LAPD Went Bananas on the Press: What’s Up With That?

So what happened yesterday?

Suddenly at the end of a peaceful rally a commotion flared and the police began marching and clubs started flying and cameramen and women were dropping and rolling around in the dust.

That we know.

Why the police felt the need to get all buck-crazy is still unexplained.

For those that didn’t catch the news, LAPD used excessively strong tactics to clear a street of protesters at the end of yesterday’s march in Los Angeles. The police say there were bottles being thrown at them. Word is anarchists were provoking the police. As someone who has been to many protests I don’t doubt that.

The clash at MacArthur Park started after 6 p.m. when police tried to disperse demonstrators who had moved off the sidewalk onto the street. Authorities said several of the few thousand people still at the rally threw rocks and bottles at officers, who fired rubber bullets and used batons to push the crowd back onto the sidewalk.

Their response, however, was neither justified nor reasonable. What I saw was a police force going wild, taking advantage of the provocation to unleash a little whup-ass. It’s almost as if they were trying to send a message.

I didn’t see many anarchist getting hit.

“They were pushing children, elderly, mothers with their babies and beating up on the media,” said Angela Sambrano, director of the Central American Resource Center. “The aggressiveness against the immigrant community is unbelievable.”

Video of the conflict shows officers pushing women down to the ground, whacking the back of people walking away from them, shooting rubber bullets at close distances to women and children. In one, all-too-symbolic, image the police are swinging their batons at the legs of an immigrant holding the American flag while trying to help another protester that had fallen in front of the police and was trying to get up.

If you haven’t seen any of the footage, go to Youtube to check it out.

You can see that Christina Gonzalez, the reporter who was attacked in the footage, is royally pissed as she broadcasts from MacArthur Park, the scene of the clash just hours before.

What I find troubling is the rather sloppiness, the dumb brute force, the LAPD showed. This was not a necessary action to quell a riot, this was a human battering ram mowing down everyone in its path, mostly journalists and innocent protesters that didn’t get out of the way fast enough.

Stranger that they seemed to be discriminately attacking journalists.

That’s just not good PR.

The Radio and Television News Association of Southern California called for an investigation.

“There is evidence that officers knocked reporters to the ground, used batons on photographers and damaged cameras, possibly motivated by anger over journalists photographing efforts by officers to control the movements of marchers,” the group said in a statement.

At the end of the video you can sense Christina Gonzalez’s frustration and indignation as she reports that the LAPD told her to get in their truck and “shut the door”. I find that portion of the story especially troubling. They weren’t ordering them inside their vehicle for their safety but to restrict their ability to cover the actions of the police.

Not lost to irony: this brutal crackdown on freedom of the press happening in a park named after a war general. A soldier that first distinguished himself going after Poncho Villa, who was fighting an American-supported Mexican government.

I don’t think it would be too childish and snide to point out that history is just one big riot.

Back to 5/1/07.

Why would the LAPD overreact so aggressively? Attacking innocent people and the news media, where they must have known they would come under fierce criticism?

There are only two reasons I can see:

1. They’re stupid.
2. It was an intentional assault on the immigrant movement and the media covering it.

Crowds were down, the media attention was low, it had been a long day, a provocation flared up, once the order was given officers seemed intent on exterting their power with violence. Christina Gonzalez herself heard the cops announce as they passed, “double time it’s tussle time.” (whatever the hell that means)

It seems at worse this was an authorized tactic to intmidate immigrants, their supporters and the press. At best it’s a case where a good number of cops lost their heads and went overboard, waaaaay overboard.

Here’s another chance to watch the video and decide for yourself.

I’m spent.

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