by ANNA AND THE INDYMEDIA COLLECTIVE
Wednesday, May. 02, 2007 at 7:04 PM
It looked like the cops were just running unnecessary drills; scare tactics to freak people out and intimidate them, but it wasn’t really working.
That’s the way it looked from my viewpoint from about the middle of the long May Day march as we approached Macarthur Park on Alvarado. The March had been high-spirited and positive; a wonderful diverse mix of thousands of people of all ages; the 2nd of two major marches on the same day. Everybody was well behaved, and even the cops directing traffic on their bicycles seemed to be enjoying the day. But as we entered the park there was suddenly a mad rush of sirens, patrol cars and motorcycles that seemed to come out of nowhere. Nobody near me could see anything, and there didn’t seem to be any reason for all the excitement, so everybody pretty much ignored it, chalked it up to one of those weird unknown things that the cops are wont to do, and continued in good spirit into the park where many took advantage of water and food vendors. It had been a long day and many people had participated in the earlier march downtown, chalking up many march miles in the sun.
What we couldn’t see from Alvarado and 7th Street however, was that on the other side of the park, on Parkman and Wilshire, the cops had rushed into a group of people on the street with their motorcycles for no known reason, breaking up the people entering the park from that side. OK, so they didn’t want people in the street. But there were thousands of people converging on the park from all sides, and everybody had been happily following directions all day. There was no reason to use those kinds of tactics on a perfectly mellow peaceful crowd.
Then the cops did it again, rushing a throng of people on Wilshire Blvd. Where it cuts through the park. The street was blocked off from traffic, and people were dancing and celebrating to drum beats in the street, when the cops rushed them , with motorcycles and patrol cars, again seemingly for no reason and with no warning. I was standing there watching, and just managed to see a cop seeming to leap into the crowd breaking people up in all directions before a friend pushed me over a short stone wall and into the park where I had my vision blocked by taller heads than mine. We hung out near there until it looked like the march organizers had showed up to take control and calm things down, and satisfied that everything was cool, we walked down the slope and into the festivities in the park.
It was great. There was a band playing cumbias on a large stage, and all around there were thousands of people doing festival stuff. The kids that play Son Jarocho were there getting into the spirit with their Jaranas, traditional instruments from Veracruz, Mexico that look and sound a little like ukulele’s. There was a theatre group doing a silent skit that looked something like the statue of liberty in a sweatshop. There were all the activist tables where pamphlets and books were available about all the socialist workers groups in town, and how each one is better than all the others, and there were thousands of people milling around: Spanish speakers from many countries, Asian Pacific natives, Aztec dancers, Anglos and others. Ages ranged all the way from in baby strollers to on walkers. It was colorful and celebratory. There was no alcohol and everybody seemed to be in good spirits and mellow.
Then I saw a group of people coming in from the street being led by a smaller group with sound coming out of some kind of big speaker on a tall pole. The sound was the voice of one of the event organizers talking to the crowd following and surrounding him.
“You don’t want to fall into the cop’s game,” he was saying in Spanish, “they want us to fight with them so that they can say that we’re unruly, that we start riots, and that for that reason, we don’t deserve to have papers.”
Oh, I realized, this is the crowd from the street, and this guy, whose name I never found out, was working brilliantly to get everything under control.
“But,” he continued, “We’re smarter than that; and we have something to prove. Because, what do we want?” he asked the crowd, “Justice”, came the answer. “And are we good hardworking people?” “Yes!” screamed the crowd, “And do we want to live here and raise our children here?” “Yes” came the answer. And it went on like that, involving the people in the spirit as he worked them into the larger crowd where people were speaking from the bandstand.
That’s nice, I thought, but suddenly I broke a tooth on a frozen ice cream bar and had to start working my way towards the Metro on Alvarado on the east side of the park and leave before finding out who this great organizer was. That will have to wait until another time.
On the east side of Alvarado I was confronted with another police action. There was a knot of people who didn’t seem to be doing anything standing on the green medium by the sidewalk, with another knot of cops standing in front of them in the street, and then suddenly there was a rush of motorcycle cops and patrol cars with sirens blaring, and then what seemed to be a small army of cops running up in perfect military formation, all converging on this knot of people standing on the grass. Then I saw a young guy holding an American flag up in the air stand up on a bench and hold a pose, (American and Mexican flags were a big theme of the day), and another guy lift both arms up in a proud and defiant victory salute. Then somebody threw a soda bottle into the street where it smashed with a rush of orange soda, and all hell broke loose for a second. More patrol cars came rushing around the corner with their sirens screaming, and a rush of officers on foot came storming out from behind the subway structure and ran through the crowd standing on the sidewalk, and across the street. Now there were literally hundreds of LAPD cops milling around in the street mostly looking bored, with this knot of people in front of them; the young guy still standing up on something with the flag in his hand looking like a male statue of liberty symbol.
I saw someone I knew standing there, and I asked her if she had been there for a while, and if she had any idea what was going on. “Yeah,” she said, “The kids were dancing and drumming in the street when the cops just charged them. There was no warning,” she said, “they didn’t need to do it like that. Everybody was cool.”
So there it was. The cops were acting in a completely inappropriate way, and it looked like they were really trying to create problems.
I hung around for a while, but my broken tooth was really bothering me, and so I got on the Metro and headed home. When I got off the train, my phone was ringing, and it was one of my compas from the Indymedia collective, with the news that right after I left, the cops stormed the park with rubber bullets and teargas, attacking the peaceful crowd and starting a riot. There were thousands of people in that park. There were babies there. And grandmothers. I had just left.
In the hours since the incident, I have sat by my computer waiting for calls, and people have reported that more cops showed up in full riot gear, and that hundreds of cops, including the equestrian team on horseback were pushing people back into the surrounding neighborhood. Some people were trapped in the park, and the last anyone has heard, there were reports of actual hand-to-hand combat with the cops in the park, and that some motorcycles got knocked over. Somebody said that before anything happened in the park some of the cops were threatening marchers with teargas, so maybe there was something going on previously.
There is an unconfirmed report that somebody talked to one of the cops, or there was a press conference, where the cops said that there was a shooting in the park and that was the pretext for the attack on the crowd.
That doesn’t square at all with the mellow happy crowd of thousands that I left behind me, but even if it’s true, one wonders at those kind of heavy handed tactics. It’s kind of like bombing a whole country and killing millions of people because you’re looking for one guy hiding in the mountains.
I have not been able to get a hold of any of the people I know that were supposedly among the ones trapped inside the park, and I hope none of them got arrested. So far there are no arrest reports or word of injuries. I’m worried about those babies.
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