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Venice residents rally to support skateboarder

Ronald Weekley Jr.

Dozens of community members gathered Wednesday on a Venice residential block to rally against what they called police brutality and to support Ronald Weekley Jr., the 20-year-old skateboarder allegedly beaten in front of his apartment by Los Angeles police.

A video captured on a cellphone shows four LAPD officers on top of Weekley in the Saturday incident. As three officers wrestle with him on the ground, a fourth appears to punch Weekley in the face repeatedly.

Officials said the Los Angeles Police Department's internal affairs unit is investigating the allegations. A blog post published Wednesday by the Los Angeles Police Protective League urged the public to "not rush to a snap judgment" in the case.

But early Wednesday evening, members of the Weekley family, the church and community activists took to a megaphone outside Weekley’s apartment complex shouting, "No justice, no peace."

Ronald Weekley Sr., the father of the alleged victim, called on the LAPD to rethink how they "protect and serve."

"The mood of the community is angry," Weekley Sr. said. "There are people that know my son, and think he’s a pretty good guy."

As community members took turns at the microphone, neighbors and relatives in the crowd interjected "Yes" and "That's right!" Some held up signs that read "Justice 4 Ronald” and "Enough is Enough."

LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said officers tried to stop Weekley on Saturday evening near the corner of Sunset and Sixth avenues because he was riding his skateboard on the wrong side of the street. He attempted to flee, Smith said, and officers used force to handcuff and subdue him.

Weekley suffered a broken nose, concussion and fractured cheekbone, said Ryan Julison, a spokesperson for Weekley's attorney, Benjamin Crump.

Weekley was arrested on suspicion of resisting arrest and on three outstanding warrants, which Crump said related to curfew and bicycle-riding violations and driving without a license.

Lt. Andrew Neiman told The Times on Tuesday that "every aspect of this incident will be looked at" and that it could take several months to gather all the necessary information.

Many community members who came to Wednesday's rally complained that efforts to increasingly gentrify Venice have made it more difficult for minorities and the homeless to get a fair shake from police.

Cynthia Fenton, 60, held up a sign that stood out for its stark simplicity. On a white piece of printer paper, she wrote "I’m mad" in black marker, and held the sign at her chest.

"I have sons that grew up here, I have grandchildren that are going to be growing up here -– I don’t want this to happen to them," the Venice resident said. 

And though the majority of attendees were African American, a handful of Latino and white residents came to show their support. Mike Dituri, 22, stressed "this is not just a black issue," saying that he has had white friends get "stopped aggressively" by police, all over Los Angeles.  

"We don’t have any power when we're up against someone with a badge and a gun," Dituri said. "Whatever they say is what happened."

Pastor Horace Allen said that a community meeting related to the incident will be held at the First Baptist Church in Venice on Tuesday at 5 p.m.


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-- Matt Stevens

Follow Matt on Twitter and Google+

Photo: Pastor Horace Allen, of First Baptist Church in Venice, left, wispers something to Ron Weekley Jr. at Wednesday's rally. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times

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