Black Panthers cheered on in South LA on May Day

May Day 2012

Mae Ryan/KPCC

The Black Riders, a new generation of The Black Panthers, stand at the corner of 41st St. and S Central Ave, where the LAPD and The Black Panthers had a shoot out in 1969.

May Day 2012

Mae Ryan/KPCC

Occupiers listen to a speech by a former Black Panther leader in a park near 41st St. and Central Ave.

May Day 2012

Mae Ryan/KPCC

The Black Riders, a new generation of The Black Panthers, ride through South Los Angeles on their bus.

May Day 2012

Mae Ryan/ KPCC

Black Riders, an offshoot of The Black Panther Party, protest at 41st and South Central.


Tuesday's May Day marches and rallies attracted people of many political stripes, including members of the Black Panthers.

Clad in all black, about a dozen members of the revolutionary Black Riders Liberation Party traveled through South L.A. and gathered at the intersection of 42nd Street and Central Avenue.

They raised their fists in solidarity. So did a growing crowd of blacks, whites and Latinos who cheered them on.

Liberation Party leaders railed against budget cuts, police brutality and what they described as an “imperialistic system” that allows injustice for people of color in poor communities. Members also visited this area to remember history.

“They’ve come down to commemorate where we had the shootout at 41st and Central," said Wayne Pharr, who joined the Los Angeles Black Panther Party in the late 1960s. Pharr says fellow members had gathered at party headquarters about a block from here during that time.

He recalls the day in 1969 when hundreds of LAPD officers raided the headquarters, exchanging gunfire with the Panthers for three hours before the Panthers surrendered. Several people on both sides were wounded.

Pharr shared his story with Occupy L.A. members and others who gathered near the area to listen.

“So it was not just we're going to go out and shoot the police," Pharr told the crowd. "That wasn’t it. It was a movement... that we were in direct conflict with the repressive forces of the power structure at that time.”

Warehouse worker James Dotson, 35 — who lives in this community — stood nearby. But he wasn’t paying attention to the Panthers.

“It’s good that they here," Dotson said. "But at the same time we need somebody here everyday because we don’t have a voice. And when we try to use our voices, that’s when we get incarcerated. They want to talk about the past, instead of the present.”

Dotson contends elected leaders — including some who are running to become the next mayor of L.A. — have not done enough to create jobs in the communities they represent.

After commemorating the 1969 shootout, the Panthers piled back into their cars to join the rest of the caravan of demonstrators as it headed towards the main rally point in downtown L.A.

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