The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Why the names of African Americans killed by police took over the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Anonymous members of an anarchist group covered the Hollywood Walk of Fame stars with names of African Americans who have been killed by police. (Video: INDECLINE

A video posted on social media last week shows anonymous members of an anarchist group covering Hollywood Walk of Fame stars with the names of African Americans who have been killed by police.

The video conceals the anarchists’ faces as they use adhesive to attach name plates — and the group’s logo — to the terrazo and brass stars. The names represent several African Americans who were unarmed when they were killed by police in recent years, including Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Oscar Grant.

The footage is set to a fiery Malcolm X speech following the fatal 1962 police shooting of Nation of Islam officer Ronald Stokes in Los Angeles.

“We want an immediate end to this police brutality,” he says as the video shows a Los Angeles Police Department sign.

Minneapolis police officers will not face charges for fatally shooting Jamar Clark

“Someone has to pay,” Malcolm X says as a pair of gloved hands holds a Freddie Gray name plate before gluing it on a blank star. “Somewhere, somehow, someone has to pay.”

The video concludes with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, which oversees the Walk of Fame, said Wednesday that the plates have been removed.

“The Hollywood Walk of Fame is an institution celebrating the positive contributions of celebrity inductees,” Leron Gubler, the chamber’s president and chief executive, said in a statement to The Washington Post. “As an internationally renowned icon, it attracts worldwide attention. We recognize that there are people upset about numerous issues and lobbying for change, but we would hope that they would project their anger in more positive ways than to vandalize a California State landmark. The stars were cleaned up as soon as the vandalism was discovered.”

A Los Angeles Police Department spokesperson told The Post that the department hadn’t received any reports about the incident.

The Washington Post’s police shootings database

The video was released amid an ongoing national conversation around race, policing and criminal-justice reform.

As The Post’s Wesley Lowery reported in December:

Activists and criminal-justice experts say the national ethos regarding race and policing has changed dramatically since a black teenager was shot to death by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014. Since then, sustained protests in multiple cities, an aggressive social media campaign and a steady drip of viral videos revealing questionable police shootings have eroded the societal reflex to defend police and blame the dead victim.

Fatal encounters with police, he wrote, “have also soured the public’s opinion of law enforcement.”

In June, a Gallup poll found that about half of Americans surveyed expressed “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in police, a 22-year low. Meanwhile, a separate poll found the percentage of black Americans who see race as the nation’s most urgent problem increased from 3 percent at the beginning of 2014 to 15 percent after Ferguson.
“The American public has accepted that this is a real problem. They’ve seen Eric Garner, then Michael Brown, then Walter Scott, then Sandra Bland,” said Al Sharpton, the New York-based activist who for decades has been among the nation’s most prominent proponents of policing reform.
“We’ve seen a shift because, with story after story, the public says, ‘Wait a minute. They can’t be making all of this up.’ ”

Last month, a civilian oversight panel in Los Angeles found that the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man on the city’s Skid Row had been justified.

The March 2015 shooting death of Charly Keunang had attracted national attention after a bystander’s cellphone video of the confrontation went viral. As The Post’s Sarah Kaplan reported, the footage showed what initially looked like a fist fight between a black police officer and the victim. Three more officers helped wrestle the man to the ground. There appeared to be a struggle over one of the officer’s weapons — someone can be heard yelling “drop the gun” in the video. Then, the officers fired at Keunang, hitting him six times.

Just over one year later, about eight miles away from the site of that fatal encounter, the anarchist group Indecline hit Hollywood Boulevard to make a statement — and a video.

In a statement emailed to The Post on Thursday, Indecline said it considered its latest operation a success.

“Tourists’ incessant photographs and loud declarations of obsession and admiration for the various stars on Hollywood Boulevard  helped us to realize that there are names within our current culture who deserve the attention more so than these ‘celebrities,'” the statement said. “It’s these names, as well as the unchecked police brutality and violence associated with each one that we need to be discussing on a more intimate and proactive level.

“Not to completely discredit Vin Diesel’s Oscar worthy contributions to the world of cinema, but somebody needed to step in and help America refocus its lens on the entity that is literally killing us: American Police Officers.”

This post has been updated.

MORE READING: Minneapolis police officers will not face charges for fatally shooting Jamar Clark

Terminix to pay millions for using pesticide that left family with ‘profoundly debilitating injuries’

Here are the 61 people whose sentences Obama just commuted