Outrage spreads over L.A. cop riot
Protest called in Los Angeles May 17
Brutal attack on May Day rally backfires
With batons and rubber bullets, Los Angeles police attacked protesters and journalists at MacArthur Park during May Day action demanding the legalization of immigrants.
BY WENDY LYONS
LOS ANGELES, May 9The brutal attack by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) on thousands of people peacefully protesting at MacArthur Park here on May Day for legalization of undocumented immigrants has hit a nerve.
A number of immigrant rights organizations have called a protest demonstration, called "March for Justice," starting at the Immanuel Presbyterian Church on May 17 at 5:30 p.m. and ending with a rally at MacArthur Park.
At a packed public hearing attended by 200 at the LAPD headquarters yesterday, more than 20 of those who testified called for the firing of Police Chief William Bratton.
This is a total abuse by police, an injustice against workers who are looking for dignity and the right to work," Francisco Cabrera told the Militant. Cabrera works in the shipping department of the garment factory American Apparel, which employs some 4,000 workers. "They even attacked children and journalists. We have to continue to defend the right of everyone to work. Stop the raids!
Hundreds of thousands of workers, like Cabrera, watched on TV the spectacle of cops in riot gear firing tear gas, swinging clubs, and firing 240 rubber bullets indiscriminately during their sweep of MacArthur Park.
Videotapes being reviewed by the National Lawyers Guild show a child about 10 years old being hit by a bullet. The black-and-blue welts these bullets left on peoples' bodies are now a familiar image. Hundreds are coming forward to tell their stories, making it clear the cops came looking for a fight and unleashed a police riot.
Estella, a member of the Committee of Workers in Resistance and a home health worker who asked that her full name not be used, described the march to the park. The cops had denied a permit to march in the street, and kept trying to force everyone onto the sidewalk.
People started to obey, but we couldnt stay on the sidewalk because there were too many people, Estella said. The rally grew to at least 5,000. Estella said police on bicycles pushed protesters from one side of the street to the other. They also used sirens to intimidate us and to say they were in charge.
As Militant reporters were driving to the park from the earlier rally of 30,000 downtown, they were passed by five patrol cars packed with four cops each, with riot helmets in the back window. This was at least an hour before any claimed disturbance.
Launching a red-baiting campaign, Police Chief Bratton blamed agitators or the anarchists for starting the violence.
Thats not true, said Fernando Oreyana, who witnessed the start of the assault. The police started it and then some people responded with plastic bottles, he pointed out.
The cops rapidly moved from the street into the park, where about 2,000 people were gathered in a peaceful rally that had a permit until 9 p.m. I saw a woman with her young daughter who was hit with a club, said Oreyana. They knocked her down and kicked her. I saw another guy hit with a rubber bullet. They forced me up Alvarado and then over on 6th Street, in the opposite direction from his home.
Low-flying helicopters circled overhead ordering everyone to leavealthough most people couldnt hear what they were saying. Most of the instructions were only in English.
Waves of riot police moved in from the south and east, closing down most exits from the park. The cops continued firing rubber bullets and clubbing people.
Pedro Svevcec, evening anchor for Telemundo, said cops hit him three times and pointed a riot gun at his face. He said he saw police knock over monitors and lights, as well as hit people. The station had to switch to an emergency anchor in Miami since members of its crew broadcasting live from the scene were knocked down and beaten by the cops.
Carl Stein, a KCBS cameraman, was struck in the ribs by batons as police picked him up and moved him out of their way.
Patricia Ballaz, a camerawoman for FOX-TV, is suing the city and the LAPD. She suffered a fractured wrist, an injury to her ankle, and was hit in the chest by a police club.
Los Angeles is home to an estimated 1 million undocumented immigrants. The barrio around MacArthur Park is one of the most densely populated immigrant communities. Gauntlets of police prevented many workers from entering the subway or using other means of transportation to get back to their homes.
Hector Gómez, a day laborer, was hit with a police club and one of the rubber bullets. Who gave them the right to beat people? he asked. They are armed, were not. We came in peace to fight for our future. Who gave them the order to do this?
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa returned to Los Angeles three days after the police riot, cutting short a trade mission to El Salvador. Like every Angeleno I was deeply, personally troubled by the events of May 1," he said. "Those images hit me in the gut.
Bratton expressed grave concern. He apologized to the media, but not to the demonstrators. Bratton ordered 60 police officers off the street pending the results of investigations. He also demoted and reassigned Deputy Chief Cayler Carter, the highest-ranking police officer in MacArthur park during the cop riot.
These actions show that top local officials regard the police attack as a major public relations disaster for this citys rulers and their careers. At least four investigations, including an FBI civil rights inquiry, are underway. According to today's Los Angeles Times, initial inquiries have disclosed that at least 24 civilians were clubbed by the police or hit by rubber bulletsinstead of 10 the cops initially claimed.
"The police action of May 1 was clearly an action to suppress our movement and instill fear," Raúl Anorve, a rally organizer, said at the May 8 public hearing.
María Elena Durazo, head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said at the same hearing, "We are saddened that on May 1 our rights were not protected."
A minority of speakers at the hearing, including James Gilchrist of the vigilante Minuteman Project, voiced support for the cops.
"The community demanded this," Alvaro Huerta of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles told the Militant, referring to the May 17 protest march. "We must show the police we are not silenced."
"The idea is to shift back the focus on immigration reform that was diverted by the lack of professionalism of the LAPD," Jorge Mario Cabrera, of the Center of Central American Resources, told the Spanish-language daily Hoy about the May 17 march. "In addition, we want to reconquer our confidence that we can exercise our constitutional right of assembly in public places."
In the Black community, many readily identified the cop attack for what it was: a police riot. We know about police brutality," said Brian Breye, a resident of Inglewood. "We remember what happened to Rodney King, how the cops take out their hostility and racism.
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