Otherwise peaceful all over the country, the May Day immigration march ended in violence Tuesday as riot police opened fire on demonstrators with rubber bullets and indiscriminate beatings from batons, all captured in intimate detail by the many cameras present. Late in the day things turned ugly when Los Angeles police decided to forcibly clear MacArthur Park west of downtown in response to jeers and thrown objects from a group of individuals said to be separate from the immigration protesters who were reportedly following all rules of conduct.
Some 240 rounds in all were fired out of the blue toy like shotguns into a crowd that included reporters, vendors, and other nonparticipants in the demonstration. Recipients of the barrage claim that some officers were mockingly shooting in "Robocop postures" and "Rambo poses". Although no serious injuries occurred at least ten people were taken to the hospital and treated for cuts and bruises.
The shift from peaceful crowd management to violent suppression measures occurred with little to no warning and with very little concern to whether those targeted were part of the unruly few or not. The footage of officers pummeling a middle aged female vendor who was only trying to gather her food coolers, which officers maliciously kicked over, sticks out among many other examples of blatantly unnecessary and callous force. Camera crews and Spanish television journalists were not immune to the attacks by angry police officers who formed a line and literally beat and shot anyone in their path as they marched forward.
Watching the cold and violent manner which is employed by countless helmeted officers toward cowering women, children and reporters is difficult for anyone to watch without becoming alarmed. Though Police Chief Bratton has promised an inquiry admitting that some of the actions by the officers were "inappropriate" he stopped short of apologizing, and many feel that due to the chaos of the day no individual officers will be held accountable for their behavior. Furthermore, this latest blemish on the LAPD shield only adds to an already besmirched reputation still recovering from another scandal involving a violent arrest caught on tape in November of last year. This, a reputation which Chief Bratton was hired to improve.
Adding to the fervor against this latest forceful episode from riot police, the timing comes only three days before the 37 year Anniversary of the 1970 Kent State incident in which police opened fire on a crowd of students protesting the Vietnam War. That tragedy, which left four dead and many more injured, might not relate much to this recent event, as they occurred during very different circumstances, had not a recording recently surfaced which has reopened this age old wound and an age old question. This tape proves that the officers were ordered to fire on the students discounting the statements that officials had blamed on miscommunication and human error.
In retrospect it can be easy for those in charge to pick and choose which actions by their officers caught on tape were "encouraged" or downright ordered, and which were "inappropriate" or the fault of a few bad cops. However, watching the multitude of officers beating innocent people, without so much as questioning whether they should, one begins to wonder what kind of training our so called public servants receive. Why, if this was isolated "inappropriate" behavior, didn't any police commanders put a stop to it while it was happening? Why are veteran police officers unabashedly attacking reporters and old women?
The saying goes "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely". Well, the truth of this statement unfolded before our eyes Tuesday, through the actions of this specially trained LAPD riot squad. They were handed a license with unquestioned power over an already persecuted group and they used this license in a manner which should be considered unforgivable. If not, things haven't changed much since those days nearly forty years ago and gone is the image of "officer friendly" to be replaced by the new one "officer fear me".
WORLD - CITY LIVING
Copyright © 2010 Charles Harmison
May Day Clash Brings LAPD Back Under Investigation
Copyright © 2010 Charles Harmison
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