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Police Intimidation Tactics Escalate

by Anne Kunkin Zoe Mitchell and Sarah Bania-Doby Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2000 at 7:26 PM

The first day of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) the LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) showed their ability to move in formation to demonstrate force over activists.

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The first day of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) the LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) showed their ability to move in formation to demonstrate force over activists.

D2K's August 14th "Human Need Not Corporate Greed" rally at Pershing Square kicked off smoothly, in a wonderful spirit of cooperation among the many groups that have organized under it's broad umbrella. Groups as diverse as Justice for Janitors, The Green Party, Free Mumia, Justice for the U'Wa nation and Film Local 847, all came together with the understanding that all of their issues stem from the same cause; the stranglehold of our democracy by the corporate machine and big money.

The Rally ended with wonderful pep talks from State Senator Tom Hayden and Granny D, who walked from coast to coast for campaign finance reform, and a lively skit starring puppets and drummers. All this took place in spite of the intimidating presence of a large number of police.

After the rally the seven to ten thousand person crowd took to the streets and marched from Pershing Square to the area in front of the Staple Center designated by the city for the demonstrator's use. The diverse crowd sang, played drums, chanted in English and Spanish and maintained a festive energy in spite of the huge police presence.

The LAPD can do anything, said a Direct Action Network (DAN) security monitor during the march.

While the organizers of the march demonstrated their cooperation with the city by setting people along the entire route to make sure people would stay off the sidewalks and not veer off the pre-designated route, the police, for their part, did their best to create an attitude of fear and ill-will. Every intersection passed by the marchers was lined with twenty to forty police in full riot gear, all standing in identical positions holding their batons in ready position over the same shoulder. In some cases, police also carried rubber bullets and tear gas and were unwilling to answer questions from media, DAN security or legal observers. At various times the officers huddled to discuss their next tactics which included periodical and militaristic exercises run throughout the route as a show of force: a line of police would run right at the marchers only to stop short just a few feet away.

Upon arriving at the Staples Center, the marchers joined a group of ten to fifteen thousand people already waiting for a promised concert by the group "Rage Against the Machine." water sprays to run under were provided by the city; a nice touch for hot tired marchers, which seemed to be designed to difuse any hot tempers. The police, however, continued to run tactical exercises outside the enclosed area which housed the marchers and "Rage" fans: stacked in army type formation in the middle of the street facing the intersection, they suddenly peeled off in regimented groups, marched down the street, turned and formed identical formations facing the intersection from the other direction. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to these maneuvers other than to strike fear in the protesters.

These tactics were not confined to the demonstrations in the streets. According to a local resident, Levi Stuart, police started blocking the streets two to three weeks before the convention. In addition, police arrested homeless people in the area.

[They are trying to] turn this city into a police state, Stuart said.

After the March for Our Lives, tension between the activists and police heightened when the officers took the activists puppets. One DAN security monitor said the police decided to take the puppets when they found the puppets unattended. The crowd continued to pressure the police to return the puppets until the Federal Department of Justice mediators intervened, telling the police to return the puppets.

Monday night was also the first occurrence of police tear gassing activists as they dispersed from the Rage Against the Machine concert, which concluded the march outside the Staples Center. Police proceeded to evacuate the square.

If you see any elements of police brutality or intimidation in the next week, please report them to the Independent Media Center (IMC) at 323-967-0003 and ask for dispatch.

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