LANCASTER – Video of a deputy arresting a man at gunpoint prompted a protest outside the Lancaster Sheriff’s Station Friday evening, with activists from several community organizations condemning what they described as a “gross misuse of force.”
The arrest occurred April 30 near Division Street and Avenue J in Lancaster, and video of the arrest posted to social media showed a black man, identified as 22-year-old Kennathan Williams, face down on the ground, with a deputy on the suspect’s back with his gun drawn and aimed at the back of the suspect’s head (see video below).
“Why was a deputy holding a gun to the youth’s head when he was already face down with his hands being cuffed by a second deputy? Why are Black and Latino people continually treated with disrespect and disregard,” Christian Green told the crowd of about 100 protestors.
“We have to stand here now and defend the people in our community. They have a powerful militia, it’s called the sheriff’s department. We have a powerful militia, it’s called the power of the people,” youth activist Giovanni Pope told the cheering crowd.
The sheriff’s department addressed the video in a news release issued Thursday that said the department was directing an in-depth review of its policy and tactics.
Sheriff’s officials later elaborated on the incident. According to City News Service, sheriff’s officials said the deputy saw what he believed to be a drug deal occurring involving an armed Williams, who ran from the area. When the deputy caught up with Williams near a gas station, Williams laid down and was detained at gunpoint and arrested on suspicion of felony possession of a loaded and concealed firearm.
Friday’s protest was triggered by the April 30 arrest, but it was part of a larger call to action demanding that Lancaster and Palmdale leaders cancel citywide contracts with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
“ We don’t need to just cancel the contract, we need a whole paradigm shift,” said Barron Gardner, Antelope Valley High School Teacher.
The “Cancel the Contract” coalition outlined its demands in a news release, which states:
We call on the Department of Justice to actually implement the settlement agreement which has been in place since 2015 but has not been followed since agreed upon. We want the U.S. Attorney General, The CA Attorney General, and the LA County Supervisors to review the lack of progress and compliance on the 2015 Federal Settlement Agreement; review the ongoing policing violence and history of white supremacy in the region, and open an independent investigation into the June 2020 killing of Michael Thomas. We call on Antelope Valley and LA County elected officials to do more to stop racial profiling of young men of color and the use of excessive force by LA Sheriffs in the Antelope Valley. Our community won’t be mistreated and ignored any longer.”
The Cancel the Contract coalition is led by a steering committee that includes Waunette Cullors (WOW Flower Project), Beth Cayetano (Alliance for Black Student Equity), Janie Hodge (Paving the Way Foundation), Ruth Sanchez (ACLU AV Chapter, Dolores Huerta Foundation), Cortez Chandler (Timelist Group, Inc.), Doretta Thompson (Against All Odds, IWSA Inc.), Pastor Brian Johnson ( The Nehemiah Project), and Ansar Muhammad (The H.E.L.P.E.R. Foundation). View video of all the speakers at Friday’s protest here.
Previous related story: LASD responds to online video of Lancaster arrest, protest planned for Friday