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Celebrities take to streets for historic demonstrations

Jamie Foxx, Halsey, John Cusack, Killer Mike, others take public stand alongside protesters to condemn racism, violence amid spiraling US crisis

Jamie Foxx speaks to a large crowd during a "kneel-in" to protest police racism on the steps of City Hall in San Francisco, June 1, 2020. (AP/Eric Risberg)
Jamie Foxx speaks to a large crowd during a "kneel-in" to protest police racism on the steps of City Hall in San Francisco, June 1, 2020. (AP/Eric Risberg)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jamie Foxx stood shoulder-to-shoulder with activists in Minneapolis, proclaiming that “we’re not afraid of the moment.” In Los Angeles, pop star Halsey and “Insecure” actor Kendrick Sampson were hit with rubber bullets during a tense stand-off. And in Chicago, John Cusack was filming a burning car when officers rushed up to him and began screaming at him to leave, and he says, hitting his bike.

Across the US, many celebrities have been doing far more than tweeting supportive words or issuing carefully prepared statements. They took to the streets alongside thousands of people to condemn the killings of black people at the hands of police and to demand reform.

“I was there in LA when it was the Rodney King beating and I watched that, and I said ‘Man, if they get away with this what’s going to happen later?’ And it continues to happen,” Foxx said Monday in San Francisco, where he joined church leaders and activists in a “kneel-in.”

Foxx’s comments came three days after he flew to Minneapolis to join the chorus of anger over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after being pinned under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer for several minutes even after he became unresponsive.

“As I’m talking to my nephews, as I’m talking to my daughter, trying to telling them how to act when they’re out there and they see a police officer, I’m sort of running out of things to tell them and it shouldn’t be that way,” Foxx said in San Francisco. “It shouldn’t be that way in America in 2020. We have to evolve.”

Many celebrities turned out Saturday and Sunday at sometimes intense protests in Los Angeles, including one outside a popular, high-end shopping mall where protesters took over a city bus, tagged buildings and burned police cars. Model and activist Emily Ratajkowski waved a sign that read “Dismantle power structures of oppression,” Paris Jackson carried one that said “Peace Love Justice” and rapper Machine Gun Kelly’s said, “Silence is betrayal.” Pop star Ariana Grande tweeted that “we chanted, people beeped and cheered along.”

Sampson (“Insecure,” “How to Get Away With Murder”) on Saturday grabbed a microphone.

“Our solutions are not defined by systems that oppression built!” he shouted. “America was founded on racism, anti-blackness and genocide. When you talk about America, don’t leave that s— out.”

Later Sampson was shown at the front of a standoff with police. Some of the details of the video aren’t clear, but Sampson said on Instagram that a rubber bullet that police shot into the ground ricocheted and hit his assistant. The video shows Sampson step in front of his assistant and an officer hit him at least twice with a baton.

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Before you swipe – If you’re squeamish – warning – these are SOME my wounds up close. The most obvious are from rubber bullets. They look gross but I was blessed to be shot directly from close range and not have much worse, ive posted some in my stories. These things HURT and are DANGEROUS. The dude was aiming for folks HEADS. Rubber bullets have killed folks and can cause permanent damage, brain damage, concussions etc. Swipe further to see some of the officers. I can see some of their names but their badge numbers were on the back of their helmets. Purposeful. ONE OF them removed his name. Others obscured theirs. I need the names and badge numbers. DM them and any other proof to @alwaysbewright Let’s do this. And together let’s end this legacy of slave catching and #DefundPolice #DefendBlackLife (check out @mvmnt4blklives nationwide campaign for US ✊????)

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“Then an officer aims straight at me, no ricochet, and shoots [rubber bullets]” Sampson wrote. “That was one of seven shots I took. They are excruciating. And they CAN kill.”

Nearby, Halsey, who was at the protest with ex-boyfriend and recording artist Yungblud, also reported being hit with rubber bullets and getting tear-gassed.

“We were peaceful. Hands up, not moving, not breaching the line,” she wrote on Instagram. “They opened fire of rubber bullets and tear gas multiple times on US citizens who were not provoking them.”

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It’s become very clear to me that some of you need to see what I’ve seen. Please swipe through this. These pictures and videos don’t even scratch the surface. It’s easy from the comfort of your home to watch looting and rioting on television and condone the violent measures being taken by forces. But what you don’t see is innocent peaceful protestors being shot at and tear gassed and physically assaulted relentlessly. You think it’s not happening, it’s only the “thugs” and the “riots”, right? The police are keeping you safe right? You’re wrong. This is happening everywhere. And innocent people exercising their rights to speech and assembly are facing violence and abuse of power. With all of our medical professionals being CONSUMED and EXHAUSTED with Covid, there is little to no medical attention available. I have first hand treated men women and children who have been shot in the chest, the face, the back. Some will lose vision some have lost fingers. I have been covered in innocent blood. My father is a black man. My mother is an EMT. This week I had to put those two associations together in ways that have horrified me. This is NOT a virtue signaling post. But I HAVE to show you what I am witnessing with my own eyes. With Trump’s decision today to enforce the mobilization of armed forces on our own citizens, this has escalated beyond your privilege and comfort to not care. Please care. We are begging you to care. This is war on Americans. This is everyone’s problem. Everyone’s. #BLACKLIVESMATTER

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Los Angeles police did not respond to a request for comment about their actions at the scene.

Halsey was back out protesting Sunday in nearby Santa Monica, where many demonstrators acted peacefully but others continued a third day of looting in the Los Angeles area.

Recording artist Madison Beer tweeted Sunday for people to leave Santa Monica immediately.

“I was just tear gassed,” she wrote. “They are arresting everyone and tear gassing all crowds.”

Among the hundreds arrested at that mostly peaceful demonstration was “Riverdale” actor Cole Sprouse, who wrote on Instagram that “this is precisely the time to contemplate what it means to stand as an ally.”

“I hope others in my position do, as well,” he said.

While some celebrities chose to demonstrate, others took to social media to express their disapproval of looting.

“Everyone is angry but there is a way to direct that anger,” actor/director Taika Waititi wrote on Twitter on Saturday. In another tweet, he wrote: “The police seem to be enjoying this. You’re inciting the chaos, dudes!”

After peaceful protests turned violent in Atlanta on Friday, director Tyler Perry pleaded on Instagram to “please stop this violence!”

“Looting is NOT THE ANSWER!!!!” he said.

That night rapper Killer Mike, whose cousin is an Atlanta police officer, spoke alongside Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and gave an impassioned speech that soon went viral.

“It is your duty not to burn your own house down for anger with an enemy,” he said, adding that he has a lot of love and respect for police while also acknowledging that some of them have done “horrendous” things.

On Monday, Perry posted on Instagram that he personally spoke with George Floyd’s immediate family, and that “’they are adamant in their call for peaceful protest.”

In San Francisco, Foxx urged more of his fellow celebrities to step up.

“What I want to say about my Hollywood friends, you’ve got to get out here,” he said. “You can’t sit back, you can’t tweet, you can’t text… When you hear and when you see how people are hurting, you can understand what it is as opposed to being in your bedroom or your living room and saying, ‘Hey I don’t like this.’ Get out of the cul-de-sac and come down here on the courtroom steps.”

The singer Tank joined Foxx and sang a powerful rendition of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come.”

“A change is gonna come,” Tank told the crowd afterward. “As long as we keep doing this, a change is gonna come.”

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