2000 Democratic National Convention protest activity
- This article is about the protests surrounding the 2000 Democratic National Convention, for details on the convention itself, see here.
The protests surrounding the 2000 Democratic National Convention occurred from August 14 to August 17, 2000 in the areas immediately next to and in the environs surrounding where the convention took place: the Staples Center and surrounding downtown of Los Angeles.
The Lakers' victory riot
The 1999–2000 NBA season ended up being fortuitous for the Los Angeles Lakers, who were in their inaugural year playing out of the Staples Center. On the night of June 19, 2000, the Lakers beat the visiting Indiana Pacers, winning their first Championship in twelve years. While the game took place inside the arena, it was broadcast for free outside on a large video screen. Thousands had gathered to watch the game on the screen and be in the proximity of the arena.
As soon as the game ended, the crowd quickly turned violent as violent opportunists began attacking property, making bonfires, beating up a Lincoln limo and two LAPD cars, flipping a news van, and setting fire to a Ford Explorer, as well as looting local businesses. All the local media channels covered the riots live on television, where LAPD officers were seen containing the rioters, but taking some time before actively dispersing the crowd. The LAPD was roundly criticized for not taking a harder approach to the rioters. Part of what influenced the LAPD's hands-off approach was the recent Rampart Scandal that had rocked the department and generated much criticism in the news.
Nationally embarrassed by its handling of the Lakers' Victory Riot, the city and the LAPD revised its plan for the 2000 Democratic Convention to take place less than two months later.
Birth of Indymedia
The 2000 DNC brought about the birth of the Los Angeles media center for Indymedia.org  or Independent Media Center. IMC.
It became the fastest independent media collective to go from inspiration, after the police brutality on Protesters and Indie journalists at the November 1999 World Trade Organization WTO summit in Seattle, to having live satellite transmission capabilities and a bona-fide, official entity.
A multiethnic technical group composed of indie Hollywood filmmakers, MAPA members worked for several months in the technical planning and deployment of a media center.
Indymedia leased the Patriotic Hall, converting the entire building to a giant media studio within 24h of taking possession of the premises on August 12. It was outfitted with film production equipment like diesel power generators, power distribution networks, and stage lighting within a few months.
The entire lobby became a public forum with several podiums and large-screen televisions while technical and production crews managed the live media in several upper floors.
Dozens of field reporters, like bees, delivered media to a triage stage and moved on to editing crews composed of teen-age nerds to Hollywood indie filmmakers.
Political and media luminaries were present: Amy Goodman broadcast her daily radio show Democracy Now This event marked also the Beginning of TV/Sat broadcast of Democracy now utilizing the Indymedia Studio—and other social activists like Arianna Huffington  Gore Vidal, Christopher Hitchens, several (independent Parties) political candidates, Peter Camejo, Kucinich, pundits, activists, etc.
This independent media content was broadcast through DishNetwork and DirectTV via Freespeech TV available on both Satellite Television providers. On Monday Aug 14, The LAPD aided by the Calif Highway patrol (State Police) were sent to shut down the studio. However, there were no laws in violation, and Indymedia had a valid lease from the County.
Other than the dislike from the police that regular citizens had now the capabilities to broadcast media content as easily as mainstream corporate media but in a free-speech, independent fashion, the LAPD had no choice but to release the building to the tenants. The following day, Indymedia, in true collective spirit, resumed media broadcast activities, thanks to the quick intervention of the National Lawyers Guild which actually oversaw the entire DNC activities in order to provided eye-witness accounts to ensure the prevention of police abuse, brutality and to ensure a democratic process. and the fact that Arianna continuously ridiculed the actions of the LAPD and the bogus claims of reports of bombs in the premises.
National Lawyers Guild members identified themselves with bright green, fluorescent, ball-caps emblazoned with their name and carrying legal pads. Progressive supporters like Ben and Jerry  ice cream,(a sister company of Breyers) provided thousands of dollars in free product to the Indymedia project with a continuously-resupplied truck in the Patriotic Hall parking lot. This history-making event became known as the DNC-2000 "Shadow Convention"
The anarchists' activities
In addition to the anarchist participation in the protests of the DNC, a group of anarchists, calling themselves the "August Collective", held the North American Anarchist Conference, a three-day conference in the days before the DNC took place. The conference was a convergence of hundreds of anarchists both from North America and abroad, and consisted of workshops, panels, speaking engagements and various other events. The recommended $25 donation granted access to the events for three days, as well as free housing (attendees slept on the floor in the warehouse that hosted the conference) and free meals provided by Food Not Bombs.
Due to the local media and LAPD-induced "Black Scare", the organizers of the event took special security measures during preparations. For instance, attendees of the conference had to "check-in" at a local vegetarian cafe called Luna Tierra Sol to get the address of the conference warehouse (a large orange building next to LA River that usually held "Raves"). The motive behind this decision was fear that if the LAPD knew the location of the conference, they would pressure the owner to cancel the rental of the building, a common scenario for modern radical organizers. In addition to this, the actual location of the building was withheld from everyone except the two August Collective members who secured the space. Despite this, the LAPD reportedly installed a video surveillance system on a nearby lamppost days before the conference, and removed it after the DNC had ended. This leak in security is generally believed to have been through law enforcement surveillance, such as wire taps.
Despite fear that the LAPD would raid the conference and shut it down, the conference went ahead as scheduled, and other than undercover surveillance, police presence was kept to a minimum. Among other things, many members and attendees suspected that the police would pressure the fire department to deem the nature of sleeping attendees as a fire hazard. However, nothing came of such suspicions.
The Protest Zone
In order to provide security around the Staples Center, Los Angeles Convention Center (which housed print and radio media), and the large media contingent housed outside in a "Media Village", the LAPD, Los Angeles Fire Department and United States Secret Service designed a large secure zone surrounded by a perimeter fence consisting of K-rail barriers with a 10-foot fence rising up from it. The parking lots adjacent to the Staples Center were designated for the large Media Village (consisting of many trailers and media vehicles for the television press), transportation department vehicles, security checkpoints, as well as "VIP Vehicles" to be parked immediately in front of the Staples Center. As a result of this layout, the perimeter fence remained a city block away from the Staples Center, and placed the proposed space for the expected protestors (known as the "Protest Zone") a substantial distance from the event they were protesting. The proposed layout was diagramed and published by The Los Angeles Times.
Upon viewing the proposed layout, the protestors legally challenged the proposed fence route, winning a court judgement in their favor. As a result, the area for the VIP parking lot was moved elsewhere and the perimeter fence was redrawn to create a rectangular protest zone that stopped only a dozen yards short of the Staples Center entrance. This left only one open side of the protest zone for entrance and exit.
The protestors also won permission to set up a stage in the Protest Zone with sound amplification; and time on the stage was divided into hour-long segments and divided among the many groups wishing to bring up issues outside the convention. The LAPD was given permission take the stage and order the Protest Zone cleared if a civil disturbance was imminent.
Rage Against the Machine concert
Rage Against the Machine played a free concert in protest of the two-party system. The band had been considering playing a protest concert there since April of that year. In the months leading up to the convention, cable channel MTV began planning a large, free concert to take place in downtown Los Angeles as a part of its "Choose or Lose" campaign aimed at getting youth out to vote. MTV decided that popular rock group RATM would be the ideal marquee band. However, RATM's aggressive political message combined with the title of its most recent album, The Battle of Los Angeles, caused serious concerns from LA city leaders. MTV's applications for staging the concert were denied by the city and the channel eventually gave up its attempts to plan one. After MTV's attempts failed, a number of protest groups agreed to give their one hour time allotments on the stage in the Protest Zone. RATM were offered prime time slots coinciding with the marquee speaker on the opening night of the convention, then-President Bill Clinton.
Although they were at first required by the City of Los Angeles to perform in a small venue at a considerable distance, early in August a United States district court judge ruled that the City's request was too restrictive and the City subsequently allowed the protests and concert to be held at a site across from the DNC. The police response was to increase security measures, which included a 12' fence and patrolling by a minimum of 2,000 officers wearing riot gear, as well as additional horses, motorcycles, squad cars and police helicopters. A police spokesperson said they were "gravely concerned because of security reasons".
During the concert, RATM frontman Zach de la Rocha said to the crowd, "brothers and sisters, our democracy has been hijacked," and later also shouted "we have a right to oppose these motherfuckers!" After the performance, a small group of attendees congregated at the point in the protest area closest to the DNC, facing the police officers. Reports of what activity they engaged in vary, the most extreme being reports of throwing glass, concrete and water bottles filled with "noxious agents," spraying ammonia on police and slingshotting rocks and steel balls. However, milder reports also arose, one only mentioning "tossing rocks." The police soon after declared the gathering an unlawful assembly, switch off the electrical supply, interrupting performing band Ozomatli, and informed the protestors that they had 15 minutes to disperse on pain of arrest. Some of the protesters remained, however, including two young men who climbed the fence and waved black flags, who were subsequently shot in the face with pepper spray. Police then forcibly dispersed the crowd, using tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets. At least six people were arrested in the incident.
The police faced severe and broad criticism for their reaction, with an American Civil Liberties Union spokesperson saying that it was "nothing less than an orchestrated police riot." Several primary witnesses reported unnecessarily violent actions and police abuses, including firing on reporters, lawyers and people obeying police commands. Protesters were trapped between police fronts and some were beaten by police while trying to obey commands. At one point, four young men were repeatedly beaten by mounted police while trapped against a wall. Police responded that their response was "outstanding" and "clearly disciplined."
Notes and citations
- Ferull, Mike (August 12, 2000). "Democratic 'shadow convention' opens Sunday". CNN. Retrieved April 21, 2010.
- CorpWatch : DNC: Corporate Sponsors and Rubber Bullets
- Asch, Andrew (August 15, 2000). "Rage Wage Battle of Los Angeles at DNC". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 19, 2007.
- "Protest concert due tonight outside convention: Security tight in Los Angeles". CNN. August 14, 2000. Archived from the original on October 7, 2007. Retrieved February 19, 2007.
- Bleyer, Jennifer (August 15, 2000). "LAPD unleashes horses-pepper spray-rubber bullets". Scoop Independent News. Indymedia. Retrieved February 19, 2007.
- White, Jerry (August 17, 2000). "Los Angeles police attack protesters at Democratic convention". World Socialist Web Site. Archived from the original on 24 February 2007. Retrieved February 19, 2007.
- "Convention opens to protests, rubber bullets". CNN. August 15, 2000. Archived from the original on January 8, 2007. Retrieved February 19, 2007.
- York, Anthony (August 15, 2000). "Rage against the cops". Salon.com Politics. Retrieved February 19, 2007.
- "Police defend use of pepper spray, rubber bullets at Democratic Convention protest". CNN. August 15, 2000. Archived from the original on 22 February 2007. Retrieved February 19, 2007.
- ACLU Action and Inaction Proves Pivotal for Protestors in Philadelphia and Los Angeles | Philadelphia Independent Media Center