COMMUNITY GROUPS CONFRONT LAPD AND CHIEF BRATTON ABOUT MAY DAY POLICE RIOT
“If the LAPD acts like this in broad daylight in front of cameras, what do they do at night?”
Groups and individuals from the community had an opportunity to confront Police Chief Bratton and the Police Commission at Parker Center today regarding May Day attacks by the LAPD on thousands of peaceful demonstrators in MacArthur Park.
Some of the groups represented included a recently formed group of community activists called The People’s Network in Defense of Human Rights, CopWatch, The Bus Rider’s Union, Chirla, Caracen, Miwon, Los Angeles Federation of Labor, the ACLU, the L.A. Community Action Network, the International Action Network, and others.
People were very united in their opinions and demands today even though there had been some initial discord among some of the groups. Seen as a huge problem by many is a statement made by some of the organizers that the youth and anarchists had been responsible for inciting the police at the event. Many feel that statements like this that demonize and hang the youth out to dry are extremely unfortunate; especially since many youth had been involved with the organizing and were some of the first to reach out to protect others, suffering hits by rubber bullets for their trouble. And even more important, pointing fingers at people from inside the movement takes the spotlight away from the real culprit, the LAPD. “We cannot be blamed for what the cops did”, said a member of CopWatch.
The LAPD are to blame, and they are the only ones to blame; was the overwhelming consensus at today’s hearing. According to the speakers, the police were aggressive from the start, and there were reports that they had been rehearsing maneuvers and drills hours before the marchers even arrived at the park.
This is the story that was told:
The peaceful and diverse march had begun at 3:pm at Vermont and 3rd. Street. As the thousands of participants approached the park at Alvarado and 7th Streets, the police had closed the area to traffic. Since the streets were full of demonstrators and there was no traffic, the Aztec dancers created a circle to commemorate the event in a sacred and ancient ceremony of traditional dance and drums. The ceremony was well under way when, with no warning, the LAPD charged into it in full force with dozens of motorcycles in a cacophonic and frightening display of sirens and flashing lights. People were pushed and shoved into each other by motorcycles, and as some later accurately said, the onslaught was, in fact, an attack by deadly weapons. Children were screaming and elders struggled to move. When they couldn’t get away fast enough, younger people stood in front of them to protect them. At least one young woman was punched hard in the belly by a police baton and had to be taken to the hospital for a cat scan.
This was not the only event that happened. As I mentioned in an article I previously posted here and on the Free Press website, http://www.losangelesfreepress.com
, around the same time there was something similar happening on Wilshire Blvd. where it intersects the park. Seemingly planned and coordinated events by the LAPD, as if trying to piss people off and start ….what? A riot that could be later blamed on the people?
And people were getting pissed. Even so they didn’t lose it; they didn’t riot. There was a stand off …a stare off at Alvarado. The cops quickly built up their forces there; Special Forces in riot gear, squad cars, motorcycles, an army staring down a few kids. And a few water bottles were thrown…..into the street. Water bottles that were later characterized as “missiles” ….attacks on the police. Water bottles against an army with weapons in riot gear! The supposed spark that sent the cops on the attack.
And meanwhile, thousands of people, unaware of these happenings, were enjoying the post-march demonstration in the park. It was like a huge picnic with food and ice cream vendors, speakers and live music; everything from Latin Cumbias to Rock. There were free form theater groups in the grass. The band Fosforo had just started a rendition of Bob Marley’s “War” in Spanish, a song that says that as long as there are different classes and some people are considered better than others because of the color of their skin there will be war…..and just at that point, the police attacked the crowd. There was no warning; just a well-organized army moving in like the well-documented jack- booted thugs of lore. But this legend shot 240 real rubber bullets at real bodies. This legend moved in with real tear gas in well-rehearsed military fashion; terrifying and shocking young and old. This was a real attack. And the stories. One old homeless man sleeping by a tree woke up confused, and the police beat him. Even television news crews weren’t exempt, and were forced into the story as cameras and equipment went flying
So the community came to the meeting at Parker Center and asked …why did this happen? And who gave the order? ….questions still not answered by the police, although scapegoats have been chosen by Chief Bratton, “Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum” say some, and demotions have already been announced. But this isn’t enough says the community, more is needed.
Some of the demands being made are:
- For Full Accountability of the LAPD and their actions against the communities.
o A list of all officers present should be made public
- That all LAPD officers should have full identification on their person at all times, as mandated by California Penal Code 830-10.
- For an elected civilian Police Review Board composed of a diverse group of community members that has the power to hire and fire, and the power to subpoena and indict police officers who commit crimes.
- For a Public Apology from LAPD Chief Bratton and from whatever commanding officers (still not known) who gave the order to attack. (So far the chief has apologized to the TV reporters, but not to the public.)
- For an end of all special-forces presence from community or political demonstrations or actions in the future. Only traffic and parking personnel should be necessary to facilitate traffic.
- That all charges made against anyone arrested that day should be dropped
- For full transparency during the investigation process
Additionally, Shouts of “Stop the Raids!, Stop the Deportations!” were heard, along with quite a few “Power to the People!”.
Others demanded that Chief Bratton’s contract to serve in Los Angeles not be renewed. There is a strong feeling that he is responsible for setting much of the attitudes that allowed this to happen as evidenced by the recent round ups of homeless people on Skid Row.
The presence of the Minutemen have to be mentioned, as their comments of “you Mexicans and Illegal Aliens need to go back to your own countries” showed a highly developed and almost hysterical level of impenetrable ignorance. It was almost laughable watching them praise the LAPD and characterize the May 1st events as an attack on the police, when it was so clear that wasn’t what happened. . When the Minuteman founder and leader Jim Gilchrist got up and admonished Bratton for demoting two high level police officers, even the cops in attendance looked uncomfortable …as if they understood that they were being lauded by NAZIS and didn’t really want to be identified with them.