Revolution #88, May 13, 2007
Los Angeles Police Attack May 1 March
"We all saw the police riot on the May 1st at McArthur Park. Battalions of armed police clubbed and shot their way through an immigrant rights rally. Hundreds of LAPD cops in full riot gear wielded batons and fired volley after volley of rubber bullets directly at children, women and men. Cops pointed their shotguns point blank at people’s faces. Parents tried to shield their children from “non-lethal” missiles that could crack a baby’s skull. Numerous people were injured."
From a statement by Travis Morales, “Denounce the LAPD Rampage on May 1st –
We Demand a Better World” (available at http://revcom.us)
On May 1st, International Worker’s Day, in the wake of massive ICE raids throughout the country, and the terrorizing of entire communities in Southern California, tens of thousands of people joined thousands more across the country as they marched in downtown L.A. to declare that they are human beings—not criminals or beasts of burden unworthy of basic human rights. But by the end of the afternoon, the LAPD gave their answer in the form of teargas and rubber bullets.
By noon a few hundred students from East L.A. had walked out of Roosevelt HS, Hollenbeck Middle School, and Garfield HS, calling on others to join them as they marched toward downtown to join the thousands already gathered there, including students from dozens of other high schools in the Los Angeles, Orange County, and Ventura areas. “People kept telling us to stay in school, but we want to be heard. Students need to get in the streets to give others strength,” said one of the student leaders at Roosevelt HS. “This is about the rights of millions of people.”
Jackie, a janitor originally from Central America told Revolution that many people were afraid of getting rounded up and deported or losing their jobs for participating in the May 1st protest, but that it was important for people to overcome that fear and pour into the streets. She said: “We’re not asking for respect, we’re demanding respect and legalization for everyone.”
At a second march that ended in an afternoon rally at McArthur Park, in Pico Union—sometimes called “Little Central America”—tens of thousands gathered to relax a little after marching all day and to listen to speeches from immigrants rights organizations and live music.
In the late afternoon the LAPD began driving their motorcycles into a crowd that had gathered to watch a group of Aztec dancers at the entrance to the park. Outraged, more people gathered to see what was going on—and denounce the actions of the police. Then in an act of brute force and complete disregard for the lives of the thousands of people who were attending the rally, battalions of armed police charged into the park—shooting more than 240 rubber bullets into the crowd. Television news crews captured images of the police swinging their batons at an arm’s length of a frightened child who cried as he stood frozen in the chaos. The people least able to move quickly—mothers with strollers, entire families, disabled people, and street vendors were pushed, hit, and humiliated as they tried to run from the police.
Radio and television journalists were viciously attacked. A camerawoman from local Fox News Channel 11 was pushed to the ground and beaten. When a news reporter tried to help her get up and they tried to get to their news van only a few feet away, the police pushed the reporter away and threatened to arrest her. Nearby, police kicked another camera man, took his camera, and threw it to the ground.
“One minute I was on live, the next minute I was running for my life. Suddenly, I had a police officer pointing one of those shot guns at my face,” said Pedro Sevcec, a news reporter for Spanish language Telemundo. “It was excessive force. They basically hit women, children, and journalists.”
Numerous people were injured as they were hit with so-called “non-lethal” missiles that can easily take out a person’s eye, or crack a baby’s skull. One man with a large and bloody bruise on the side of his stomach—who like many others had carried the U.S. flag throughout the day—threw it down in an act of indignation at the way people had been brutalized by the police, saying: “I don't care if they kill me.” As the police cleared the park and pushed people onto a business street surrounded by apartment buildings and houses (while they continued shooting), people from the neighborhood opened their doors to shelter people from the attack. Groups of youth came out and built small barricades in the street—fires were lit at street corners and hundreds gathered as the police finally dispersed.
The brutal police attack was clearly unprovoked. Police and their apologists have tried to justify this as a response to “agitators.” This is a bald lie. This rally had a permit to be in the park until 9 PM (the police raid came around 6 PM—only an hour after the rally began). The real “provocation” was that immigrants and their allies came out in the tens of thousands to rally and demand that immigrants be treated as human beings. This brutality is a critical part of U.S. imperialism’s program for immigrants: killed at the border; worked to death like slaves; Gestapo-style ICE raids with la migra dragging people out of their homes in the middle of the night; deportations and tearing families apart; terrorizing communities with street sweeps; concentration camps for captured immigrants including children; and armed vigilantes hunting down immigrants like modern day slave catchers.
In the days after the police attack there is growing outrage among different sections of people. In the neighborhood surrounding McArthur Park—which has a long history of police brutality at the hands of the Rampart Police Division—people are angry that the demonstration was attacked with such viciousness. Some people from the neighborhood have commented that they feel the police wanted to “put people in their place,” but that the opposite has happened and people are angrier than ever.
Vicious Attack Begins to Change Minds
Throughout that day, many people spoke angrily about the way immigrants are treated and about the need to put a stop to the ICE raids and deportations. And at the same time, there were many expressions of how people have a lot of illusions about the “American Dream”—or as one woman said, “have the opportunities that this great nation offers us.” But while people do have many illusions, the vicious attack on May Day compelled many to re-examine what they have been thinking about the nature of this country and its so-called “freedoms.” And there has also been curiosity about the struggle of Black people for civil rights in the '50s and '60s. Jose, a man from Central America said, “They did this to the Blacks when they stood up in the '60s and again in the '90s—now we’re standing up and they’re doing it to us.”
A clerk from El Salvador at a business near McArthur Park talked about a woman that had stopped in to buy something on May 1st. She had young children with her and he asked her if she was going to the march. “Yes,” she said. Being from El Salvador, he’s always weary of police and large demonstrations. He told her to be careful and be ready to escape at a moment’s notice. She said, “This is the United States.” She thought that things are different here than in her home country. She thought that there’s freedom here. Now she doesn't see things the same way and the next day she stopped by to thank him for warning her.
The clerk said, “With this they’re trying to scare the people. They want to tell us, ‘We’re capable of this and more!’ And we already know that. They can do what they want with us, they can beat us, they can mistreat us, they can take away the cars of humble people…and they can repress us, but the authorities should be aware that the more they mistreat the people, the people’s response will be stronger and more efficient.”
Joanna lives in the suburbs outside of L.A. She buys into the system's argument that there is an immigration problem and that the borders should be enforced. But after the May 1st police attack she’s questioning the existence of all the so-called “freedoms” that exist in this country. “I’m usually conservative on these things. I figure the police know what they’re doing and if they are aggressive it’s because they feel endangered. But what I’ve seen on the news is unbelievable. They say that there were some young people causing trouble, but what I saw was police shooting at families and journalists. It wasn’t an unlawful protest. They had a permit to be in the park!”
As Travis Morales wrote in his statement:
“Despite all the bills in Congress, all of which are bad and unacceptable, and numerous elected Latino politicians, this police attack reveals the reality of 'comprehensive immigration reform.' It reveals the heart of what the government has in store for immigrants—police raids, deportations and attempts to crush resistance. What does this say about the times we live in?
“Let’s be clear. They don’t have a solution to what they call the 'immigration problem.' The U.S. imperialists rape and pillage the world for profit. They tear up, warp and destroy the economies of whole countries, leaving millions of people to starve and die or seek work wherever and however they can in the world. The 12 to 20 million undocumented workers estimated to be in the U.S. have been driven into this country by the heartless workings of capitalism and imperialism. And when they get to the U.S. they are worked to death, dehumanized and demonized, blamed for just about every problem in the society. In reality, the U.S. economy would collapse without super exploited immigrant labor. Ruthless exploitation of immigrant workers is critical to the functioning of the American imperialist economy; it depends on the enslavement of millions of immigrants. It’s part of the DNA of their system. The truth rings out powerfully, we don’t have an immigration problem; we have a capitalist/imperialist problem.
“In the face of this police assault and all the attacks on immigrants today, it is critical that all of us who care about justice and the future do everything we can to unite all of the oppressed and exploited people together with all those who hate what this system does in revolutionary unity to defeat all the ways the system is going after immigrants. Make this part of and contribute to uniting millions in a common revolutionary cause against a common enemy and declaring, in one voice, diverse in language and accent, but fully united in its sentiment: 'We are human beings, we demand a better world, we will not accept slavery in any form.'”
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