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Police Converge on Convergence Center

by Michele Hardesty and Kerul Dyer Friday, Aug. 18, 2000 at 4:54 AM
mlh44@columbia.edu, dyer9141@students.sou.edu

A minor incident brings 120 police to the Convergence Center,where they occupy the street for an hour.

At 8:45 p.m. on Wednesday night, an estimated 120 police officers surrounded the D2K Convergence Center at 1919 W. 7th Street, completely filling the block of Westlake between 6th and 7th Streets. The reason for the occupation remains unclear. Lilia Garcia of the Direct Action Network reported that it began with a traffic incident. Others claim that a protestor ran into the Convergence Center shortly before the police swarmed the site.

“They’re blockading against a bottle that come from somewhere,” quipped Cody, an activist who arrived to the Convergence Center site after a march he was in was chased out of Pershing Square. The bottle—which someone apparently threw from a rooftop across 7th Street—led police to search the apartment building at 712 Westlake Street and arrest two young men inside who they suspected of throwing the bottle. The father of the two suspects joined with Midnight Special Law Collective to address his sons’ arrests.

“They’re just trying to make us scared,” stated William, a neighborhood resident who watched the police formation from across the street. Other neighborhood residents voiced support for the Convergence Center; many chanted against the police as they entered and searched the Westlake Street building.

“When the police were arriving in front of the Convergence Center, I heard the lead officer say, ‘Get them and take them to jail,’” said Joann Lo of the Direct Action Network (DAN). Lilia Garcia of DAN followed about 20 squad cars onto the scene, and later observed officers pointing weapons at the Convergence Center’s windows. The building had already locked its doors for safety, despite the court order preventing police from entering the building. Indeed, police officers did not attempt to go inside the center: “All the police wanted to do was sit there and look violent,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Midnight Special Legal Collective.

By 8:55, police had cleared the street, leaving residents and activists angry and perplexed. The street occupation—during which groups of officers jogged through the streets, weapons drawn—was provoked by the most minor of incidents, yet the police response was overwhelming. Garcia suggested that police tensions were probably high after a day of protests that centered on police brutality and abuse, including an action that centered on the neighborhood’s own Rampart police station.

Carmelo, who has lived in Pico Union for forty years, did not find the police’s behavior surprising: “This neighborhood is one of the areas occupied by the police,” he said.

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