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by Leslie Radford Friday, May. 25, 2007 at 3:20 AM

An open letter with some thoughts on what the City Council's Special Task Force should consider.


May 22, 2007

City Council of Los Angeles

Los Angeles, CA

To the Council:

I am turning to the City Council and its Special Task Force because I little confidence that the police internal investigation will address the questions I hope you will resolve. Nor am I confident that the FBI’s preliminary investigation will look into them, given its history of using the LAPD’s now-discredited Rampart division to deport migrants. My hope, at this juncture, rests with the City Council.

Although the tactics have been challenged, neither Chief Bratton nor Mayor Villaraigosa has yet denounced the strategy of provoking and ultimately assaulting migrants as they rallied for legalization and humane treatment. It has now come to light that the strategy—inside the park, a pincer formation with riot control weaponry, and squads dispatched outside the pincer to force those on the circumference into the center—resulted in confused and fleeing ralliers perfectly corralled for whatever force the police chose to use.

I was behind police lines in the park when the police entered the park, there as a correspondent for Los Angeles Indymedia and Aztlan Electronic News. One officer saw me behind him and carefully checked me out. Although I was positioned to leave, he ordered me back into the park. Then I had to ask permission, pointing to the first officer, to pass another officer in the forward police line. He allowed me to move through the rifle fire into the park.

The events of the next hour have perplexed me, as I hope they do you. I hear the police actions framed as overboard and “inappropriate,” but thus far, no one seems to be asking how such an excessive abuse could happen. It wasn’t rogue officers—the police were working in formation and under orders. I was within feet of the bludgeoning of the TV reporters, and that was no loss of control: no officer stepped in to stop the beatings, no superior ordered them to stand down. National coverage was guaranteed.

So I’m wondering, why wasn’t Chief Bratton contacted before or during this premeditated police response? Is it possible that his field commanders have such authority that they can dispatch, without advising the chief, a military assault against peaceful migrants’ rights protestors in the political conditions surrounding immigration? They must have known about the rifle-wielding agents who stormed a mall in Chicago, of last July’s LAPD beating of immigrants’ rights supporters, of the raids and deportations of the past year, of the fear permeating the communities of migrants and their children.

If the answer is yes, then Chief Bratton should be dismissed for authorizing irresponsible field commanders to order gratuitous and extensive violence in such a charged situation.

If the field commanders overstepped Chief Bratton’s authorization in such volatile circumstances, then, again Chief Bratton should be dismissed for lacking control of his force, and those commanders should be discharged for insubordination. Further, the Special Task Force must find out why they exceeded their authority, or what authority they were answering to. The point of Special Order 40 is to ensure all residents of Los Angeles free access to police protection, and the field commanders’ orders to raid the park effectively undid that mandate.

If the answers are no, the commanders didn’t have Chief Bratton’s authoritization and they didn’t overstep, then why wasn’t Chief Bratton advised before the police assault began? Why wasn’t he advised when the crowds were too large to keep to the sidewalk and his officers were alternately allowing them into the street, and shoving them onto the sidewalk? Or when police motorcycles were running into Native American dancers, their onlookers, and a sacred dance circle? Or when a water bottle had been lofted into police ranks, and perhaps bounced off a riot helmet?

I can think of one answer: Chief Bratton planned and authorized the use of massive force in advance of the march.

If a police assault involving hundreds of officers was a pre-arranged strategy, then the council’s Special Task Force must ask, what was the objective? Clearly, it was not to arrest lawbreakers, since the police could have easily done so, if lawbreakers were present.

It is impossible not to see the abuse of state power on May 1st in the context of the nationwide raids and deportations. If the possibility of a police assault against migrants at a protest for migrants’ rights was not discussed with the Department of Homeland Security, which has jurisdiction over immigration matters, then I have to ask, why not? Who made the decision not to arrest and deport anyone, and to what end?

So either there were no lawbreakers and no excuse for the invasion, or there was a decision made to not arrest, detain, or deport. However much I applaud a decision not to arrest and especially not to deport, in either case, I am left with the same, unhappy answer: the objective was to target migrants for rallying, to “teach” them terror and submission.

Once I was ordered in front of the police lines, I found myself amidst those returning rocks for bullets, or just a few feet behind them. These, I believe, were the “anarchists” the officer at the town hall meeting said the department hopes to charge under the Anti-Terrorism Act, since, as far as I know, no one has testified or produced any evidence of rock-throwing prior to the police discharging their weapons into the crowd. Maybe you are wondering why these people didn’t flee, like so many others.

Perhaps I can explain, since I was moving with them, retreating a few yards as the line of police pushed forward, then holding my ground until the next police advance.

I have no military training, and I have never been in a situation comparable to May 1. Like, I assume, the rest of the people at the front of the demonstrators, I had no family in the park to protect, and I am not in jeopardy of deportation. My natural inclination was to face those firing on me, not to turn my back. My natural inclination was to confront the police assault, not to escape. If I had had my wits about me and I hadn’t been burdened with a camera and case, my natural inclination would have been to resist, to slow the advance. My gut, my intuition, knew that the police invasion was wrong, fundamentally, at its core, morally wrong. I grasped that the children, who had been playing around me on the grass and climbing in the tree over my head a few moments before, were now yards behind me and in danger. I knew the police must not be allowed to shoot them, and I held my ground as well as I could.

The police had forced the front line of defenders about two-thirds of the way across the park when I glanced behind me and saw that the park had emptied out. It was only a moment later that the defenders ran for the only exit the police had left opened. I cannot speak for the others, but when I ran down the path, looking over my shoulder as I tried not to stumble into those ahead of me, I knew that my job was finished and I could leave. As I ran onto the street, it dawned on me that all the police needed to do was close that one remaining exit to instigate an immigration roundup or worse in MacArthur Park.

I ask you to find out what the chain of command was for the events of May 1, whether or not that chain was adhered to, and why Chief Bratton was not informed as the events of May Day went down. I ask you to report to the public the objective of the May Day police action. I ask you to look closely at the videos (and I recommend “The Road to MacArthur Park: May Day 2007” with the chilling warning by an officer before the police incursion that “This is not a place for nice people or children. Tell them to get out.”) for any provocation that merited the force that was used. And I ask you consider, in the light of such unwarranted and overwhelming force, that those defending the families prevented even greater, and truly tragic, police brutality.


Leslie Radford

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Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 9 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
hmmmm a friend Friday, May. 25, 2007 at 6:30 PM
well done leslie jubilee shine Friday, May. 25, 2007 at 8:07 PM
well done leslie jubilee shine Friday, May. 25, 2007 at 8:07 PM
Good additions Leslie Friday, May. 25, 2007 at 10:23 PM
Jim Anarchrist loves Anarchy!!! Jim Anarchrist Wednesday, May. 30, 2007 at 11:00 PM
Jim Anarchrist loves Anarchy!!! Jim Anarchrist Wednesday, May. 30, 2007 at 11:00 PM
Jim Anarchrist loves Anarchy!!! Jim Anarchrist Wednesday, May. 30, 2007 at 11:00 PM
for crying out loud Dug Wednesday, May. 30, 2007 at 11:43 PM

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