Why I Marched With 50,000 People During A Global Pandemic

Protestor in Hollywood, holding BLM sign

I’ve been trying to process everything that’s been happening lately in our country. It’s a lot. It’s heavy. It’s uncomfortable. And it’s about fucking time, if you asked me.

This past weekend, I grabbed my camera and gave my other camera to Adrian and we joined our city in the march for justice and equality for the black community. As a photographer, this is probably one of the only ways I know how to be apart of something and have something to give back. I wanted to capture the people of Los Angeles and Hollywood out there who are just as angry and outraged and want what’s right. Citizens of every ethnicity, gender, and orientation walked the streets of Hollywood in solidarity by the thousands, despite there still being a deadly pandemic. We all took the risk because staying quiet and defeated is no longer an option. It’s time to put an end to police brutality, systematic racism, and the entire fucking Trump administration that shamelessly perpetuates HATRED all over our free nation.

I used to be a little weary about speaking out about religion and politics, especially as a business owner who caters to the luxury wedding and lifestyle industry, but that’s changed. All of the rules have changed. I’m a punk rock soul. Always have been, always will be. I WILL speak out and fight for what’s right BECAUSE IT’S THE RIGHT THING TO DO. I know I’m not alone in not fretting about losing potential business and clients by fighting for human rights. To me, at this point, it’s not business lost. It’s culling my ideal clientele. Anyone who “gets me” won’t be afraid of it. Can we be outspoken, tattooed, on the correct side of politics and still be professionals? DUH. I always have been, there just hasn’t been much going on to see this side of me until lately. Surprise! Nice to meet you. I’m Kelli and my name means WARRIOR MAIDEN. I’m here and I’m standing with the black community in their fight for justice.

Protestor in Hollywood, holding BLM sign

The time to do what’s right is RIGHT NOW. Time to recognize our mistakes, time to learn from them, and time to correct them. There are so many things we can do to uplift and support the black community. It’s going to take more than posting a black square and using hashtags.

LISTEN to the stories people have to tell about what it’s like to be a person of color and a citizen of the United States and how they actually aren’t treated as equally as others.

ACKNOWLEDGE that white privilege is a thing. Just because racism doesn’t happen to you doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

SUPPORT black artists and small businesses. Your music collection wouldn’t exist without black artists. Fact: rock n roll is the love child of country and the blues, and who do you think invented the blues?

UNDERSTAND that all lives can’t matter until black lives do.

FIND a cause that speaks to you and help spread the word.

Saturday: Adrian and I met a small crowd at the corner of Hollywood and Vine around 1:30pm and we decided to join the march towards Fairfax into West Hollywood so we and the other protestors all grabbed our signs and started the walk down west Sunset Blvd. We began on the sidewalk and as our numbers grew and people joined, we eventually merged out onto the street, guided by a caravan of cars in the right lane. One protestor announced, “Ain’t no protests on the sidewalk!” Every time I turned around, the crowd marching down Sunset Blvd just seemed to be growing. Eventually, we took over the entire lane. People everywhere were cheering and honking. It felt so good and empowering to march with total strangers who were there for the same thing.

Protestor in Hollywood, holding BLM sign

We eventually ended up on Santa Monica Blvd to a large crowd of protestors outside the sheriff station, with a team of sheriffs in full riot gear blocking San Vincente, blocking the protest in its tracks – for reasons we’re still not totally sure, other than to make their presence known. This doesn’t sit well with the people who are there, marching against police brutality and their excessive use of force, as displayed right there in front of us. I can’t say I’ve had an assault rifle pointed at my face before that. One sheriff went so far as to start smiling and laughing at people in the crowd, trying to antagonize us and flip what was a PEACEFUL protest onto its back to legitimize their use of force. Well, I’m happy to report that after a few hours, that didn’t happen, and we were eventually granted our right to continue our march.

Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic
Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic
Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic
Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic
Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic
Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic
Protestor in Hollywood, holding BLM sign
Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic. Tyler Lofton, artist and musician, protesting at Black Lives Matter protest in Hollywood.
Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic
Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic
Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic. Tyler Lofton, artist and musician, protesting at Black Lives Matter protest in Hollywood.
Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic. Tyler Lofton, artist and musician, protesting at Black Lives Matter protest in Hollywood.
Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic. Tyler Lofton, artist and musician, protesting at Black Lives Matter protest in Hollywood.
Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic
Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic
Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic
Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic
Protestor in Hollywood, holding BLM sign

On Sunday, with blistered feet from the day before, we met up with our friend Eva and her brother, sister, and her friends and made our way down Hollywood and Vine and into the stream of 50,000 (!!!) people.

Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic
Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic

I want to note real quick that yes, we are still in the middle of a highly contagious and deadly global pandemic, but it was very important to us to get out there and march for the black community. I’d say about 95% of fellow protestors were in face masks, and there were people everywhere handing out sanitizer. Everyone was mindful of touching others, despite being elbow to elbow with people for ten miles. And yes, a COVID test is in my future soon. Worth it.

Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic
Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic
Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic
Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic
Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic
Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic
Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic
Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic
Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic
Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic

After marching for a few hours, Adrian and I break away to eat something. It felt weird to sit in a restaurant again. Once we were done, we realized there were no Ubers and we’d be walking back. We grabbed a few 40’s (haha) and made our way up La Brea and by chance, met up with the front of the line that had circle back to La Brea and Sunset. It was serendipitous as we were walking back that way and now we could finish the march. I was really happy about that because I didn’t feel “done” yet. We all walked back up to Hollywood Blvd as people walked, danced, chanted, cars played music, etc. As we got to the notoriously busy intersection of Hollywood and Highland, there was a huge candlelight vigil where we all circled around and knelt down for 8 minutes in silence. I’ve lived in Hollywood for ten years now and I don’t believe that intersection has ever been so quiet with that many people present. EVER. Not once. The unity was indescribable.

After that, we continued our walk down Hollywood Blvd – and I can’t believe I’m actually typing this right now – these streets have NEVER felt safer. Not a single cop in sight, people marching, dancing in the street, dancing on top of their cars; a block party in the streets! Some who are still afraid or in denial of all this might call it “anarchy” but I saw unity. I saw the movement working. I saw the citizens of Los Angeles and Hollywood COME TOGETHER and I’ve never been more proud of my city. I’ve never been more proud to live in Hollywood.

Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic
Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic
Why I marched with 50,000 people in Hollywood during a global pandemic

We still have work to do. This is only the tip of the BLM iceberg, but I love the progress so far! KEEP FIGHTING. KEEP MARCHING. Our Voices are being heard!!!

Protestor in Hollywood, holding BLM sign

As of last week, Garcetti decided to cut $150M from the $2B (BILLION) budget. Let’s see if he listens to the people’s demands for at least $250M. This money needs to go into rebuilding the communities that desperately need it, along with resources and education.

Louisville council has passed “Breonna’s Law” which bans no-knock warrants.

Protestors in Bristol, England have blindfolded and knocked-down a statue of slave trader, Edward Colston, knelt on his neck for 8 min and rolled that shit into the river.

Minneapolis City Council is voting to rebuild (not reform) the city’s police department. They also have banned chokeholds.

New York will cut into NYPD’s $6B budget and divert funds into youth and social services that invest in communities impacted by police violence. NY is also in the process of banning chokeholds with the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act.

Confederate statues everywhere are coming DOWN!

And NASCAR announced that they’re banning the display of the fucking confederate flag at their events and properties.

This is what protesting does! It’s our right, and it’s working. This is our voice.

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