Nervous authorities target protesters
By Larry Everest
Revolutionary Worker #1067, August 20, 2000
I'm writing this as I'm getting ready to head to L.A. to cover the DNC-packing my bags and packing my brain with news of the battle that's already going on at "ground zero."
What jumps out on one side are the dimensions, the diversity, and the determination of the protests. Starting with Sunday's march for Mumia, there's plans for five days of non-stop activities-demonstrations, art shows, concerts, press conferences, conventions and more. One gets the sense of tremendous energy and determination in the face of the busts, brutality, and continued imprisonment of the activists who demonstrated against the RNC in Philly.
This is about the masses stepping onto the political stage to make a difference-not the ugly, hollow, confined, pre-scripted bullshit of bourgeois education and society. It's the living color of resistance and rebellion in the streets versus the bland, phony, lifeless, black-and-white of Pleasantville life staged by the Republicans and Democrats.
And what are the powers preparing to do to this genuine, beautiful and creative energy coming from the people, this upsurge for justice and a better world? They want to suppress it, stuff it back in the bottle.
L.A. authorities prepared for the Democratic National Convention for a long time, on many fronts. The LAPD starting making plans nearly a year and a half ago, in April of 1999.
According to the L.A. Times, the LAPD worked up a six-inch-thick "operations plan" from a secret location that outlines three goals: securing the DNC convention site, ensuring safe travel for the visiting VIPs, and maintaining order in the streets. The LAPD received special crowd control training-"prepared to use tear gas, pepper spray and bean bag launchers if the demonstrations turn violent."
The LAPD plan to operate a "unified" command post at a secret location in L.A.-ready to call on other arms of the imperialist state: California Highway Patrol personnel from Ventura County, Orange County sheriff's deputies, Santa Barbara officials, as well as 500 L.A. County sheriff's deputies and additional law enforcement from L.A.'s 41 municipal agencies. It's also been reported that the National Guard is prepared to deploy 3,000 troops in L.A., assisted by firefighters.
The LAPD has summed up that they didn't react fast enough or forcefully enough at the beginning of the 1992 L.A. Rebellion, and has warned that they've learned their lesson-in effect threatening to try and maintain control by any means necessary. One LAPD official told the L.A. Times, "We had become so concerned about public opinion that we failed to do what we were required to do..." The L.A. cop heading the anti-protest effort, Lorenzen, told the Times, "Are we going to do everything we can to control these scenarios? Yes. Are we going to arrest all of these [protesters] who truly need to be arrested? Yes." There are reports of a "virtual army" of police posted strategically throughout downtown.
Other officials in L.A. joined in this chorus, demonstrating that the state-and all its various agencies and departments-IS the arm of the ruling class. Sheriff Lee Baca was joined at a press conference by DA Gil Garcetti and Judge Larry Fidler. Fidler warned that L.A. has plenty of jail room and that "thousands of officers can be brought to the central area within hours to assist the LAPD." Fidler, the Superior Court Judge in charge of criminal cases, has postponed other cases and employees' vacations so the courts will be ready to process massive arrests. Trees have been cut down, mailboxes and news racks removed, and businesses boarded up around the convention site.
Such threats, leading up to the convention, have been designed to try and create public opinion in advance for a brutal police response and to intimidate protesters. But authorities in L.A. face many difficulties when it comes to drumming up favorable public opinion for the police. The LAPD has been rocked by the Rampart scandal and a recent federal lawsuit and is under a microscope. Some of the powers fear that the LAPD will over-react-further discrediting itself and the system, inflaming the situation, and directing the spotlight of public attention away from the convention floor and out into the streets of protest. Former LAPD Chief Davis reflected these concerns when he commented that the LAPD's "response should be appropriate to the need. The whole world, or at least all of America, will be watching. If you must make arrests, it should be done with a minimum of force..."
At the same time, the authorities are very concerned that they may not be able to contain the situation. In a major piece on August 5, the L.A. Times quoted an LAPD official saying that L.A. will be "180 degrees different for a million reasons. The venue is different, the geography, the laws, the political agenda of the party in question, the reduced resources of the anarchists on the east coast versus the west coast...this is going to be a hugely different event."
The Times continued, "Police will be stretched far thinner than in Philadelphia because of Los Angeles' sprawl and because the LAPD has fewer officers per city resident than the Philadelphia Department has."
What comes through is the authorities' fear that L.A.'s oppressed masses will be drawn into the fray. After Monday's concert featuring Rage Against the Machine and Ozomotli was approved, one LAPD official said, "We're gravely concerned because of security reasons-just the large numbers of individuals that this will bring out."
The LAPD closely studied the pre-emptive strikes launched by Washington, DC cops during the protests against the IMF this past April, as well as the actions of the police at the RNC. Reportedly, the LAPD was "particularly impressed" with the preemptive arrests of some 70 people making puppets in a warehouse in Philadelphia. One cop stated, "With delayed reaction, you permit huge crowds to build and build before you take action. In Washington, the Police Department took extensive preemptive action early to prevent the tactics from being fully implemented...You didn't see that in Seattle."
L.A. officials also applauded how preventative detention was used against activists and organizers in Philly. For example a leader of the Ruckus Society, charged with several misdemeanors, was initially given a million bail-in a clear effort to keep him and others away from L.A. Mayor Riordan declared that he was "impressed" by the way Philadelphia cops worked "with the courts to make sure that people who are violent aren't put back on the streets."
At a press conference a week before the DNC convention, some anarchists detailed how they'd been facing constant harassment from the police and the FBI- just to hold a convention in L.A.
A major article appeared in the L.A. Times, highlighting the prominent role religious organizations have played in protests against police brutality, the juvenile justice system, for immigrant rights and against the death penalty. The following Thursday, the police showed up at the Catholic Worker offices looking for some of the organizers of a planned protest at the Rampart Station.
On July 15 and 22, police showed up at the D2KLA Convergence Center, demanding to see a lease. On August 2, fire inspectors tried to enter the building, as police videotaped outside. On August 7 and 8, police stopped by the Center again. On August 9, two activists were arrested at a coffee house near the Center. Other activists in the area have been frisked by cops or arrested for jaywalking.
On Thursday, August 17, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of The D2K Convergence Planning Coalition, Rise Up/Direct Action Network, and the Community Arts Network-charging the LAPD with unlawful harassment and asking for a temporary restraining order against the LAPD. The suit charges that the LAPD has engaged in constant surveillance, repeated drive-bys and flying helicopters overhead, photographed people entering the Center, demanded to search it without a warrant, followed people leaving the Center, temporarily detaining some of them, and taking license numbers of cars parked nearby.
Such police intelligence-gathering is aimed at suppressing the struggle AND giving the power structure a better understanding of how to try and control, and contain, this new movement of resistance that's gathering steam. On Friday, a federal judge ordered that the LAPD could not pre-emptively seize protest materials or enter protest offices without a warrant, but refused to ban their surveillance.
Organizers have fought these attacks tit-for-tat, including organizing their own Independent Media Center, fighting on the legal front, and continuing to organize protest actions.
As the rulers try and gain "intelligence" about the struggle, the people are gaining some rich "intelligence" of our own about the nature and operation of the system. As RCP Chairman Bob Avakian once said: The system is a great teacher. If you don't learn the first time, it will teach you again and again.
In Philadelphia, many people got a lesson in the reality of capitalist class dictatorship behind the ragged mask of democracy. Now, as the "red-carpet" is rolled out for Democratic Party high rollers while justice-seeking activists are being arrested, surveilled and harassed, the system will surely give the people another lesson in L.A.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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