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Saturday, Aug. 04, 2007 at 11:46 PM
Words of warning regarding permit marches in the City of Los Angeles:
- At any given permit march there will be hundreds of police both in uniform and undercover.
- HLS, DIA, FBI and other federal agencies will also be there to monitor and gather intelligence.
- Every square foot of the parade routes typically granted permits are covered by video surveillance cameras.
- Anyone who stays in the street after the permit time expires will be subject to arrest.
- Corporate media may be there to distort the message and not to miss getting any footage of police violence. But otherwise the corporate media coverage will be poor.
- The organizers of the event may side with the police if there are any incidents of police violence.
- It costs 2 to apply for the permit and permit holders must also be bonded meaning they need close 1/4 million in funds to back up the bond. In addition applicants must sign an indemnification and hold harmless agreement, which means the applicant signs away to the right to sue the city for claims related to the event. The applicant also needs to provide proof of insurance. This insurance can cost 1,000s of dollars.
The high cost of permits effectively shuts out true grassroots groups from getting permits and allows only larger national organizations with connections to well funded political parties to be granted permits.
Activists should recognize that the LAPD permit requirement for protests is a violation of the first amendment of the US constitution in that it abridges the right to peaceable assembly. The permit process does precisely what it is designed to do: render authentic spontaneous protest illegal.
True grassroots activists should never take out a permit or “work with the authorities” in any manner. There are some important reasons for this: first, permit marches are not protests, a protest is when you do something in protest, something not approved by the person or institution you are protesting against. The idea of asking for permission to protest is absurd. Permit marches are police controlled parades from start to finish. To ask for a permit to march and to follow the police approved route is to say the police have the power over the protest not the protesters.
By adhering to the permit process the protest is rendered impotent and ineffective before it even occurs. If you have to ask for a permit to exercise a right, you have already lost that right.
If the police feel for any reason they are not in control of the event they will attack it. The police define control has the capacity to deploy overwhelming force and end the event if so ordered. This is exactly what happened on May 1, 2007 in Mac Arthur Park.
Those who truly want to protest should consider NEVER attending any police controlled permit marches. Instead they should work within their local community to organize and prepare for meaningful authentic protests at sites where the policy they are protesting against is being instituted.
Symbolic protests at government buildings or heavily policed commercial sections of the city do not develop community solidarity the way local vigils and demonstrations can. The massive demonstrations of March 25th and May 1st and the student walk outs of 2006 are examples of how local decentralized actions can create a citywide event of a scale that no permit march could ever generate.
National organizations who seek the formation of a mass movement for peace and social justice should consider changing their tactics and stop repeating themselves by continuing to plan protests at the same sites and same seasons of the year.
Non-aligned independent activists should consider forming their own community based protests and never attending permit marches organized by others who are working with the very authorities they claim to be protesting against.
Here is a short list of sites and march routes to avoid:
Westwood Federal Building
Downtown Federal Building
Broadway & Olympic
(There are many tactically and logistical reasons why these are bad places for demonstrations.)
Activists need to be more creative in identifying and organizing protests at sites that pose the greatest potential for preventing or impeding the government/corporate policy they are protesting against. Any protest, which does not in some way work directly to negate the injustice at hand is merely symbolic protest and should not be considered an effective or worthwhile action.
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