Thursday, May 03, 2007

Off With Their Heads!

I am very saddened by the footage and images which are now being broadcast all over the world from my hometown of Los Angeles. I love my city. Despite all its problems, pollution and craziness it really hurts to see this. What the hell is happening to us?

I've posted some of the local reporter's footage below. The video is filled with searing, unforgettable images, but the moment that brought tears to my eyes occurs about 2 minutes into the clip. A man carrying an American flag is desperately backing away from the advancing line of riot squad police. First, he uses the staff of the flag to help support and raise a fallen demonstrator from the ground and then he resorts to using the flagpole to defend himself against the batons of the police.

The initial shock and sadness that I felt upon learning of this latest example of police brutality has quickly given way to anger and frustration. I am frustrated that we are still dealing with apparently uncontrolled police violence towards people who have the constitutionally guaranteed right of lawful assembly. Never mind that the initial estimates of "bottle throwing agitants" grew from 15 individuals by most of the first accounts to "50, 75, 100" people by the time Chief Bratton spoke to the press this morning, as if magnifying the imagined threat to the police could somehow justify the unjustifiable tactics employed.

Photo by Rick Loomis for the LA Times.

Now Mayor Villaraigosa and Chief Bratton are both promising an investigation and pledging accountability. Somebody better be held accountable, because when someone in charge fucks up, then that person's head has to roll. That's the way accountability works in the real world.

And believe me, somebody, or several somebodies, fucked up big time on May Day in MacArthur Park. And as a Los Angeleno and a U.S. citizen, I want their heads on a fucking silver platter.

The LAPD owes the city some answers
May 3, 2007

John Mack of the Los Angeles Police Commission summed it up neatly Wednesday afternoon at City Hall when he said: "This was not a pretty picture."

He was referring to videos of LAPD riot cops in action Tuesday evening in MacArthur Park. Once again, a small number of officers appears to have created another PR nightmare for the department. Even their boss, Chief William J. Bratton, said he was disturbed by what he called inappropriate behavior. I wasn't there, so I'm not sure exactly how this ugly chapter unfolded at the end of a long day of peaceful demonstrations by immigrant and workers' rights advocates. Bratton said that 50 to 100 agitators, as he called them, got into a skirmish with police. Witnesses said the knuckleheads were throwing bottles at cops, several of whom were injured.

But what followed, much of it captured by news crews, raises more than a few questions.

Video shot that evening shows police moving in on MacArthur Park like they were taking Iwo Jima. They ordered people involved in peaceful demonstrations to move out. There was confusion, with some people leaving and others lingering as the drama played out.

Then we see officers aiming rifles to fire foam bullets.

We see civilians go down.

We see fear and panic.

We see a man holding a child and running for cover.

We see a nasty bruise on the belly of a man hit with a foam bullet.

We see police wielding batons, ordering reporters to scram, shoving two television cameramen, tussling with another member of the media and pushing Fox 11 news reporter Christina Gonzales away as she tries to help her fallen videographer.

Gonzalez reported that police had ordered her to get into her van and "shut the door." But the reporter, whose husband is a retired LAPD cop, didn't want to be sealed off like that, unable to "videotape some of the other people" who were "getting roughed up, to put it mildly."

She was later taken to the hospital with what she thought was a dislocated shoulder, but she turned out to be OK. She said her videographer was treated for a wrist injury.

"I have never seen anything like this," Gonzalez said on Fox 11 early Wednesday. She said that while police were trying to herd reporters and others out of the way, she heard them laughing and saying: "Double time, it's tussle time."

Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, was in the park for a peaceful rally that suddenly turned chaotic.

"I started hearing gunshots, people started screaming, people with children started running, hiding behind bushes and under trees," Salas said. "I couldn't understand what was happening, but I saw a man get up after a big old rubber bullet hit him in the side."

Salas tried to escort families out of the area, but it was unclear what directions might be safe, and more shots could still be heard. "My biggest concern was that the police weren't discerning between" agitators and "the vast majority of people who were there peacefully."

I'd like to know what commanders were in charge and what they were thinking. I'd like to know if police aimed rifles at specific targets or into the crowd. I'd like to know why police thought it was OK to rough up or muzzle reporters who were simply doing their jobs. And I'd like to know how this will be avoided in the future.

A lot to ask, maybe. But Bratton promised several investigations, and the public deserves answers in double time.


Anonymous said...

As a follow up note to your entry, I'd like to say that the people who are posting comments to the YouTube page to the effect of "Mexicans need to go home" and that the police were justified in their actions because these people "broke the law first by coming here illegally," I'd like to point out that 7 out of the dozen or so reported injuries inflicted by the LAPD were to journalists who happened to be covering this largely peaceful demonstration, all of whom were/are here LEGALLY and were simply reporting the news. The fact that the police SINGLED OUT anyone with a camera should alert everyone to the reality of what really is happening here: what doesn't get documented never happened.

Also, this notion that police brutality is acceptable when it is inflicted on people who the majority consider "undesirable" is too close to Nazi Germany for my liking. Those law-abiding citizens posting on YouTube need to realize that repression only begins with the powerless and the disenfanchised, but that's not where it ends.

Anonymous said...

It looks like the Boys in Blue left a FUCK out in the rain.

godoggo said...

Just a little anecdote. I was once around 8th and Bixel. There was a woman walking down the street, minding her own business, when a squad car showed up, slowed down to her pace, and the two cops rolled down the window and started laughing at her, giving her raspberries etc., no idea why. I just shouted, "You guys are fucking assholes"...

Sylvia said...

It's like Salazar Park all over again.

Anonymous said...

Right on! Off with their heads!

Anonymous said...

what the f***k is wrong with the LAPD???

Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised; the L.A.P.D have always been the most brutal cops in the country.

IMBG said...

Can I just say that I am sick to death of seeing the reporters of the LA Times credulously ape Bratton's use of the term "agitators" in their stories? I was there, and it is no exaggeration to say that the only people doing any agitating were wearing police uniforms. Nobody threw anything until after the LAPD began shoving and behaving aggressively towards people.

Don't take my word for it; read the stories in The Times that have appeared since Bratton's first press conference. "Agitators" this, "agitators" that. And these are not quotes or attributions.

Do journalists simply not know how to be skeptical of authority anymore, even when it's the same authority that just got through roughing up some of their colleagues? Or is this specifically a problem with the LA Times?

godoggo said...

Excellent coverage of this issue here:

And while I'm at it, here's a blog everybody should check out, just cause it's so cool (and no, I have nothing to do with it, beyond reading):