L.A. Police Chief Walks Back Controversial Looter Comments

Michael Moore LAPD - Getty - H 2020

"Let me be clear — there are four police officers and four alone responsible for the death of George Floyd," Michael Moore tweeted on Monday.

What started as a routine, if not urgent, press conference amid protests marred by unrest across Los Angeles has led to a social media outcry and calls for L.A. Police Chief Michael Moore to be fired. 

Early Monday evening, Mayor Eric Garcetti joined Moore and Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas for an update on the city's official response to activity across the city as a countywide curfew went into effect. Garcetti spoke first and, in doing so, quoted the younger brother of George Floyd, the man killed while being detained by Minneapolis police officers. Terrence Floyd appeared in Brooklyn earlier in the day, where he voiced opposition to unrest and instead urged action at the polls. "Educate yourself and know who you vote for. That’s how you’re going to get it. ... Do this peacefully.”

Garcetti said the tenor of Terrence Floyd's message — including that "no one's grief can match his own" — "echoes for all of us, and to anyone who might hijack this moment and this movement to their own destructive ends." He was addressing the story that has emerged across more than 100 American cities as peaceful protests have been overshadowed by looting, vandalism and property damage. "I want to say clearly: We are going to continue to do everything we can to ensure peace. We’re throwing everything we have at maintaining the peace and promoting justice. Nobody need pick between those."

He said that "the worst things get on the news," but he tuned in to images of "engagement and restraint" with videos showing officers taking a knee in some cities, residents hugging the National Guard in others. "We need to find each other even amidst our pain," said Garcetti, who also announced that the city would be helping business owners recover from damage by speeding up the permit processes and making debris removal services free of charge while additional financial resources are en route. "For those who are acting criminally, destroying property and stealing, we see you and the police will arrest you. Those who are peacefully protesting, we see you and we thank you. The city thanks you."

After encouraging residents to "stay indoors, please stay safe and obey the law," he welcomed Moore to the podium at a time when multiple protests were happening across Los Angeles and cities across the Southland including Anaheim and Riverside. The veteran police chief detailed 700 arrests on Sunday through Monday morning, 70 of which he said were related to "looting and burglarizing" as areas from downtown, Santa Monica and Long Beach were hit by looters. Of those individuals, he connected Floyd's death to their activity by saying: “His death is on their hands, as much as it is on those officers'."

His remarks continued and were followed by Terrazas, but once Garcetti returned to the podium, the mayor interrupted the Q&A portion to allow Moore to walk back those comments. “I misspoke when I said his blood was on their hands, but certainly their actions do not serve the enormity of his loss. What his name should stand for is the catalyst for change. I regret the remarks of that characterization, but I don’t regret, nor will I apologize to, those out there creating destruction. His memory deserves better.”

However, by that point, Moore's words had gone viral on Twitter. By 8 p.m., video of the presser had been viewed more than 3.4 million times, with the comments under one clip dominated by calls for him to be fired and for Garcetti to respond. Moore himself attempted to clarify once again, this time on Twitter posting: "Let me be clear — there are four police officers and four alone responsible for the death of George Floyd. Simply put: Those intent on spewing mayhem and distraction into our communities are a disgrace to his memory."

Garcetti then followed shortly thereafter: "The responsibility for George Floyd’s death rests solely with the police officers involved. Chief Moore regrets the words he chose this evening and has clarified them."

But by then, reaction online had already made an impact. Among those who weighed in on Twitter were Ava DuVernay, who posted, "The audacity. The ignorance. This man lost any credibility he ever had, which was a long shot to begin with." Franklin Leonard also weighed in with words directed at Mayor Garcetti: "This cannot stand, and you know it."

See the press conference clip below.