For some of our Gentle Readers, the scene above might look a tad familiar; it sure does to me. In fact, it looks like nothing so much as a scene from the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, when Daley's thugs - aka the Chicago police force - assaulted civilians, convention-goers and members of the press indiscriminately and viciously for a solid week. I know, because I was there as an accredited photojournalist covering the to-do.
Now, you might have heard that there was a little get together in MacArthur Park near downtown Los Angeles over the May 1st weekend. Folks - white, black and Hispanic - had come together to picnic a little bit, play the drums and listen to labor leaders and others concerned with immigration issues to discuss LA's corporate and legal response to same.
Not for the first time in LA's history, the response of the police to a legal assembly was to beat people, and then lie about it.
From an open letter to LA police Chief William Bratton, from the Los Angeles Press Club:
Open Letter to Chief William Bratton from the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Press Club
May 2, 2007
Chief William Bratton
Office of Chief of Police
Los Angeles Police Department
150 N. Los Angeles Street
Los Angeles, Calif. 90012
RE: POLICE ATTACK ON NEWS PROFESSIONALS
Dear Chief Bratton:
As Los Angeles' oldest news media organization, we wish to express our concern about police officers' attacks on news reporters and photographers yesterday during the immigration rally in MacArthur Park. There is no excuse for these attacks which sent several news professionals to the hospital for treatment of their injuries.
The press pass issued by your department clearly identifies reporters and photographers. It's doubtful that your officers could have mistaken newspeople for protesters. The MacArthur Park attack was not an isolated instance. LAPD officers shot credentialed reporters and photographers with non-lethal projectiles that also caused injuries during the 2000 Democratic National Convention.
Besides the investigation into the incident that you have already ordered, we urge you to take extra steps to ensure these deplorable actions against the press do not reoccur. We urge you to require that division and bureau commanders order special roll calls to make it clear to every patrol officer and detective that news professionals are impartial observers who are off limits to attack, abuse or arrest as long as they are just doing their jobs. If our organization can be helpful in any regard to policy, please let us know.
Los Angeles Press Club for
THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF THE LOS ANGELES PRESS CLUB
CC: John Mack, President, Los Angeles Police Commission
Councilman Dennis Zine
This is the kind of thing that I take personally. During the riot season in Chicago in the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King, jr, I was attacked by the Chicago police, but managed to escape because I was young and very fast, even laden with 35 pounds of camera gear. Later, I was chased by baton-wielding Chicago cops several times during the Democratic convention, and I witnessed several members of the press deliberately targeted and beaten by police -- not just shoved out of the way. This kind of shit makes me sore.
We also have first-hand accounts by journalists who were present in the park, reporting that the police deliberately went after members of the press, not all of whom were able to get out of the way fast enough.
Much of the crowd was still in the southeast corner of the park, south of the boathouse. As the officers advanced, a few officers pushed or tussled with people who didn't move quickly enough. At the same time, several officers fired foam rounds toward the crowd.So am I comparing the LAPD with the thugs of the 1960's Chicago police department? Bet your bottom dollar. The LAPD has been out of control for a number of years. In fact, they are presently operating under the supervision of the United States Justice Department, and have been since 2000, due to their penchant for violence and questionable behavior.
The lingerers were a mix of protesters and reporters. Some were reporters from established news organizations watching or recording what police were doing, and some were self-styled grassroots reporters -- protesters with cameras -- some of whom were both filming officers closely and yelling challenges at them. At least three men in this mixed group lingered long enough to be caught by the advancing line of officers and they were batoned. They received one or two baton strokes each.
When the police had driven the last of the press and protesters to the northwest corner of the park, an order came specifically directed at the press: "Members of the media" were told they were there illegally by an officer on foot. [...] The reporters were then forced to walk with the crowd west on 6th.
Will Bratton ever get his policemen under control? He'd better; in MacArthur Park the police were just pushing around some confused civilians and a handful of journalists. Next time the rallyists just might be a little more confrontational and combative, given the way they were recently treated. It could be a whole hell of a lot worse.