As peaceful protests over George Floyd's killing devolved into pandemonium across the nation, 21-year-old Californian Zeelee Segura said the only violent demonstrators she saw outside of the La Mesa Police Department were those in blue uniforms.
Segura was struck in the face by a rubber bullet during a May 30 protest in La Mesa, California, during what she described as an otherwise peaceful demonstration outside of the city's police department building.
She told Blavity she was shot as she fled the scene.
Segura calls for police reform.
“There was that moment of us looking each other in the eyes, and then the officer chose to aim his gun that way — when I was running away,” she said. “It definitely makes you feel like your life isn’t valued."
She said she believes that police are sending a clear signal to citizens.
“We are fighting for our right to live and the fact that police can’t take a moment to acknowledge or appreciate that is disgusting,” she said. “This is why America needs police reform.”
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i was shot in the face by california police yesterday. it was a peaceful protest & THE POLICE WERE THE ONES TO INCITE VIOLENCE. it’s really hard for me to express my emotions, but if I could get anything across. I would want people to know how much it hurts to know your life is seen as dispensable in this world. to be seen as dispensable by those you grow up around, by schools, by the system set to protect you. as black people everything can seem terrifying from that little interaction with a cop for a speeding violation to stopping at a gas station late at night. I don’t want to have to live in fear, fear for my siblings, fear for my friends, fear that one wrong step and I could lose my life or the lives of those around me.
LA residents reveal the true impact of non-lethal weapons.
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SWIPE ⬅️ THE IMPACT OF A RUBBER BULLET. The POLICE fractured two bones on the right side of my face. The POLICE busted open the area in the back of my cheek and right below my temple. THE POLICE are the reason for the stitches I’m carrying in my face this morning. A rubber bullet is as lethal as any of the hardest objects in the world coming hatefully across your face. So, how am I feeling? ENRAGED. A rage because you want to go back out but the doctors said that even the slighting impact on my right side could break my entire face. The POLICE did that. How am I feeling? HURT. Hurt because people, even people I love and respect, don’t want to admit that protestors come in peace and that the violence aimed at majority Black and Brown peaceful protesters is not the same violence aimed at the White rioters who decide to burn buildings, break windows, and steal liquor leaving it to the blame on us that are peaceful. How am I feeling? LOVE. I feel a guided love not for the folks who busted open my face, but for MY PEOPLE! My people who will show up and put their bodies on the line again. My people who take our pain and turn it into greater magic. Fix your face, they say? Maybe I could if the POLICE didn’t decide to break it. #DefundThePolice
But Segura is not alone.
Deon Jones, a creative professional, documented his own experience with police response to peaceful protesting in Los Angeles.
“The POLICE fractured two bones on the right side of my face. The POLICE busted open the area in the back of my cheek and right below my temple," he wrote on Instagram. "No rioting was taking place. An LAPD officer shot me in the face with a rubber bullet."
While police deploy bullets made of rubber in place of standard lead bullets as a tactic to disperse crowds, Jones said that the experience he survived didn’t feel like an act of mercy.
“A rubber bullet is as lethal as any of the hardest objects in the world coming hatefully across your face,” he continued. “I praise God it did not hit my temple or eye.”
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SWIPE ⬅️ Today, in our fourth evening of protests, our peace was met yet again with violence from the LAPD. As they told us to disperse, they again left no avenue for us to do that safely. They again began shooting their rubber bullets. No rioting was taking place. An LAPD officer shot me in the face with a rubber bullet. My head began to ring immensely and I fell to the ground when I was able to escape the perimeter. I thought it was a brick. It was not. Thankfully, I did not become unconscious. And, I praise God it did not hit my temple or eye. Thanks to everyone who has called or text. The medical staff at Cedar’s Sanai have been amazing. I’m safe. People need to see this type of violence. People need to know, contrary to the news, that protesters have been peaceful. I’m angry. I’m hurt. But, liberation is in our view. The work continues. #DefundThePolice
“My head began to ring immensely and I fell to the ground when I was able to escape the perimeter,” the peaceful protester shared on Instagram. “I thought it was a brick. It was not.”
A Kentucky protester sustained similar injuries.
In Louisville, Kentucky, Shannyn Sharyse was struck in the face with a rubber bullet while recording a peaceful protest on her cell phone.
The teenager's injuries show the impact of a rubber bullet that does not “miss the temple or eye.”
CW: BLOOD AND GORE
I was protesting tonight. I was recording everything when I got hit with a rubber bullet. This is the result. pic.twitter.com/b6tniiuVSq
— Steve Rogers (@shannynsharyse) May 30, 2020
The rubber bullet tore the skin from her forehead and left her eyes swollen shut. Sharyse's injuries got the attention of celebrity Kim Kardashian.
International lawmakers have worked to limit use of non-lethal force by police.
Segura urges protesters to come prepared and informed on how to protect themselves:
“Know the right clothing and protection for your eyes,” she cautions. “And not to wear white. It makes you more of a target. Communicate to more than one person where you are going and at what time.”
While Segura counsels protesters on the importance of protecting themselves, New York Times journalist Linda Tirado says she was struck by a rubber bullet in a moment when she briefly shifted her attention to her equipment, The Times reports.
Tirado, who underwent surgery following the shooting, is now permanently blind in one eye, according to her tweeted updates. She told the Times that there was no way police didn’t know she was working press.
“I would say there is no way that anyone had looked at me and not known that I am a working journalist,” she told the Times. “That said, police have been pretty clear that they don’t care if you are working journalist.”
Human rights experts say these police tactics mirror behaviors now considered unlawful in Chile, The Trace reports. Police in the region aimed for the eyes of protestors, in attempts to discourage continued unrest in 2019, according to the Times.
In step with international law, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti has ordered LAPD to limit its use of the non-lethal weapons. According to ABC 7, the announcement prompted lawmakers to propose clear standards for when police should use the sometimes-lethal force that has left journalists and civilians irreversibly injured.
Segura, who is an advocate for police reform, says the behavior of the officer who shot her shows the urgent need for systemic change.
“I want to advocate against the use of rubber bullets by police. In order to do that, I feel a lawsuit is needed,” she says. “There are body cams. I have evidence. They need to be punished for what they did.