country right now. We are. Our institutions are responsible. We are accountable to this moment,” he said.
He added that it’s understandable that people are fed up with the lack of progress and that leaders in society need to be held accountable.
“People have lost patience because they haven’t seen progress. If you’re out there saying, ‘People need to be patient,’ consider that people have lost patience for a reason,” Newsom continued. “They have been told that over and over and over again. This is a manifestation of everything we’ve been promoting but haven’t delivered. If leaders are going to meet not just this moment but the moments in front of us, we better start listening. We better start owning up to our own accountability and responsibility.”