Investigations Launched Into Los Angeles Immigration Rally

Thursday, May 3rd 2007, 7:38 am

By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Investigators will review hundreds of hours of video of an immigration rally where police clashed with the crowd, wielding batons and firing rubber bullets to break up the demonstration, the police chief said Thursday.

Chief William J. Bratton said in an appearance on CBS's ``Early Show'' that he was ``not happy'' when he watched videotape of the events at MacArthur Park late Tuesday, when officers fired 240 nonlethal rounds to clear demonstrators.

He said police and news media video would aid investigations into whether the officers' tactics were appropriate.

``We have to really try to determine exactly what happened. We're fortunate in this instance that we have a lot of video to look at,'' Bratton said. ``We have literally hundreds of hours of video to review to make our decisions.''

News images showed police hitting a television cameraman to the ground, shoving people who were walking away from officers and injuries from the rubber bullets.

Rally organizers denounced the police action as brutal.

``They were pushing children, elderly, mothers with their babies and beating up on the media'' said Angela Sanbrano, an organizer.

The clashes started around 6 p.m. Tuesday, when police tried to disperse demonstrators who moved into a street, according to rally organizers and reporters. Authorities said several people threw rocks and bottles at officers, who used batons to push the crowd back to the sidewalk and then cleared the park.

A police order to disperse was in English and from a police helicopter, a likely ineffective tactic because of the noise and because many at the protest were Spanish-speakers, Bratton said at a news conference Wednesday.

Bratton said police were initially trying to deal with 50 to 100 ``agitators.''

``The individuals were there to provoke police,'' Bratton said. ``Unfortunately, they got what they came for.''

Police union leaders urged against a ``rush to judgment.''

``Our officers gave a legal dispersal order and were met with violence. In the coming days it will become clear what transpired,'' said Los Angeles Police Protective League President Bob Baker in a statement.

Seven officers suffered minor injuries, and another was pushed off his motorcycle, Bratton said. About 10 other people were treated for minor injuries, though authorities expected the number to rise.

The investigations already under way include an overall departmental review of tactics, an internal affairs investigation into the behavior of the officers and commanders on the scene, and an independent review by the Inspector General, the investigative arm of the Police Commission, which sets policy for the Police Department.

John Mack, president of the five-member Police Commission, said he was ``deeply disturbed and very disappointed'' by the news images.

``This was not a pretty picture. This incident raises serious concern regarding the use of force by some individual officers,'' said Mack, who is one of Bratton's bosses.

Democratic Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, who represents the park district, also asked Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley to launch an independent investigation into the officers' actions.

He said police deliberately led troublemakers back to the peaceful marchers before beginning their assault.

``The only logical conclusion I can come to is that somebody wanted it to bleed into the march so that they can do some target practice on some of the immigrants that were marching,'' Nunez said.

News organizations also condemned the Police Department for its use of batons and riot guns against members of the media.

``We are sorry for what happened to our employees and find it unacceptable that they would be abused in that way when they were doing their job,'' said Alfredo Richard, spokesman for the Spanish-language network Telemundo, whose anchor and reporter were hurt.

Bratton promised to investigate the treatment of reporters.

``I'm not seeking to defend it at all,'' he told the ``Early Show.'' ``That's why we're having investigations.''

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