2007 MacArthur Park rallies

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The 2007 MacArthur Park rallies were two May Day rallies demanding dignity, respect, and amnesty for undocumented immigrants [1][2] which occurred on May 1, 2007, at MacArthur Park, in Los Angeles.

When the protest overflowed onto city streets, police drove motorcycles through the crowd, then ordered the crowd to disperse. According to police, some people began throwing plastic bottles and rocks at officers. Members of the Los Angeles Police Department attacked the crowd with batons and rubber bullets in a manner later found by the LAPD's own investigation, as well as by the courts, to be excessive.[3] After community mobilization, pressure from the Mayor, and an extensive internal review, LAPD Chief Bratton apologized, the commanding officer was demoted, seventeen other officers faced penalties, and the LAPD paid more than $13 million in damages.[4]

The incident[edit]

The objective of the rally was to make a political statement regarding the racism against the large population of Mexican-American legal citizens and the undocumented community in Los Angeles and the US as a whole. Organizers obtained the necessary permits to hold a rally at MacArthur Park on May 1, 2007 until 21:00. At about 17:15 a few protesters began blocking the street, which the rally permit expressly prohibited. The police made numerous requests for the protesters to move from the street and abide by the conditions of the permit .[citation needed] The protesters remained defiant and began gathering in larger numbers on the street. When the attempts by police to move the crowd failed, police commanders declared the gathering an unlawful assembly. The formal order for the crowd to disperse was given, being broadcast from a police helicopter circling the park, from police cars, and from hand-held megaphones. A significant portion of the crowd ignored this order and did not disperse. Police officers formed a line and advanced slowly to clear the area. The officers proceeded about 50 feet at a time, allowing those complying with the dispersal order to retreat. Most protesters left the area at this point, however, some that had stayed began to throw rocks and bottles at the advancing officers.[5] The orders were given in English to a crowd of mostly Spanish speaking demonstrators.[6]

Altogether, the estimated 600 police officers fired 146 foam-rubber projectiles.[7] 27 marchers and 9 members of the media were injured, 5 people were arrested,[8] and at least 50 civilians filed complaints with the LAPD regarding mistreatment by officers. It is, however, that most of the injuries were as a result of direct police contact or as a result of incidental crowd contact (trampling, pushing, falling, etc.).[9] Seven to fifteen police officers were injured.[8][5]

The incident received considerable attention from news media because several reporters were also pushed and injured, notably Christina Gonzalez from L.A.'s Fox 11 News (KTTV), and Telemundo's National Evening Broadcaster, Pedro Sevcec. Sanjukta Paul, a National Lawyer's Guild observer, was beaten repeatedly by a LAPD officer, including a blow to the kidneys, as she attempted to separate police from the crowd.[10] CBS 2/KCAL 9 (KCBS-TV, KCAL-TV) reporter Mark Coogan and his cameraman Carl Stein were also accosted. Stein was struck on the ribs by LAPD batons.[11] Patricia Nazario, a reporter for KPCC, was beaten in the ribs and back, before being struck over the head with a baton. ABC 7 (KABC-TV) reporter Sid Garcia was hit by a rubber bullet, but it ricocheted off him.[12] Patti Ballaz, a camerawoman for KTTV who was injured, filed a claim for unspecified damages against the city and the police department.[13]

Response by government officials[edit]

At a press conference later in the day, Police Chief William J. Bratton indicated that an investigation was underway to "determine if the use of force was appropriate," going on to state that "the vast majority of people who were [at MacArthur Park] were behaving appropriately."[2][14] Bratton indicated he may ask the FBI to investigate the chain of events.[15]

At the time of the events, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was on a trip to El Salvador. He cut his trip short three days later, in order to personally oversee the investigation of the chain of events,[16] and asked Police Chief Bratton to oversee a "complete and comprehensive review of this incident, including deployment, tactics, and use of force."[2] At a Sunday morning mass at Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on May 6, Villaraigosa said "I come today with a heavy heart ... Nobody, nobody should be victimized in a way we saw women, children and families victimized just a few days ago."[17]

Los Angeles city council member Herb Wesson, whose district includes neighborhoods near MacArthur Park, criticized the police response by comparing it to beating of civil rights leaders in the South in the 1960s. He praised Bratton's response, though, saying "I'm proud that the chief said quickly that some inappropriate actions took place."[18] Fabian Núñez, Speaker of the California Assembly whose district includes MacArthur Park where the events took place, condemned the actions of the police by saying "To say we are outraged is an understatement ... We want those responsible in the highest levels of the LAPD to pay consequences."[13] Robert Baker, president of the Police union, responded, calling Wesson's and Núñez's words "police bashing that erroneously insinuates racial bias".[19]

Investigations[edit]

Four separate investigations were created to investigate the incident,[20] one of them being a special task force set up by city council president Eric Garcetti. The task force is composed of five councilmembers, and is co-chaired by Los Angeles city councilmembers Ed Reyes and Jack Weiss.[21][22] The FBI also investigated the incidents for civil rights violations.[8]

On May 17, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a request with U.S. District Judge Gary A. Feess to look into whether the incident at MacArthur Park violated a 2001 consent decree which was a result of the Rampart scandal. If the judge finds the LAPD in violation of the decree, federal oversight of the LAPD could be extended beyond the current deadline of 2009.[9]

On May 29, Chief Bratton presented preliminary findings of an internal police investigation to the civilian police commission, and on May 30 he presented the preliminary findings to the Los Angeles City Council. According to Bratton, the main reasons for the mêlée were "a command and control breakdown," [which] began at the planning stages and dominoed throughout the event itself".[6]

On October 9, 5 months after the incident, the LAPD released the results of an internal investigation.[23]

Community response[edit]

On May 17, approximately 2,000 to 3,000 people marched in protest of the events that took place on May 1. The march started at a church 10 blocks west of MacArthur Park with a "town hall meeting", and ended at MacArthur Park. The march was peaceful, without a single arrest, and the town hall meeting featured speakers such as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez,[1][20] who later marched with the protesters. Police Chief William Bratton was also present at the march and town hall meeting.[24]

Fallout[edit]

On May 7, 2007 Chief William J. Bratton announced a departmental reorganization. Cayler "Lee" Carter, who was a deputy chief and the highest-ranking official at scene, was demoted to commander and assigned home duty.[25] On May 17, Carter announced his resignation from the LAPD, effective June 6.[26] In his May 7 announcement, Bratton also announced that Carter's deputy, Louis Gray, would be reassigned to the operations bureau, and that about 60 officers who were involved in the incident would be taken off the street, pending the outcome of the investigations.[25][27]

On May 9, the Multi-Ethnic Immigrant Workers Organizing Network filed a class-action suit against the Los Angeles Police Department and the city.[28] In November 2008, it was disclosed that the city was in negotiations and was willing to pay as much as $13 million to settle the lawsuits.[29]

On May 30, Bratton announced the creation of a new Incident Management & Training Bureau, and assigned Deputy Chief Michael Hillmann to head the newly created bureau.[8]

Over a year later, on July 8, 2008, the LAPD announced "that 17 officers and two sergeants from the department's elite Metropolitan Division should be punished for their roles in [the incident]".[30] The recommended punishment was not publicized, and could range from a simple reprimand to termination. Critics criticized the announcement, saying that only officers "whose actions were captured on video" were recommended for punishment.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Villaroman, Rene (May 22, 2007). "3,000 at MacArthur Park for Peaceful March". Asian Journal Online. Retrieved 23 May 2007. 
  2. ^ a b c Watanabe, Teresa; Vara-Orta, Francisco (May 2, 2007). "Small turnout, big questions". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 6, 2007. 
  3. ^ Mark Watches 'Angel':S02E14-The Thin Dead Line, retrieved 28 May 2012 
  4. ^ Maeve Reston and Joel Rubin (February 5, 2009). "Los Angeles to pay $13 million to settle May Day melee lawsuits". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 21 January 2010. 
  5. ^ a b Jack Dunphy (May 3, 2007). "May Day Madness". National Review Online. Archived from the original on 17 May 2007. Retrieved 1 June 2007. 
  6. ^ a b Patrick McGreevy and Richard Winton (May 30, 2007). "Bratton issues report on mêlée". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 14 July 2008. 
  7. ^ Patrick McGreevy and Richard Winton (May 27, 2007). "Chief to explain police actions at rally". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 15 June 2011. 
  8. ^ a b c d "LAPD gets new tactics boss in wake of rally clash controversy". Associated Press. May 30, 2007. Retrieved 31 May 2007. 
  9. ^ a b McGreevy, Patrick (May 18, 2007). "Probe sought of LAPD's May 1 use of force". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 20 May 2007. 
  10. ^ "Police Terror in the Park". LA Indy Media. May 2, 2007. Archived from the original on 6 May 2007. Retrieved May 6, 2007. 
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ "Police to Review Clash at LA Rally". AP. May 2, 2007. Archived from the original on 4 May 2007. Retrieved May 4, 2007. 
  13. ^ a b Andrew Glazer (May 4, 2007). "LA Mayor Condemns Rally Violence". Associated Press. Retrieved September 24, 2010. 
  14. ^ "Bratton: Officers' Conduct May Be Inappropriate". KTLA. May 2, 2007. Archived from the original on May 4, 2007. Retrieved May 4, 2007. 
  15. ^ "Chief: FBI May Investigate LAPD Conduct At Rally". May 3, 2007. Archived from the original on 5 May 2007. Retrieved 11 May 2007. 
  16. ^ "Mayor Villaraigosa Cuts Short Mexico Trip". May 4, 2007. Retrieved 11 May 2007. 
  17. ^ Bob Pool (May 7, 2007). "A contrite mayor goes to the park". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 24, 2010. 
  18. ^ Patrick McGreevy (May 2, 2007). "Bratton oversees LAPD inquiry at critical time". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 5 May 2007. Retrieved 11 May 2007. 
  19. ^ "Saturday In The Park Is Quiet As Protesters Are No-Shows". May 5, 2007. Retrieved 11 May 2007. 
  20. ^ a b "MacArthur Park Peaceful Immigration Rally". Associated Press. May 19, 2007. Retrieved 18 May 2007. 
  21. ^ "Special Task Force To Hear Public Comment On May Day Police Action". KNBC (the local affiliate of NBC). May 14, 2007. Retrieved 15 May 2007. 
  22. ^ "Shouts, Jeers At Public Meeting Over May Day Police Action". KNBC (the local affiliate of NBC). May 15, 2007. Retrieved 16 May 2007. 
  23. ^ Winton, Richard; Helfand, Duke (October 10, 2007). "LAPD takes blame for park melee". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 14 July 2008. 
  24. ^ Uranga, Rachel (May 17, 2007). "Marchers rally at L.A. park as LAPD faces a legal challenge". Press Telegram. Retrieved May 30, 2007. 
  25. ^ a b Lisa Hernandez (May 8, 2007). "Bratton to Suggest Replacement for Demoted Official". Retrieved 11 May 2007. 
  26. ^ "Police Official Retires After May Day Clash". Associated Press. May 17, 2007. Retrieved 17 May 2007. 
  27. ^ Geis, Sonya (May 8, 2007). "Top LAPD Officers Disciplined for Use of Force at Rally". Washington Post. Retrieved 24 May 2007. 
  28. ^ "Lawsuits Mount Over May Day Police Action In MacArthur Park". Archived from the original on 13 May 2007. Retrieved 11 May 2007. 
  29. ^ Rubin, Joel (November 20, 2008). "L.A. to pay nearly $13 million over May Day melee, sources say". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 11 December 2008. Retrieved 21 November 2008. 
  30. ^ Richard Winton, Anna Gorman and Scott Glover (July 9, 2008). "Officers in melee to face censure". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 14 July 2008.