osfavelados on 24 Jul 2000 03:38:49 -0000

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> ny times on d2k l.a.

July 23, 2000

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


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

"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

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

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."

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo@bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime@bbs.thing.net