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Vol. 73/No. 10      March 16, 2009

L.A. settlement reached
for May Day ’07 cop riot
LOS ANGELES—The Los Angeles city council has approved a settlement in a suit filed by nearly 300 people who were brutalized by the city’s police in an assault on a May Day rally in 2007. The $12.85 million settlement must still be approved by a federal judge.

On May 1, 2007, some 30,000 workers marched through downtown Los Angeles demanding legalization of undocumented immigrants. At least 5,000 more rallied that evening in MacArthur Park. In all, half a million people took part in actions across the country that day.

Around 6:30 p.m. the police shut down the peaceful rally taking place in the park, supposedly in response to a few people who “threw objects at police.” They moved into the crowd firing rubber bullets and clubbing demonstrators indiscriminately. At least 246 people reported injuries from the police riot.

News reporters were also targets. A Fox camerawoman suffered a fractured wrist. A KCBS cameraman was struck in the ribs, and an anchor for Telemundo was beaten and had a riot gun pointed in his face. The journalists have separate cases pending in state court, and are not covered by the settlement.

In October 2007 the Los Angeles Police Department produced a lengthy report citing inadequate planning, training, and command structure as the source of the incident. Last September, 16 months after the cop riot, police chief William Bratton announced plans to suspend 11 cops and called for firing 4 others for excessive force and other abuses.

In addition to the monetary payment, the February 4 settlement approved by the city council placed a few restrictions on when police are approved to use force against a demonstration. For example, police can use batons to push, but not strike, protesters who refuse to disperse; rubber bullets and beanbags cannot be fired on a peaceful crowd that is retreating; and police helicopters must not disrupt speeches by flying too low.

The tentative agreement sparked discussion among workers in Los Angeles. “It’s the correct thing for people to get the money,” said Roberto Gutiérrez, a young meat packer. The police “should pay every time they do this.”

The $12.8 million “isn’t that much, after the doctors and lawyers fees,” commented Emilio, a worker at the American Apparel garment factory who asked that his last name not be used.

“It’s a victory that the city was forced to admit they violated workers rights with the cop riot on May Day,” said James Harris, Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor. “But what’s needed is to prosecute and jail the cops for these crimes. My opponent, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, brags that he has added 694 more cops to the force during his term in office, and pledges to increase that.”

Police chief William Bratton appears in a campaign ad for Villaraigosa praising him for “reducing crime.”

In contrast, supporters of the Socialist Workers campaign joined a vigil February 21 to protest the police killing of Salvador Zepeda in East Los Angeles. The 18-year-old youth was gunned down by county sheriff’s deputies November 30 a few doors from his home. Police in the Los Angeles area have killed dozens of people in the last year. Most recently, cops in the suburb of Pasadena killed 38-year-old Leroy Barnes on February 19.
Related articles:
Arizona action fights cop immigration raids
Demands end to sheriff’s vigilante gangs
Maryland rally demands rights for immigrants
‘Attack on immigrants is threat to all workers’
UK strikes: blow to unity of working class
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