Flash Point: Los Angeles


LOS ANGELES—Yesterday afternoon a number of animal rights
activists diverted from the course of a protest march allegedly for a
little vandalism, reportedly shattering two plastic letters of a
furrier’s sign and spray-painting over the word furs on an awning. This
was enough to merit 45 arrests—15 of juveniles—and a baroque police
procedural parade lasting two hours. Hundreds of cops, many in full riot
gear, closed off several streets in the bank-heavy district near
Pershing Square while transport buses were moved in, and the
plasticuffed protesters awaited their trip downtown.

Once the buses were off, complete with a motorcycle convoy,
Commander David Kalish, LAPD spokesman, explained that the force had
received advance “intelligence that (the protesters) intended to commit
a crime.” In his account they disturbed businesses, threatened
customers, and promised both murder and mayhem; many were charged with
conspiracy to commit a felony.

Kalish invited the press cameras to get a load of the potentially
deadly weapons confiscated; the dogs and ponies for this show included
paint pellets, some lighter fluid, and a slingshot. Asked if he thought
the seized gas masks might be out of respect for the LAPD’s pepper-spray
propensities, Kalish said that police had also confiscated “a fogger
with deadly chemicals,” and he gestured vaguely toward a pile of
backpacks stripped from the alleged vandals.

This brought the arrest total to 83. By 10 on Tuesday night, that
figure had reportedly doubled, as 50 to 100 riders in the Critical Mass
bike rally were arrested, without charges being specified, according to
legal observers present.

The general sense of tension in the crowds of protesters has
increased markedly since Sunday’s narcoleptic opening actions. The
police, widely accused of overreacting after the Rage Against the
Machine concert Monday night, nonetheless aren’t about to be accused of
underkill and seem intent on practicing a politics of Kevlar. The
protesters have nowhere to go but toward confrontation or toward home,
and many sense that Wednesday’s day of protests and actions concerning
police brutality may become a flash point.

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