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[Nettime-bold] ny times on d2k l.a.
osfavelados on 23 Jul 2000 18:24:20 -0000


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[Nettime-bold] ny times on d2k l.a.


July 23, 2000


Protesters Warm Up; Mayor Upset; Los Angeles Ready for Democrats

By TODD S. PURDUM

Photographs by Monica Almeida/ The New York Times


 Preparing for the Democratic National Convention, from top,
participants in
a recent camp for protesters staged a mock demonstration and were
instructed
in nonviolence, while communication cables were installed at the
convention
center.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

--
 ------------------------------------------------------------------

 LOS ANGELES, July 22 -- Scores of would-be protesters have bivouacked
in the
Malibu mountains at a training camp featuring vegetarian cooking and
classes
in climbing skyscrapers. The mayor has published a stern warning against

violent protest and nonviolent civil disobedience, with tough talk about

rubber bullets and pepper spray, stiff fines and jail. And a federal
judge
has ruled that the police department's initial plan to keep
demonstrators
fenced far away from the entrance to the Democratic National Convention
was
unconstitutionally restrictive.
Welcome to Los Angeles where, as usual, worlds collide.

Two years ago, when civic leaders fought to get their first national
political convention since the Democrats nominated John F. Kennedy here
in
1960, they promised it would be a chance to celebrate the city's
comeback
from the plagues of the early 1990's with a four-day, internationally
televised fiesta of the first order. But since then, practically nothing
has
gone as planned and the convention, Aug. 14 to 17, is shaping up as the
biggest test in years for this sprawling, congested, divided city's
mettle
and its perpetually searching sense of itself.

The City Council, all but 3 of whose 15 members are Democrats, has
sought to
block using city money to pay expected convention cost overruns, largely
out
of enmity for the convention's chief booster, Mayor Richard J. Riordan,
a
Republican whom many of them loathe. The billionaire businessmen who
promised
to sponsor the convention have fallen to feuding in public. And no one
knows
just what mischief a loosely connected confederation of protesters whose

concerns range from economic globalization to capital punishment,
abortion,
environmental justice, homophobia, housing and campaign finance might
wreak.

"The way to understand it, as one law enforcement official who I will
not
name told me, is like managing a week of peaceful, unlawful activity in
order
to keep it peaceful," said State Senator Tom Hayden of Santa Monica, the

"Chicago 7" alumnus who says he finds in the protesters echoes of his
1960's
radical roots. "That's the challenge. The lawlessness is in the eye of
the
beholder, because it will be mostly misdemeanors, like blocking traffic
and
crossing against the light. I think it can be managed."

City officials, mindful of the recent protests in Seattle and
Washington,
have been less sanguine, and they went to federal court to fight an
effort by
the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union to overturn the
security zone around the convention site at the downtown Staples Center
as
impermissibly broad. This week, in a sharp rebuke, Judge Gary Feess
ruled
that the city's plan to seal off a 186-acre site around the convention,
and
keep protesters penned in a parking lot out of earshot and direct sight
of
the convention delegates, was unconstitutional. The judge also ruled
that the
city's permit application process for parades and use of public parks
for
protests, which requires a 40-day advance application, was
unconstitutionally
restrictive and vague.

Judge Feess said the security zone "burdens speech more than is
necessary,"
but he suggested that some relatively minor modifications to the
northeast
corner of the zone, near the arena entrance, could satisfy his concerns.
The
city, the police, the Secret Service and convention planners were
scrambling
to come up with an acceptable alternative, to be presented to the Civil
Liberties Union over the weekend and reviewed on Monday, though they
warned
it would require more officers.

Meantime, Mr. Riordan surprised many of his top aides and appalled
convention
planners 10 days ago with a sharply worded op-ed article in The Los
Angeles
Times that even some of the mayor's strongest supporters called a
miscalculation likely to inflame the situation and rile potential
demonstrators. Mr. Riordan denounced an umbrella organizing group of
protesters called D2KLA as anarchists bent on violent disruption and
property
destruction, when in fact the group's Web site pledges nonviolence.

"Don't stick your head up and make yourself a target," said one
convention
planner, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "And don't get your
facts
wrong."

Protest groups were particularly incensed that Mr. Riordan not only
vowed not
to tolerate violence or vandalism but also said that "we cannot tolerate

nonviolent civil disobedience, such as the blocking of access to roads
or
buildings," time-honored protest tactics.

"He is making a concerted effort to criminalize people of conscience,
particularly the peaceful activists," said John Sellers, director of the

Ruckus Society, a group based in Berkeley that co-sponsored the five-day

training camp for 200 demonstrators in the Santa Monica Mountains this
week.
"He's making every effort to marginalize us, vilify us before we even
get
into town, and therefore to make it easier for us to be dismissed and
brutalized in the streets of Los Angeles and to scare more everyday
folks
away from being out in the streets with us with their concerns."

While protesters at past conventions have been confined mainly to
designated
areas, such areas have usually been directly across from the convention
arena, and most big city police departments, including New York's,
typically
try to negotiate a certain amount of permitted civil disobedience (like
blocking part of a street) in exchange for avoiding greater unplanned
disruptions.

But the Los Angeles Police Department has a reputation for comparative
high-handedness, and several local politicians said it should have been
clear
from the start that the plan for keeping protesters across the street
from
the Staples compound, behind a 14-foot fence, with their view to the
arena
blocked by a parking lot full of temporary trailers and television
equipment,
would never pass muster. At the same time, the Los Angeles department is

comparatively small, about one-third the size of New York's. Los Angeles
has
just 9,346 officers (including supervisors) while the convention is
expected
to draw 5,000 delegates, nearly 15,000 journalists and an unknown number
of
demonstrators.

A police spokesman, Lt. Horace Frank, said the department was confident
that
its planning for convention security, in progress for more than a year,
would
be up to the task. The department has canceled all vacations and regular
days
off for officers and civilian employees alike, and has worked out
cooperation
agreements with the county sheriff's department, in which its deputies
will
handle transportation security for delegates, and be available to
process the
arrests of protesters in the event of mass arrests. He said state
officials
had also assured the department of additional help if needed.

"It's been a massive endeavor, Herculean to say the least," Lieutenant
Frank
said. "But it's one that we feel very good about and very confident of.
We
recognize that the majority of protesters are legitimate groups who are
going
to be behaving in a legal and lawful manner, but we also know that there
are
those groups who are going to inject themselves and try to do harm, and
we're
prepared."

Mr. Hayden acknowledged that 50 to 200 protesters might actually be from

anarchist groups bent on destroying property to make a point, and based
on
the experience at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle last
year,
city officials' biggest fear is that such groups might blend in with
more
peaceful ones and cause trouble when it is least expected.

The Secret Service was worried enough about the difficulties in securing

Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles that it moved Vice President Al
Gore
from the Biltmore Hotel there to Century City, several miles away from
the
convention site. And the federal court hearing on the security zone was
so
crowded with demonstrators this week that even some news organizations
could
not get in to cover it.

For their part, Democratic Party officials and aides to Mr. Gore are
having
to walk a delicate line between making sure their typically fractious
party
is not seen as trying to stifle peaceful protests, while exercising
diplomacy
with a police department and local establishment whose help they need to
have
a successful convention.

"We feel the real action of the convention is going to be in the hall,
and
we're real excited about it," said Peter Ragone, speaking for the
party's
convention committee. "We recognize the possibility of demonstrations
and
protests and we're confident that the joint security team has the plans
in
place to deal with potential situations."

Mr. Hayden, who visited the protesters' training camp to lend moral
support,
said the biggest potential problem remained the city's unavoidable
traffic
and sprawl.

"On a normal day here, we're congested," he said. "For God's sake, the
Indiana Pacers couldn't get from Santa Monica to the Staples Center in
time
for the first game of the playoffs. In my view, if the convention is
shut
down, it'll be simply because L.A. itself is this great, congested
colossus
and it grinds to a halt."




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