National Crime Victims' Rights Week: Emotions run high at rally in downtown LA

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Tensions flared Wednesday at a rally in downtown Los Angeles marking National Crime Victims' Rights Week, as deputies were met by protesters who criticized L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who was in attendance, and his department.

Thirteen-year-old Natalia Jackson broke down in tears when she spoke about her father who was murdered at his store in 2013.

"Not only was my father taken suddenly from us, his safety and security and love that he gave us every day was horribly interrupted in one single moment," Natalia said.

Natalia and others took part in the rally to support those who have lost loved ones.

Participants at the event criticized Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon. They said Gascon's office is doing more to protect criminals than victims. Jon Hatami, a deputy district attorney who served as prosecutor in the Gabriel Fernandez case, has been critical of his boss.

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"George Gascon does not care about this community, he does not care about people of color in this community, he is lying," Hatami said.

There were tense moments as Black Lives Matter activists came to the rally to protest. They tried to get into the event but were held back by sheriff's deputies. They said they support the victims and were there to protest against the Sheriffs Department.

"They should be standing with us, not standing on the most corrupt and violent sheriff in the history of Los Angeles County -- and that's saying something," said Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter.

Addressing the crowd, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said: "I know there's an element out there -- in fact, even right in the street, right now, chanting -- because they want to drown out the voices of victory. They want to drown out law abiding citizens."

Villanueva expressed his concern about budget cuts to the department, estimated at $77 million for next year as crime is going up. He said it sends the wrong message.
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