LA Police To Review Use Of Force During Clash With Demonstrators

Wednesday, May 2nd 2007, 7:28 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A day of mostly calm immigration rallies around the nation ended with a clash between police and demonstrators in Los Angeles, and Police Chief William Bratton promised a department review to ``determine if the use of force was appropriate.''

Several people, including about a dozen officers, were hurt during skirmishes at MacArthur Park near downtown late Tuesday. About 10 people were taken to hospitals for treatment of injuries including cuts, authorities said. None of the injuries was believed to be serious.

At least one person was arrested, said Officer Mike Lopez.

May Day marches in Los Angeles brought out about 25,000 people, only a fraction of the 650,000 who rallied last year. Turnout nationwide was also light compared with a year ago.

Organizers said fear about raids and frustration that the marches haven't pushed Congress to pass reform kept many people at home. They said those who did march felt a sense of urgency to keep immigration reform from being overshadowed by the 2008 presidential elections.

The clash at MacArthur Park started after 6 p.m. when police tried to disperse demonstrators who had moved off the sidewalk onto the street. Authorities said several people of the few thousand still at the rally threw rocks and bottles at officers, who fired rubber bullets and used batons to push the crowd back onto the sidewalk.

``(Police) started moving in and forcing them out of the park, people with children, strollers,'' said Angela Sambrano, one of the rally's organizers.

Maria Elena Durazo, the executive secretary-treasurer at the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said the trouble was instigated by ``a group of anarchists, not associated with the rally.'' She also criticized the police response, saying rubber bullets were fired on a peaceful crowd with little warning.

Bratton said ``certain elements of the crowd'' started the disturbance, but the ``vast, vast majority of the people who were here were behaving appropriately.''

He promised an investigation to determine what happened and whether police used excessive force.

Spanish-language TV station Telemundo said one of its reporters and three camera operators had been injured and taken to the hospital by police. Fox 11 aired video of a station camerawoman apparently being struck by a baton-wielding police officer in riot gear.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was traveling in El Salvador during a trade mission, said the incident was ``a most unfortunate end to a peaceful day.''

Though fewer in number, protesters marched in cities from Miami to Detroit to San Antonio. Many of those waving flags, chanting, and carrying hand-painted signs said they were frustrated by what they see as little progress.

In Chicago, where more than 400,000 swarmed the streets last year, police put initial estimates at 150,000, by far the country's largest turnout.

Magda Ortiz, a 27-year-old legal resident from Mexico and mother of two, pushed through crowds on the city's lakefront with a stroller bearing a sign that read: ``Bush, think about the moms. Stop the raids.''

March organizers had long predicted lower turnouts, blaming stepped-up raids, frustration that Congress hasn't passed immigration reform and an effort by many groups to shift their focus from street mobilizations to citizenship and voter registration drives.

``There's no reason a pro-immigration bill can't be passed. That's one of the messages being sent today,'' said Chicago protester Shaun Harkin, 34, of Northern Ireland, who has lived in the United States as a legal resident for 15 years.

After last year's marches, which drew a million-plus protesters, the Senate passed a sweeping bill that would have provided a path to citizenship for many of the nation's 12 million illegal immigrants. But the bill was never reconciled with the then-Republican-controlled House, and legislation has languished since last summer. Subsequent bipartisan proposals have gotten more conservative.