UDPATE 7-10-2020: SUSPECT ARRESTED APPROX 9PM – REPORT TO FOLLOW
“Racism is still alive here in South Pasadena.”
Those were the words uttered by London Lang, organizer for South Pasadena Youth for Police Reform last week during a protest that led BLM supporters through the streets on July 4th. The underlying sentiment that became a principal message was that independence is nothing to be celebrated by those who still have yet completely attain it.
According to Lang, the support that he and his fellow protestors have received far outweigh the discrimination or opposition of some dissenters. However certain incidences have reared their ugly head to confirm the conviction that covert — and sometimes — blatant prejudices currently remain.
Video footage shared by Lang and the advocacy organization, South Pasadena Youth for Police Reform, shows that of a yet-to-be positively ID’d man arguing with two protestors on the northwest corner of Mission St. and Fair Oaks Ave., though much of the dialogue is difficult to decipher — due mainly to the assailant’s borderline incoherent ramblings — his message became clear as he lowers his mask and spits in the face of the protestor filming the encounter.
Fahren James, sister of London and SP Youth/ BLM supporter, was one of the two protestors involved in the incident, saying what prompted the confrontation was a sign that read, “Not sure who needs to hear this, but cops aren’t supposed to kill guilty people either.” According to James, as she walked over to adjust the sign, the first thing the man said to her was, “I don’t like your sign” to which she responded with, “I don’t mind having a civil conversation with someone who disagrees with what we’re doing here, as long as it’s not confrontational.”
London, who was not present at the time, later learned of the conflict when he came by around 7:00 p.m. to assist in packing up. From what he saw in the video and what was relayed, he concludes that, “Instead of listening, he just wanted to say ‘I’m right’, to say ‘whatever you’re doing here is incorrect.’ My sister doesn’t take that lightly.”
Lang surmises that the man was possibly ready for physical contact, noting that he was seen holding what was described as “a large rock, and a sharp-pointed drumstick” visible under his left armpit.
His sister states that escalation began after the assaulter claimed the protestor’s sign to be racist. “I let him say his piece and what his issue was,” says Fahren, “First thing he said was ‘My dad’s a cop.’ So? my dad’s a cop too, so he says, ‘Well my dad’s dead.’ So I said, ‘I’m really sorry about that, but this has nothing really to do with the sign, and that doesn’t help me understand why this sign is racist.”
The back and forth continued as the man’s tone was said to have gotten progressively more agitated, “He wasn’t making a whole lot of sense,” observes James, ” As I pressed him more to tell me why the sign was racist in his eyes, he just became frustrated because he really couldn’t tell me. ‘Guilty people go back into communities and start trouble'”, was supposedly the focal point of his argument, prompting James to explain that while she believes those people need to be charged and/or arrested, that does not justify being killed by the police, adding that use of deadly force is warranted only “if it 100% necessary, and they (police) actually feel threatened. But we’ve seen, time after time, people being slaughtered by police when it’s not necessary.”
By this point, which was still prior to video recording, the man was said to be inching closer to Fahren, and her fellow protestor, Victoria — who has demonstrated with them “almost every day”. The two identified the aforementioned rock in his hand and pointed stick, and recognized potential threat which alerted Victoria to begin filming on her phone for documentation. “He recognize(d) that he (was) being recorded so he slightly change(d) his tune a little bit,” says Fahren, as she also noticed that man was closing the distance with Victoria even more.
At the peak of the argument Fahren was appalled by what happened next, “He actually grabbed her (Victoria’s) phone out of her hand while she was recording and then I stepped between the two,” with James positioned between her fellow protestor and the agitator he demanded that they stop recording him, while the two defended they were well within their legal rights to document while being in a public space.
“You can walk away, you can end the conversation here, but you can’t grab somebody’s phone or make contact just because you don’t like it,” explains Fahren, relaying what she was trying to communicate to the man.
Snippets of the recording are unintelligible, but some key phrases can be heard, with the man saying “If (unintelligible) is an agitator or rioter, they did something wrong y’know. That man (unintelligible) that’s trying to do a job and duty to stuff to clean up stuff. That’s, that’s the point I’m trying to make. You keep going on like that… you got police goin on you’re gonna (unintelligible). Y’know, and she can f—in put that on, you can talk, you can talk s–t behind my back. I’m going this way to my neighborhood.”
Fahren is heard responding with, “And that’s fine, that’s fine, You can go wherever you gotta go, nobody’s telling you to stay here. Ok, enjoy your neighborhood and enjoy your day.”
Unfortunately, the option for peaceful resolution had passed as she described him escalating the situation while he, “pulled down his mask and (he) spit right between my arm (and) into Victoria’s face.”
Immediately the two women are heard exclaiming “What the f–k is wrong with you? You do not spit on a woman, you do not spit on a woman!” The assaulter biked away afterwards.
Though Victoria had not yet called authorities according to Fahren, a passing motorist — who later connected with the protestors via Instagram — that witnessed the confrontation, honked and yelled at the agitator, eventually calling the police, while she proceeded to follow him “for some time”.
The motorist had not filed a police report, however, and after the call two officers did respond to the scene shortly thereafter to investigate. “We told them that we have video so they don’t even have to go by our word, they can look and see exactly what happened. They weren’t very interested in watching the whole video.” The officers proceeded to question Fahren for a description of the suspect, confusing her as she told them, “The video can give you better details than I can (based) off of memory.”
“My whole takeaway from my experience with the police was that for them not to automatically file a report for something that is as egregious as spitting on another human being during COVID, they should (do it),” says Fahren, emphasizing the importance of having the suspect on record in case he were to return and attempt to perpetrate something more serious.
Coincidentally, Fahren notes, is that the same responding officers had interacted with her earlier, when, in a gesture of cooperation and seeking approval, she asked them if her sign’s message jibed well with local law enforcement.
Both London and his sister have consistently applauded the police department for their cooperation and vice versa, however after her most recent encounter, Fahren was left bewildered at their perceived lack of involvement in the incident.
Spitting on another individual, in many cases (and depending on the circumstances), can actually be considered aggravated assault and a felony — a charge that is currently exacerbated by the possible transmission of COVID — which factors in an even more serious form of assault that, in some instances, is labeled as threatening to use a “biological agent” and gives the possibility for the crime to be categorized as terrorism.
According to Fahren the police have a report and charges have yet to be made.
There currently exists no leads positively identifying the man. London and Fahren have taken to multiple social media platforms, seeking information about the assailant. “I think people have been saying that he’s a troll on the 91030 Facebook Group,” says Lang, who also is in contact with the online group’s administrator, requesting transcripts of the forum to help put a name to the face.
When asked whether he thought this was a form of racism on display, London says, “Definitely, even if he was talking out of his a–. If anything, it just adds on to what was happening with the nails in driveways and (‘It’s O.K. to be White) signs on cars — it’s almost a direct correlation to it. Now it’s just about stepping up.”
“Hopefully we’ll find out who this guy is,” adds London’s sister, “We hope that if anyone knows who this guy is they speak up regardless of the fact that his father was a cop. We’re definitely hoping for justice, because if this man can spit on us, he can spit on anybody and that is not appropriate and it’s not ok.”
Both London and Fahren urge anyone possessing any information about the assailant to contact them.
Ultimately the siblings strive to continue to promote dialogue with those who may disagree with them, as long as it is in a civil manner. Both acknowledge that it is not an overnight transformation in changing some minds, but retaining a positive message remains a strong strategy — citing that responding to hate with love is disarming.
Fahren reflects on the message that elicited the confrontation and stands by it. “The point was to address that all criminals need to be treated the same, we have to be real about that, and recognize that.”
At the time of this report The SouthPasadenan is awaiting an official response from the South Pasadena Police Department.
If you or anyone you know has information on the suspect please contact the South Pasadena Police Department at (626) 403-7270