Wednesday, August 16, 2000
Section: Part A
95 Arrested as Protesters and Police Make a Day of It
Activism: So many groups take to the streets that they get in each other's way. Officers keep a close watch on the demonstrators wherever they go.
By: SCOTT MARTELLE and NICHOLAS RICCARDI TIMES STAFF WRITERS
Los Angeles police arrested at least 95 demonstrators Tuesday as a diverse array of activists, by turns angry and jubilant, energetic and heat-weary, marched and rode through downtown streets to champion issues that ranged from animal rights to gay rights, buses to bicyles.
Throughout the day, battalions of police in riot gear filled the streets, keeping tight control of the swirling protests. By nightfall, in a bizarre game of cat-and-mouse, small groups of protesters marched through downtown, chased by scores of police wherever they went.
There were so many marches that demonstrators could scarcely keep from running into each other as they commandeered swaths of the city's center. They demanded higher women's wages and "justice for youth," the legalization of drugs and better treatment of veterans, teachers, and county workers, among other causes.
At one point, there was temporary gridlock when youth protesters met up with women's march demonstrators at 3rd Street and Broadway. "This is mad, crazy," one protest leader said as police tried to direct traffic. Delegates Aren't Getting the Message
This week's protests are timed to coincide with the Democratic National Convention, although it has not always been clear whether demonstrators are trying to sway delegates to their causes or merely siphon off some of the news media attention.
Delegates say the demonstrators' message is not getting through. "I don't even know what they're demonstrating about," said one Michigan delegate, Bill Hanner, a teacher from Battle Creek. "I don't think they're doing a very good job of getting their message out, because we're very willing to listen."
Police arrested the animal rights activists Tuesday afternoon on Grand Avenue between 6th and 7th streets after they had entered the two stores chanting slogans but causing no apparent damage. After they were led onto police buses in plastic handcuffs, one cried, "This is what happens when you stand up for what you believe in."
Police said they seized a bottle of charcoal lighter, a bag of paint balls and an aerosal can, which they referred to as a homemade flamethrower. Police said 45 people were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit felony crimes--bombing businesses--LAPD Cmdr. David Kalish said.
Later, at 18th and Flower streets, between 50 and 70 people wearing bicycle helmets were arrested after about 100 cyclists wreaked havoc on downtown streets with a demonstration of "Critical Mass," an international movement in which cyclists take over city streets to promote their cause: more bicycles, fewer cars.
Paul deValera, 29, a Reseda resident who rode in the demonstration, acknowledged that the group had been "riding wildly." He said the bicyclists had swarmed a black limousine and were riding on the wrong side of the street. That, he said, led to the arrests.
Later still, a protest for gay rights turned tense after about 1,000 demonstrators, who had intended to hold a rally in front of the Federal Building at Los Angeles and Temple streets, were boxed in by police. After intense negotiations, the group turned back and marched to Pershing Square, chanting, "We're here, we're queer, we're fabulous, get used to it!"
Among the other demonstrations Tuesday:
* About 3,000 teachers, clad in red T-shirts, completed a grueling yet orderly 2 1/2-mile march across downtown on a Pilgrimage to Save Public Education--and hoping to bring attention to their demand for a double-digit pay raise.
* A larger-than-expected crowd of 1,000 rallied across from Staples Center to castigate the U.S. government for maintaining economic sanctions against Iraq.
* An estimated 1,000 county workers joined a union rally near Staples Center to hear Los Angeles City Atty. James K. Hahn and state Sen. Richard Alarcon (D-Van Nuys), among others. "What do you want?" they chanted. "Fair share! When do you want it? Now!"
* About 300 people gathered at MacArthur Park to watch a series of skits and short speeches organized by the Bus Riders Union.
One of the skits consisted of a bus rider with an Al Gore mask being confronted and ultimately pushed off the stage by a caped superhero--Super Pasajero (Super Passenger). The organizers demanded that the federal government enforce civil rights consent decrees between the union and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and use its influence to stop rail construction and help fund the purchase of 1,000 new buses.
* About 200 protesters chanted and banged drums at a youth rally near the Belmont Learning Complex to decry poor school conditions in minority neighborhoods. The Los Angeles Unified School District had been building a new Belmont school until environmental concerns prompted school officials to abandon it last year.
"We're marching for educational justice," first-grade teacher Ramon Martinez said. "We feel that young people and minorities in low-income neighborhoods are set up for failure." 'The Power of Women Don't Stop'
Other demonstrations Tuesday included a rave at MacArthur Park for Libertarians and others, featuring techno music and calls for drug legalization, and a march for women's rights and equal pay that began at Pershing Square.
"Ain't no power like the power of women. The power of women don't stop," the women marchers chanted. Then, for variety, they added, "Ain't no power like the power of Elvis, the power of Elvis don't stop."
The demonstrations, while sometimes tense, were free of the sort of disorder that broke out Monday night after a Rage Against the Machine concert directly across from the convention. Ten people were arrested in that melee, in which police used pepper spray and fired rubber bullets.
While Tuesday's protests were nonviolent, some protesters expressed concern about the violent impulses of some of the bandanna-wearing anarchists who threw garbage and concrete at police Monday night and charged at the chain-link fence separating them from Staples Center, where the convention was opening.
Just hours after linking arms in an ultimately futile attempt to block the rowdy demonstrators, protest organizers met early Tuesday to reexamine their anti-violence tactics. They consider it even more critical because of today's potentially explosive marches against police brutality, one of which concludes at the scandal-ridden Los Angeles Police Department's Rampart Division station.
Yet self-policing, especially for anti-authoritarian protesters, is an awkward task. Trying to control the behavior of their own runs counter to the individualistic and laissez-faire spirit of the resurgent protest movement, some demonstrators said.
"No one really wants to talk about this," said activist Siuhin Lee of South Pasadena, one of the "security" team that locked arms to keep anarchists back Monday night. "No one really wants to face it."
The biggest flash point has been from the "Black Bloc," an increasingly visible squad of anarchists who don black, cover their faces and march military-style with linked arms--a group that was rowdy Monday night but peaceful Tuesday.
Han Shan, a program director with the protest training camp Ruckus Society, said organizers in a lengthy meeting discussed tactics such as establishing a buffer zone between disorderly protesters and police and monitoring fringe elements such as the Black Bloc group.
"The consensus was that the trouble had been caused by police and a small group of people, and no one wanted it to continue," Shan said.
At a demonstration Tuesday morning in front of the Ronald Reagan State Building, Joe Hicks, executive director of the Los Angeles Human Relations Commission, acknowledged the problem.
"There are a lot of differences within the ranks of the protesters and even within each of these individual marches," Hicks said. "They have different characters in them and different thrusts in their missions. The police department understands there are people trying to keep the demonstrations peaceful and on track and on point."
Meanwhile, the first protester arrested this week was arraigned Tuesday. Daniel K. Woutat, 18, of Los Angeles, pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of malicious vandalism for damage he allegedly did to a fence at Staples Center on Sunday.
Although the damage to the fence was only $50, according to the police report, authorities said it cost $980 to repair it because workers had to be called in at weekend overtime rates. That brought the total damage cost to $1,030, above the $400 statutory minimum for a felony.
In one of the week's stranger episodes, Tim Leiweke, president of Staples Center, joined homeless advocate Ted Hayes and 60 others for a candlelight march Tuesday evening from Hayes' Dome Village encampment to Staples Center.
Leiweke walked up 9th Street to meet Hayes, who was hurt the night before when he was hit with a beanbag shot by police. Hayes was treated at a hospital and released.
"We apologize from all of us for what happened last night," Leiweke said. "It's a terrible thing that happened. I wanted to come over and express that. Let's walk together. I believe in what you're doing."
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