by Alex Meneses Miyashita
The FBI announced May 3 that it will open a civil rights investigation into the use of force by Los Angeles police officers against civilians during a May 1 immigration rally that gathered some 25,000 demonstrators.
The Los Angeles Police Department is also investigating the case. Police chief William Bratton said May 3 it would conduct a “comprehensive” investigation “to determine if that use of force was an appropriate response to the level of threat, disturbance and danger the officers were encountering.”
Police fired some 250 rubber bullets and used batons and physical force against the participants as they dispersed the crowd during the rally at the city’s Mac Arthur Park.
Shortening a trade mission to El Salvador, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he was “deeply troubled” by the police action.
This was the only violent incident reported among the dozens of pro-immigrant marches which took place nationwide that day and drew thousands of demonstrators.
According to reports, conflict erupted around 6:00 p.m. when police officers tried to disperse demonstrators who were step ping into the street from the sidewalk, and responded with force when a small group of people threw bottles and rocks at them. Bratton said the agitators may have numbered between 50 and 100, adding they “were not a part of the larger group of thousands of peaceful demonstrators.”
Ten civilians were injured, including seven journalists (see Media Report). Seven police officers suffered minor injuries.
Dozens of Latino and immigrant advocates denounced the actions of the police.
The National Immigrant Solidarity Network stated the department “lacked recognition of the consequences of its actions. The LAPD failed to act professionally and demonstrate restraint when it used excess force against a peaceful rally of families which included mothers, babies end young children.”
A broad grassroots coalition of California Immigrant advocacy groups, under the name “Unión Del Barrio” and the “Frente Contra las Redadas” (Front Against the Raids), termed the actions “racist police brutality.”
Congressional Hispanic Caucus chair Joe Baca (D-Calif.), responded, “Incidents like this one perpetuate fear within the Hispanic community. The First Amendment of the Constitution provides… the right to demonstrate peacefully on behalf of a cause, as participants in the rally did.”
Bratton shared “the understandable concern and frustration of all of you that once again the Department, its members and the community ere involved in such e troubling event.” He promised “an aggressive review.”