LAPD Answer to Protests Against Police Brutality:
Rubber Bullets and Concussion Grenades
Revolutionary Worker #1077, November 6, 2000, posted at rwor.org
"We are here today to offer further proof that the LAPD deserves its reputation as this nation's most brutal police force." James Lafferty, Executive Director of the L.A. chapter of the National Lawyers Guild and a member of the national coordinating committee of the October 22nd Coalition, opened a Los Angeles press conference jointly hosted by the NLG and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Called to expose and denounce the LAPD attack on the Los Angeles demonstration for the 5th National Day of Protest, the press conference was also a stirring salute to the brave resisters.
Los Angeles police claimed they were provoked when they fired rubber bullets and concussion grenades at the more than 2000 protesters who had marched to LAPD headquarters. But videotape and eyewitness testimony at the press conference told a story of unprovoked police brutality. The police even fired on the rally stage where families of police murder victims were gathered to speak. And, through it all, the protesters held their ground.
As a video clip taken during the police attack was shown, Lafferty described, "...it clearly shows that the protesters at this past Sunday's anti-police brutality demonstration were not engaged in any violence or illegal acts prior to the brutal assault by the police." He also submitted a copy of a letter from the president of the board of police commissioners that proved "...that the organizers of the October 22nd demonstration--as I indeed told the police at the time--had a legal, valid permit to march, and that the police, therefore, had no right--no right--to close off those streets as they did."
He also offered proof that many protesters were injured, some of them seriously, "...as a result of the wanton assaults by these totally out-of-control officers on the scene. These injuries resulted from the unauthorized and criminal use of rubber bullets and other weapons, as well as from the brutal use of bully [billy] clubs."
Demanding that the police who were involved in these attacks be prosecuted as criminals, charged with assault and battery and assault with a deadly weapon, Lafferty exposed the reality behind what the authorities euphemistically call "less-than-lethal weapons" by displaying a rubber bullet canister recovered from the scene of Sunday's police riot. Prominently featured on it are written instructions warning that the bullets are not to be used on human beings or directed at human beings because they can cause serious injury or death.
One of the people most seriously injured during the police attack on Sunday was Xochitl Estrada, a ULCA student who suffered serious damage to her eye: "What I saw in the march is a little bit different from the video. I saw a little bit more beating from the police. I was out there with my bullhorn, shouting 'Stop police brutality! Stop police brutality!' And I looked and I saw an officer on a horse aiming at me and he shot... When I was trying to get medical attention, no one would help me. A police officer was laughing at me when I showed him my eye."
Civil rights attorney Carol Sobel talked about the lawsuits the ACLU is planning on filing against the police for this attack, and the damage lawsuits they are going to file for those who were injured. Further, the ACLU will seek an order from the federal judiciary enjoining the entire LAPD from using rubber bullets, and police on horses from using batons.
"In the past 10 years in this city, we've had five or six major lawsuits against the LAPD for abuse of demonstrators engaged in lawful demonstration," Sobel pointed out. "If you think about it, we've gone through chokeholds, hog tying, baton strikes to the head, dog bites, and now we're on to rubber bullets. ...After the DNC, the press announced that people had breathed a sigh of relief because the LAPD hadn't killed anyone. We have to ask ourselves what is wrong in this city when our standards of whether the LAPD is doing its job is whether they killed somebody that day."
Reverend Richard Meri Ka Ra Byrd, who was MC at the rally when the police attacked, spoke on behalf of the October 22nd Coalition. "I'm here today especially to speak to the courage and to the commitment that was demonstrated by all of the members of the Coalition, by all of the people who answered the call to come and present themselves to this city and to the world on behalf of the October 22nd Coalition to fight against police brutality.
"I want to commend all of the people, all of the warriors and the soldiers for democracy and for freedom, for standing their ground, for refusing to be cowed, for sitting down in front of the horses and sitting down in front of the riot police, and refusing to be broken into a mass of running confusion so that we could all be attacked. It was an act of extreme courage, and I'm proud to have been there and to have stood with them, and to know that the people of this city will be invigorated--not fearful, but invigorated--because they'll see even more clearly today the struggle that we're involved in against the police brutality, the repression and criminalization of a generation."
John Gordon was a young man when he was murdered a little more than a year ago by Long Beach police. His father, Greg, was on stage Sunday holding John's six-month-old baby when the LAPD opened fire on the crowd. Greg was shot three times. He read this statement at the press conference: "My name is Greg Jordan. I'm speaking for some of the family members that were there on October 22nd. We are the families that came to October 22nd to march and to remember the lost lives of our loved ones. We have suffered their violent deaths at the hands of the police, and know in our hearts that we need to bring these deaths to the attention of the public so that no more will die needlessly as they did.
"We came and we brought our family members to march in a demonstration that was sanctioned and authorized by the proper government bodies, to show up to have our say as concerned people. We came with our spouses, our children, our babies, and our friends.
"Soon after we got to Parker Center, we were fired upon by the police on horseback. We did nothing to provoke this.... It was as though we were the targets.
"If this was done to keep us from returning, they're wrong. The brutality that we were united to protest was clearly demonstrated this year on October 22nd by the L.A. police department.
"I speak for the family of Sofia Saldaña, the mother of Juan Saldaña, shot to death by an LAPD Rampart CRASH officer; Gloria Santos, mother of 16-year-old Julio Castillo, shot to death by the Los Angeles sheriffs department; and Greg and Judy Jordan, family of John Jordan, shot to death by the Long Beach police department."
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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