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Police Brutality in Long Beach squashes free speech on May Day

by anIMCreporter Thursday, May. 03, 2001 at 3:50 PM

Over 100 "black block" activists -- on a May Day march in downtown Long Beach -- were brutally attacked by the police, and then many (estimates range from 30 to 100) were arrested.

Over 100 "black block" activists -- on a May Day march in downtown Long Beach -- were brutally attacked by the police, and then many (estimates range from 30 to 100) were arrested.

I arrived at the First Street Metro (Blue Line) stop in downtown Long Beach at about 4pm (having faced a 20 minute delay because the first Metro train I was on wouldn't go into Long Beach, no doubt because of the protest).

When I got off of the train, the black block was in view, only half a block away on First Street. A group of roughly 100 demonstrators (almost all dressed in black) were massed together in the middle of First Street, all facing in one direction, trying to proceed with their march; but a phalanx of Long Beach policemen were standing in a row, literally right in front of them, blocking their way. As I got closer to the scene, it was evident that the cops were allowing the demonstrators, who seemed to be thoroughly non-violent, to proceed down the street as they, the cops, walked backwards in front of them. On the sidewalks, a crowd of maybe 50 to 75 onlookers, as well as some other demonstrators (who had obviously chosen to keep their distance from the "frontline"), and a smattering of photographers and videographers, followed alongside the march.

The front row of black block demonstrators carried a sign that read "Capitalism stole my life."

The march porceeded in this manner (with the phalanx of cops backing up, and, by the way, a huge number of police reinforcements in evidence alongside the march, at each intersection, and on adjacent streets -- the ratio of cops to protestors was roughly three to one) for about three blocks. Then at the intersection of First and Pine, the demonstrators were blocked off by the police, and when they tried to turn right onto Pine they were blocked off again. At this point, the marchers did not instantly retreat, but rather held their ground in front of a line of cops no longer willing to retreat. A sort-of stand off ensued, in which protestors called out for their right to free speech and to demonstrate against the Police State, and soon-enough the cops responded by wielding their batons against the front line of black block protestors. As of yet, however, I had witnessed no arrests.

After about five minutes at First and Pine, the Black Block stepped away from the rows of cops that impeded the route to downtown and proceeded the other direction down Pine, towards the water. At Long Beach's monumental Ocean Avenue (the last street before the harbor, though buildings sit between the street and the water), the march took a left turn. The fact that the street was already blocked to traffic at this point, suggests that the police had been intending to herd the protesters in this direction rather than let them move towards downtown (probably out of fear of property destruction, which, of course, never occured).

Once the protestors and the accompanying parade of on-lookers and witnesses turned onto Ocean, the tension mounted. As someone who was trying to wander throughout the event (both up-close to the march and from a more distanced perspective), I all-of-a-sudden felt in danger myself and feared the cops were going to surround and attack anyone and everyone in the scene. Barely more than three or four tension-filled minutes since we had all turned onto Ocean, an undercover cop in a light-purple shirt grapped hold of one of the protestors, and in a motion like a linebacker in football, drove him through some yellow police tape and slammed him to the ground, at which point two other cops joined in beating him, before throwing him into an adjacent squadcar.

At that moment the black block had been moving diagonally accross the street, having been herded that way by the cops. When the black block (with arms joined together (in other words in a posture of absolute non-aggression)) began to move back towards the scene of the mayhem (in which the purple-shirted undercover cop had tackled their comrade); the police met them with force, pushing them aggressively back across Ocean. At this point many of the on-lookers, realizing they were now surrounded by belligerent cops on all sides began to shout that they wanted to escape from their entrapment. A small opening in the police phalanx did then appear, a few steps behind the black block and I, along with about twenty to thirty others, took this opportunity to step out of obvoiusly impending harm's way.

No sooner had I gotten beyond the cop line, when the blasts of rubber bullets exploded behind me -- I turned to see the cops shooting at a previously vocal, non-black-clad demonstrator running away from the cops, as they fired on him.

Some of the black-clad demonstrators, meanwhile, had moved towards the escape hatch in the police phalanx, but they were not going to be allowed to escape; and momentarily all hell broke lose. The cops opened fire on the black block mass, which got split in two; the larger group ran up the small hill in front of the Breakers retirement apartment complex, while a smaller group headed towards that buildings driveway.

The smaller group were quickly rained in by cops who chased them down and began beating them, as well as shooting them at close range with bean bags and rubber bullets. While some these protestors bravely tried to escape from the cops and flee, most realized they were being overwhelmed and lay down or held up their hands in peace signs. However, these protestors obvious passivity did not save them from being beaten, as the cops showed no mercy, pounding and kicking many of these demonstrators as they lay on the ground. The cops let up after a minute or two of unleashing their fury, handcuffed the protestors and took them off to the paddy wagon.

The more sizable group of demonstrators that had fled up the small hill, having suffered the balence of the barrage of rubber bullets (or whatever less-lethal projectiles the cops were firing) now huddled up against the large tinted-glass windows of the Breakers building. As the cops closed in around these demonstrators over the next ten-to-fifteen minutes, other police officers aggressively made sure any on-lookers and witnesses felt intimidatated, and effectively drove us further away from the scene.

Before I retreated, I did see one brave protester, who approached the cops as if to negotiate for those huddled against the Breakers windows. He approached the cops with both of his hands in peace signs. A policeman grabbed him, spun him around violently and threw him to the ground face first. Two other officers then pounced on him as he fell out of my view. Shortly, thereafter, mass arrests of the cornered demonstrators ensued (in a relatively orderly fashion, as far as I could tell, though admittedly I was far away at this point).

I decided it was time for me to return to LA lest I end up in jail.

In summary, this was one of the worst -- that is, least flexable and most brutal -- police responses to an attempt to exercise free speeech and the right to assembly I've ever witnessed first hand.

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Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 20 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
overkill michael Thursday, May. 03, 2001 at 5:00 PM
Police Follow People anonymous Thursday, May. 03, 2001 at 5:35 PM
The same damn thing happened to us orange bloc Thursday, May. 03, 2001 at 6:02 PM
Update IMCreporter Thursday, May. 03, 2001 at 7:22 PM
scared parent unknown Thursday, May. 03, 2001 at 9:44 PM
fight the power rtf Sunday, May. 06, 2001 at 7:28 AM
Age should not stop us.... Orel Monday, May. 07, 2001 at 12:44 AM
fuck the L.B.P.D. George Hayduke Monday, May. 07, 2001 at 5:27 AM
it's time for a peaceful revolution` Monday, May. 07, 2001 at 3:02 PM
Repression in da' LBC Random Protester Tuesday, May. 08, 2001 at 2:07 AM
Police violence,also in Belgium Vermeulen Johan Monday, May. 14, 2001 at 8:00 AM
what planet do you live on? anarkissed Friday, May. 18, 2001 at 5:49 PM
Not entirely true... James Anon Sunday, May. 20, 2001 at 2:03 AM
Stupid Cops phony Thursday, May. 24, 2001 at 10:21 AM
Fuck the dirty rats,ACC antwerp casual crew Tuesday, Sep. 11, 2001 at 8:26 PM
Fuck the dirty rats,ACC antwerp casual crew Tuesday, Sep. 11, 2001 at 8:26 PM
Fuck the dirty rats,ACC antwerp casual crew Tuesday, Sep. 11, 2001 at 8:27 PM
Did you ever hear of self-defense? Bakunin Friday, Sep. 28, 2001 at 4:58 AM
M.L.King: syzygy Monday, Sep. 30, 2002 at 5:44 PM
Stupid tests Bridgitte Tellez Friday, Dec. 15, 2006 at 4:09 AM

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