Over the past two and a half months, as much of our country has lived in quarantine, we’ve witnessed the violent loss of black lives with disturbing frequency. Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd have died at the hands of racists and law enforcement. Complex Networks recognizes the power of its platforms and is committed to amplifying their stories and the voices of our communities to work for justice.
During times like this, people's true selves emerge. Over the weekend, protests have broken out all over the country in protest of the murder of George Floyd; we've shown you what's happening on the ground in Minneapolis, as well as what a Brooklyn protest looks like. It's also been going down in Los Angeles, with a number of Hollywood celebrities hitting the pavement to bring awareness to police brutality, the Black Lives Matter movement, and more. One of those in the streets is Kendrick Sampson, who you probably know best as Nathan from Issa Rae's HBO series Insecure; footage of him catching seven(!) rubber bullets and baton beatings to his body on Saturday were broadcast on CNN.
Sampson's about putting words to action; his BLD PWR organization looks to bring about social change through civil action, and had held a peaceful protest in Los Angeles not too far from 3rd and Fairfax, the intersection where the aforementioned violence occurred. Sampson wasn't shy; he let us know from jump that he was definitely in pain and definitely traumatized over what happened to him, but he was willing to share his story, as well as his desire to continue to get in the streets and push for the advancement for social change.
How are you doing right now?
I am working on healing physically, cause I am in a lot of pain and I'm exhausted. I still have not had a lot of sleep. Unfortunately, with this trauma comes sleeping problems, but I am also strategizing and organizing and ready to get back out as soon as strategically advantageous and wise, and so it's more about strategy and then taking time.
This isn't the first time you've been in a protest type situation, right? Have you ever been in a situation where it's been this intense, where they were firing rubber bullets at the protestors?
Standing Rock. Standing Rock was incredibly traumatizing—people didn't want to hear it, but we found bugs in our room and we found that there were drones flown over all the time. We had tear gas, they would spray us with tear gas and hit us with rubber bullets and shoot at us. They use the attack dogs on people. They desecrated sacred religious sites. They were brutal.
I went out to Standing Rock [because] I was standing in solidarity with the Ecological Justice Movement, the Water Protecting Movement, but the reason me and [fellow actor] Matt McGorry went out there together was because of the brutality that they were facing at the hands of police. That they were protecting the destruction of our mother Earth. And they were protecting white capitalism. Which is another reason. It was just one of the reasons that we chose to go out and into 3rd and Fairfax near the Grove is to disrupt white capitalism and show that it's inextricable from colonization and anti-blackness, and the brutality and the violence and the murder that we see at the hands of police all the time, and I saw I had flashbacks.
Something else that was very similar to Standing Rock that I want to highlight is, Standing Rock was full of beautiful moments that I won't ever forget. Some of the most healing moments, you know, sweat lodges and such, that I had ever seen people taking care of each other in an unreal way that we don't see in our society. Blessing the land and blessing the food and any meat that was eaten was purposeful, was not wasteful. They utilize every bit of the animal, and it wasn't adding to the meatpacking industry. Most of what we ate was vegetables and fruit, and it was just an actual healing and incredible experience and simultaneously one of the most traumatizing experiences that I'm still working through.
Yesterday we had a very similar experience where BLD PWR, my nonprofit initiative, collaborated with Black Lives Matter LA, and we had Patrisse Cullors come out and speak. Amber Riley sang a song that jolted us, gave us that push that we needed to get out of that park and onto the streets. We had folks honor our ancestors, abolitionists that we want to continue their legacies like Ida B, Wells, and Harriet Tubman. And then we sang, people chanted out into the streets, down that very Fairfax and 3rd intersection. It was exhilarating. It was powerful. It was cathartic. It was incredible.
We continued throughout the entire event to highlight our two demands: to defund the police and prosecute killer cops. It's very simple. Our demands are very simple. The strategy is complex, but the demands are to prosecute killer cops and defund the police. And [then] we ended that, [and] we told everybody we were ending. We were trying to go home, and then the cops came.
Oh, so this was at your actual event? They just showed up when you guys were done?
Literally, as soon as we were done, we tried to go home. We were done in that intersection. Other protesters continued because they could do whatever the hell they want to do. Everyone went home, Black Lives Matter staff went home. And then I was looking for my staff. My staff apparently got swept up in another move with some other folks that they thought I was a part of, and I'm looking for them. This is no more than three minutes after we ended. So what they did was they blocked off 3rd Street just in case we moved past that intersection because they didn't want us to go into Beverly Hills.
That's what happened, and they started getting really aggressive with peaceful protests that were inspired by what just happened. And as I'm looking for my staff and realized they're way past this point, I'm like, how am I going to get there if these cops have blocked off the street? And then I see them being really aggressive with folks, and I decided that I need to record this just in case and utilize my platform to make sure that truth gets out there because of our experience with how the media frames, our protests and protesters. It has not been that long, four years ago, since they've been calling Black Lives Matter protesters. Sometimes things don't change that much, and criminalizing our grief and our rage, and our mourning. And I wanted to make sure that I've captured on camera what really happened and the truth of what that was so that we could frame it properly.
Were you ever expecting to show up on CNN though?
I wasn't sure CNN was that interested to be completely honest. I'm not surprised at the framing. Some of the framing was problematic, that I heard, so I'm glad I got the bulk of it on my Instagram for people to come and see for themselves, because I looked at some of it and I was just like, what are they talking about? You know?
To be completely honest, I'm glad that they got the back of these cops' helmets, 'cause I realized that the cops don't put their badge numbers on the front of them when they're doing riots. When they're in their riot gear, they put their badge numbers on the back, and I need those badge numbers. That is the advantage that CNN provided us, 'cause people needed to see what was going on.
But I think it also made me a target, because it's my only speculation as to why [the cops] singled me out, like to the point where I pointed [to myself], like, "are you talking about me?" And they nodded their head and they pointed back at me and they continue to, that's why I believe I have seven wounds from being shot by rubber bullets, not one, not two. Seven. I think that's why my assistant Mario, who was standing by me the whole time, got attacked and I had to jump in; three of the officers, they had been ganging up on me. They started ganging up on him when my staff finally came.
Talk about the love and support from people out there who have seen you take a stand for the injustice that's going on right now.
It feels overwhelming in a lot of ways. As much as I appreciate it, it doesn't get to the root of our healing collectively. We cannot heal and we cannot liberate our mental trauma or health, and really liberate our children unless we end this system and we have to defund the police. And I want people to know that I'm not putting my life and my face on the line, calling out the largest gang in the United States to defund them and challenge their power, knowing the history of what happens to folks when they do that. Making my protest and my strategy very public for people to send me their support, and good vibes. I need that healing energy, and I appreciate it, but what I need way more than that is for people to get involved in this movement and this strategy to defund the police and utilize those resources for things that actually heal our community.
End the legacy of slave catching. End the legacy of slavery, and utilize those billions of dollars that we spend on police that makes us less safe every year to make us safer with housing, healthcare, education, and jobs. That's public safety. I'm talking about culturally competent health, mental health care. I'm talking about unarmed, non-law enforcement, first responders. I'm talking about rehabilitation centers. I'm talking about after school programs and real materials for our schools. I'm talking about making sure that we fight for liberation.
We can do this. It is gaining momentum. It is actually working. People are divesting from the Minneapolis PD. We can replicate that all across the United States. And I think that it's important that we do. I am not putting my shit on the line, my life, and my body, and facing this abuse, and targeting in order for people to give me their support. I need the support to go towards this liberation movement, defunding the police and prosecuting killer cops, we can build a better community, and we will.