Los Angeles police fired rubber bullets Sunday into a crowd of people demonstrating against police brutality near the LAPD's downtown headquarters, breaking up an unauthorized splinter group of marchers who threw bottles, vandalized bus stops and yelled obscenities. In a scene reminiscent of clashes during the Democratic National Convention in August, police in riot gear fired the nonlethal bullets after protesters began setting fires and throwing objects at officers who were trying to stop the demonstration from encircling the Los Angeles Police Department's Parker Center. Until then, the march by about 1, 000 people had been mostly peaceful. No serious injuries were reported, although two demonstrators were bleeding from minor injuries and eight others displayed welts and bruises. LAPD Officer Don Cox said police arrested two men and a woman on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon-a felony-after objects were thrown at police. They were being held at Central Jail.
No officers were injured, Cox said. The protesters represented a coalition of activists united by anger over police brutality and the death penalty. Most of the demonstrators wore black clothing, as well as bandannas over their mouths and noses. While the main demonstration in front of the LAPD headquarters on Los Angeles Street, north of 1 st Street, remained peaceful, about 200 protesters broke away to go around the rear of the building. "This is our time to take over Parker Center! Let's surround it!" Armando Lopez, 29, a psychology student at Rio Hondo College, shouted through a loudspeaker at the crowd. As the smaller group marched south on Los Angeles Street, then east on 1 st Street toward San Pedro Street, some demonstrators vandalized bus shelters and an LAP recruiting poster.
At the sight of a phalanx of police, the crowd took up the chant, "Who let the pigs out" At 3: 40 p. m. , police on foot and on horseback moved forward into the intersection of 1 st and San Pedro streets, some knocking protesters out of the way with batons. As protesters were pushed back, some began throwing plastic and glass bottles, and a few set fire to piles of pamphlets and other papers in the street. Within seconds of the first volley of thrown bottles, police began firing their weapons, driving the demonstrators back. Police Cmdr.
Louis Gray said he then told the parade organizer he was about to declare an unlawful assembly. But the crowd suddenly became orderly, and no such declaration was made. Although the main body of protesters, the "October 22 nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality," had obtained a parade permit three months ago, they were turned down when they sought a revision to allow demonstrators behind the building, said Johnny Lai, a third-year UCLA law student and a legal observer for National Lawyers Guild. However, Jim Lafferty, executive director of the Lawyers Guild, said officers had told him informally that marchers could go around the back of the building if they used a parking lot and not the street. Gray, who was in charge of officers at the scene, said he was never told of the specific terms of the parade permit. "It seemed to me they were supposed to remain in front of Parker Center," he said.
Gray said the main cause of the police reaction was "rocks and bottles that people were throwing, and they were blocking the street. Those issues caused our reaction." Many of the protesters insisted that they hadn't done anything to provoke police. "All we were doing was walking and chanting when the cops shot us," said Gonzalo Islas, 26, of East Los Angeles. He said he was shot by a rubber bullet on his right calf. Among those shot with rubber bullets was a reporter covering the demonstration for the newspaper La Opinion. "I could see them coming and then suddenly, bang, bang, bang, bang, and I was hit," said the reporter, Edwin Tamara, showing a small bruise on his left shoulder.
Jeremy Ober stein, a 19-year-old college student from Van Nuys, said he joined the demonstration after reading about allegations of police corruption in the Rampart Division. He knew of no family or friends who had ever been victimized by police, but he was among those shot Sunday with a rubber bullet. "After today," he said, "it's personal." The march had begun about 1: 30 p. m. at Olympic Boulevard and Broadway, then moved north on Broadway to Temple Street and then east to Parker Center. Many protesters carried signs listing "lives stolen by law enforcement" and wore bandannas in solidarity with revolutionary groups around the world, some marchers said.
The bandannas also helped protect marchers from being identified by authorities. About 75 officers either rode in front of the parade on bicycles or blocked off cross streets. Before the violence erupted, some marchers moved close to police and taunted them with obscenities, or urged them to report colleagues who are guilty of brutality. During this phase of the demonstration, civilian parade monitors moved in to cool off the crowd. One monitor, Monica Jenkins, said, "We were trying to restrain them a little bit, but at the same time allow them to express their angst... When it gets too out of hand, we try to move the crowd along." A monitor who identified himself only as "Lenin" said, "They say America is the land of the free.
When you go out and they beat you up and everything, you know different." The march was led by an American Indian group of dancers. It was followed by a truck with loudspeakers and pictures of people who were said to have been killed by police. Also among the marchers was a contingent from Riverside protesting the slaying of teenager Trisha Miller last year. Another group, led by Richard Carlsberg of Fountain Valley, said they were conducting a march from San Diego to San Francisco to call for abolishing the death penalty. Other marchers carried signs protesting the death sentence for Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is on death row in Pennsylvania.
After the rally, protesters retreated to Olympic and Broadway, and along the way a handful turned over trash cans and vandalized newspaper boxes. When two protesters yelled "Uncle Tom" and "Oreo" at two Latino bicycle officers, one, who identified himself only as Officer Garcia, broke formation and rammed his bicycle into a group of protesters. "Go back to your country if you don't like it," the officer yelled. Protesters scattered once they reached Olympic. About half a dozen Lawyers Guild observers stayed on the sidewalk, and they were confronted by motorcycle officers. Two of the officers rammed their motorcycles into two of the observers: , former Santa Monica City Atty.
Bob Myers, 49, and Starbucks counterman John Martin West, 25. When Myers tried to make a citizen's arrest of the officers, he was shoved. "I was standing on a public sidewalk," said Myers, noting that the police had not declared an unlawful assembly. "He pushed me and would not allow me to talk to a supervisor.
The police broke the law." Caption: PHOTO: (A 2) PROTEST- A protester sits in front of a line of LAPD officers. Police used rubber bullets to break up a demonstration against police brutality that had turned violent. B 1; PHOTOGRAPHER: WALLY SKAL IJ / Los Angeles Times; PHOTO: An LAPD officer, at upper right above, fires rubber bullets toward protesters burning an American flag near the Police Department's Parker Center. The demonstration was against police brutality. ; PHOTOGRAPHER: PETER TRAN / For The Times; PHOTO: Protesters with the "October 22 nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality" march past riot police through downtown Los Angeles on Sunday, right. About 1, 000 people participated.
; PHOTOGRAPHER: GARY FRIEDMAN / Los Angeles Times; PHOTO: Protester Rita Rangel holds a poster of her son, Samuel, during a demonstration against police brutality held on Sunday. ; PHOTOGRAPHER: GARY FRIEDMAN / Los Angeles Times.