LAPD’s MacArthur Park melee (FCN, 05-24-2007)
LOS ANGELES (FinalCall.com) – Since Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers assaulted primarily peaceful demonstrators with rubber bullets and batons at a May 1 immigrants’ rights rally in MacArthur Park, police and city officials have launched investigations, promoted and demoted officers, and victims’ attorneys have filed a lawsuit for damages and policy reformation.
Chief Bratton recently gave his 30-day “after action” report to the Police Commission and City Council, citing his concern over officers’ handling of the demonstrators, and he apologized to news reporters for their mistreatment.
Still, some charge that the promises of thorough investigations and exhibitions of accountability with Chief William Bratton’s almost immediate discipline of two lead commanders on the scene that day will yield no significant change within the culture of a police force prone to brutality.
Cynthia Baker is the lead attorney for some 70 plaintiffs in a lawsuit leveled against the City of Los Angeles, Chief William Bratton, and former Deputy Chief Cayler “Lee” Carter and Commander Louis Gray (the latter, the highest ranking officers at MacArthur Park for the May Day rally).
Atty. Baker charged that the LAPD Internal Affairs investigator was rude and hostile to her clients, but after she lodged complaints over attitude and demeanor, was promised more professionalism. She said the bigger picture is what will be accomplished by its investigation.
“I believe that nothing will change unless the LAPD finds a way to address the problem of the LAPD culture, which uses force and violence against peaceful protestors,” she stated. Since she and colleagues sued police in 2000 for shooting rubber bullets into a peaceful crowd of demonstrators at the Democratic National Convention held at the Staples Center, she said, things have not changed.
“They must address not only training with supervision and control, but problems in the LAPD culture, which allows officers to feel they can use violence and force on innocent civilians.”
Meanwhile, she said, her team is spending a lot of time getting medical attention and psychological counseling for her clients.
According to Andre Birotte, Jr., LAPD Inspector General, his office is in the preliminary stages of gathering and reviewing interviews and videotapes, as well as policies regarding use of force, crowd control management and he intends to complete his investigation as soon as possible.
He informed that there were close to 600 officers in the field, approximately 100-150 of them from the Metropolitan Division. Ultimately, he said, the LAPD and Police Commission have the authority regarding officer discipline or otherwise. “The Commission has made it clear that our office acts as its eyes and ears to get to the bottom of what went right and wrong and holding all appropriate personnel accountable,” Inspector Birotte added.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has also launched a preliminary investigation into the May Day riots, but the L.A. branch of the U.S. Attorney’s Office has not. A U.S. Attorney spokesperson explained that is because the office works closely with the FBI and that any order for the U.S. Attorney to become involved would come directly from them, and none has to date.
“Bratton’s got a long blood trail in New York from 1994 to 1996. Seventy-five people were killed by the police under his reign, including Amadou Diallo, an African immigrant who was shot 41 times, and Anthony Baez who was choked to death. I think that anybody who has illusions that the mayor, Police Commission or Bratton will try to help bring justice to what happened on May 1st is ludicrous and irresponsible,” insisted John Parker of the International Action Center (IAC).
He said that Chief Bratton and anybody who facilitates his bloody reign of terror should be tried and jailed for murder and conspiracy to commit murder.