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Vol. 71/No. 41      November 5, 2007

Speakers protest whitewash of L.A. cop riot
LOS ANGELES—The police are “trying to protect themselves. What we want is for the officers who beat people to be punished,” said Adolfo Cruz at a meeting of the Board of Police Commissioners here October 9.

Cruz reported that he was hit three times with a police club on May 1 as cops assaulted a crowd of thousands of workers rallying in MacArthur Park during the May Day immigrant rights demonstrations in this city. He was responding to a report presented by Police Chief William Bratton that attempts to control the political damage stemming from that police riot.

The 83-page report describes the police actions as “disconcerting” and claims to promote “meaningful institutionalized changes that seek to ensure that the events of May 1, 2007, do not happen again.”

The thrust of the report, however, is to present the incident as an aberration, the result of inadequate planning, training, and command structure.  
May Day actions
Some 30,000 people marched through downtown Los Angeles on May Day demanding the legalization of undocumented immigrants and an end to police raids and deportations. Others participated in a march to MacArthur Park later that day, where about 5,000 gathered for an evening rally around the same demands. Nationwide, close to half a million workers took part in actions that day.

Just before 6:30 p.m., the police decided to shut down the park rally, which had a permit. They claim this was a response to a group of 20-30 people who “threw objects at police.” Without issuing a dispersal order, the cops moved into the crowd, clubbing demonstrators and reporters, and firing 146 “less-lethal” foam bullets.

The report praises Bratton’s decision after the cop riot to demote a couple of police officials and institute “incident management teams” for crowd control actions. It states that 26 individual cops are still being “investigated” for possible disciplinary action—more than five months after the assault.

At least 246 people have filed complaints, and many are suing the police for the assault. Some of these plaintiffs attended the October 9 police commission meeting. They sat through two hours of speeches by the police and commissioners before being allowed to speak under “public comments.”  
October 17 forum
Many of the same people attended a second forum October 17, sponsored by a city council task force, where Bratton again presented the police report. They protested the fact that once again they were only given two minutes each, while Bratton and other police officials took an hour. They demanded that the city council sponsor a forum where the victims of the police assault can present their side of the story.

“Was the force adequate or not against children and pregnant women?” María Flores declared indignantly. “Why did I see motorcycles pushing people?” well before the police claim bottles were thrown at them, she asked.

“This was a police riot in response to mobilizations by people the rulers thought would never stand up for themselves,” said Naomi Craine, speaking at the forum for the Socialist Workers Party. Referring to the shooting and clubbing of the crowd, Craine said, “The police who are responsible for this should face criminal prosecution.”

“They’re just telling lies,” José Navarro, a retiree, told the Militant after the meeting. He said that an hour before the police assault began, a cop outside the subway station by the park pointed an automatic rifle at him. “Is this a game for them?” Navarro asked.
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