Los Angeles 10/22:
"Who Let the Pigs Out?"
Protesters Stand Strong in the Face of Police Attack
Revolutionary Worker #1078, November 13, 2000, posted at http://rwor.org
On October 22, 2000, 2,500 people in L.A. demonstrated on the 5th National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality. At the Parker Center police headquarters, the LAPD launched a brutal assault on the demonstration. The police wanted to stop the rally and terrorize people--especially the youth and the families of those who have been murdered by the police. But their shameless attack failed, and the anger and outrage that fueled people's resistance on that day continues to reverberate. People are stepping up to get the truth out, to tell the story of the determination of the people in the face of cowardly police actions. There have been statements, press conferences, meetings and non-stop discussion on Internet sites.
The organizers of the National Day of Protest fought for months to get a permit for a march and rally to encircle Parker Center. A young woman wrote on the L.A. Independent Media Center (IMC) website, "We got to the police station, which we had a PERMIT to surround, but the cops decided that we couldn't... Needless to say, we did it anyway." .
Hundreds of young people and others surged past the stage on Los Angeles Street to a left turn on First: dressed in black, many with bandanas and other face coverings, fists in the air. They were not going to be turned back. The march reached the end of the block. Two more left turns and they would be around the building. A swarm of cops blocked their path, heavily armed with all the new weaponry they used at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in August: clubs, rubber bullets, bean bag guns. The works.
The police had set up a "command post" which included dozens of police cars, police mounted on over a dozen horses, and hundreds of police in riot gear already in a police line--with their batons and "non-lethal" weapons out and ready. Police were slapping their batons on their hands and taunting protesters.
In the face of the police, the people danced, shouted, drummed and chanted. "Who let the pigs out?" They condemned and exposed the cops to their faces, taunting them about the Rampart scandal that has revealed so many of their dirty secrets. Small white flags floated above the front of the march with stenciled images of pigs, "Danger, police in area" and the October 22nd logo. A huge paper U.S. flag went up in flames, and a puppet pig head was joyfully stomped into the street.
"Without warning they just came at us and started shooting," a woman college student wrote to the IMC. The cops shot a barrage of rubber bullets. People dodged their bullets, retreating down the street, or running to the side. Then it was right back at them, staring down the barrels of their guns, cursing and condemning them-- "Motherfuckers!"
Afterwards, the LAPD put out the lie that the police were under attack. But a video clearly shows the opposite. In one group of cops, two officers are calmly reloading rubber bullet cylinders and firing steadily at the crowd. All the cops you see had the plastic protective visors on their riot helmets pulled up, with their hands at their sides. This was at the moment they were supposedly ducking rocks and bottles.
The video shows the cops aiming point blank at people. Even though, according to the warning on the cylinder, rubber bullets are "not intended to be fired directly at persons." People were hit in the head and the groin. One woman was hit in the eye. Another woman was shot over seven times, including in the face. Those with bullhorns were singled out by police and deliberately shot. Others were clubbed by police on horseback. People from the press and with video cameras were singled out for shooting or clubbing.
For over four minutes, the constant pop-pop of rubber bullets being fired echoed along First Street, interspersed with the thud of concussion grenades. After a pause, the firing started back up. A line of horses moved up the street, against the constant resistance of a much more fluid line of people. They stood in front of the horses, some not moving until they were surrounded or shot or trampled.
The drums pounded and a defiant chant went up: "Whose streets? OUR STREETS!" A shopping cart rolled toward the police lines. Trash cans and other objects went into the streets to slow them down. But mainly, people used their bodies. Some sat down in the street; others walked slowly with their backs to the rubber bullets. The protesters tried to block the cops on the sidewalks where the horses couldn't go, grabbing onto trees and holding onto each other to slow and stop the police advance.
As the police lines turned the corner of First and Los Angeles Streets, half a block from the stage, it was more difficult for the cops to move forward against the main part of the rally. The families of those killed by the police were on the stage, speaking in anger of the lives that have been stolen by police bullets. The police had to be stopped.
For 15 minutes of non-stop police assault the people had stood firm and fearless. They didn't break and run, they didn't disperse. The cops escalated their attacks, trying one more time to panic and scatter protesters. A squad of riot cops charged through the line of horses, clubbing people in their path. Another squad swung around beside the retreating demonstrators and fired into their flank. When the cops got in range they shot at the stage itself.
People jumped onto the stage to protect the children of the families who were ready to speak. Jim Lafferty of the National Lawyers Guild spoke, "This is a test of how strong, and how much solidarity we really have. There are officers over there using tear gas, they're using rubber bullets. They think that if they do that we will run. They think if they do that we will disperse and go in six different directions. We must stay here, stay strong and stay united."
Greg Jordan, whose son John was shot in the back and killed by Long Beach police just last year, was hit in the back three times by rubber bullets as he shielded his grandchildren. People took shelter under the stage. Twenty yards from the stage people were packed into a tight mass, with the youth at the edge. People started to sit down. Rev. Richard Meri Ka Ra Byrd of the October 22nd Coalition took the mic and spoke, "Sit down! We have a right to be here. Sit down!"
The police were stopped. They later brought up a sound truck, to declare an "unlawful assembly" so they could renew their attack, but they never did. When the cops turned off the generator to the rally's PA system, people continued to speak with bullhorns and then a portable PA system.
The LAPD refused to allow people with injuries to get medical help. They sent away paramedics who arrived after the attack began. When a well-known movement videographer, who was clubbed in the face, tried to get through the police lines, he was arrested for "interfering with a horse." Although he eventually needed eight stitches on his chin, and his camera was damaged, he continued to film. His video made it out, and was used to expose the police lies. The October 22nd coalition reports three other arrests, including two reporters charged with misdemeanors for "interfering with an officer" and "resisting arrest" and a college student who is accused of throwing back a rubber bullet, charged with a felony "assault with a deadly weapon."
As people left the rally a white police van (with doors opened to display computer and communications equipment) had an officer openly videotaping protesters. Cops on motorcycles blared their sirens, rode on the sidewalk and rammed into protesters. One young woman was put up against a wall with a rubber bullet gun directly to the back of her head. Despite all these repressive conditions, protesters proceeded in high spirits back to Olympic and Broadway.
The woman who was hit in the eye suffered permanent damage. She said, "I still have one good eye to fight them with." The LA Weekly reported that one 18-year-old student started coughing up blood a couple hours after being shot in the chest with some sort of projectile. He was hospitalized and put on intravenous antibiotics.
The eight-year-old daughter of an LA lawyer was hit in the foot. A 53-year-old woman who brought her four children to the march was stepped on by a horse and shot in the back as she tried to move her children to safety. Several journalists were shot with rubber bullets, including reporters from the L.A. Weekly, La Opinión and the L.A. Independent Media Center. A cop later ran his motorcycle into a legal observer from the National Lawyers Guild.
Late Sunday night, a marcher wrote on the IMC website that the police "were bombarded by invisible weapons of spirit and sheer will in retaliation for years of systematic extortion and abuse. Oh yeah, and murder. The names and faces of an entire generation--enough to fill a graduating class auditorium--were everywhere. Their individual candles were easily blown out. But today there was a fire. And a fire grows when you blow on it."
There are many reasons for the fires of resistance to grow. In the last year, people in L.A. have seen a steady stream of revelations of police crimes in the Rampart scandal and the growing likelihood that few cops will be punished for them. In August the streets of downtown were turned into a militarized zone during the Democratic National Convention. Police arrested hundreds and attacked the Rage Against the Machine concert with clubs and rubber bullets.
At the end of the NDP rally, one woman went around and searched the ground to identify the projectiles fired by police. They included black dense foam column disks 38 mm in diameter; black grape-size hard rubber bullets, a 40 mm hard-plastic projectile. There were also clubs used by cops on foot and on horseback.
A statement condemning the police violence is being circulated by the October 22nd Coalition which is asking people to sign it and fax it to L.A. City officials. El Rescate, a social service organization in the Pico-Union barrio, sent officials its own statement of outrage saying, "The action by the police is inexcusable and must not go overlooked." An October 26 press conference sponsored by the ACLU of Southern California and the National Lawyers Guild was reported on by several local TV stations.
As usual, the cops justified their actions. LAPD Commander Louis Gray admitted he never read the permit, and nobody told him what it said. But he added, in typical ignorant cop fashion, "It seemed to me they were supposed to remain in front of Parker Center." The police also said they were under attack. Of course the L.A. Times and other mainstream media are putting out the cops' story. But many alternative journalists were right there with the people and are exposing the truth.
By October 23, the first photos and reports were up on the website of the L.A. Independent Media Center (IMC). It now features dozens of stories and photos of both the march and the police attack. An article exposing the police attack and the people's determination in holding their rally in the face of it appeared in the L.A. Weekly. There have been articles in college papers.
The IMC website included comments from people who were there and other statements of support. A man from Albany, NY wrote, "I wish that my brothers and sisters in L.A. didn't have to bear the horror of an overzealous police force, but when you stand up to such state terror, it is an overwhelming inspiration."
A woman wrote, "I personally saw many acts of police brutality today (inflicted on not only myself, but friends, children, the elderly, etc.) and it HAS to stop... Today, the LAPD tried to quiet our voices with their brutality, but we overcame them to get our messages across... we need to keep fighting if we ever want to see anything done." Another message ended with a phrase that's become popular since the DNC: "Thanks to everyone who faced the militarized police state. This is only the beginning. These assholes fucked with the WRONG generation."
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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