LOS ANGELES, August 15—Claiming they were investigating a bomb scare, a team of Los Angeles police officers closed the parking lot outside the Independent Media Center yesterday, effectively blocking access to the alternative operation’s satellite truck and preventing the IMC from broadcasting a nightly news show.
The officers showed up shortly before 5 p.m. They said they suspected that an orange camper-van outside the IMC contained explosives, cordoned off the area, and began evacuating the building. Along with the IMC, the Shadow Convention is renting space in the federal Patriot Hall.
Sarah Cadman, the van’s owner, was eating lunch with her sister in the vehicle when the cops showed up. “They were obviously targeting us for harassment,” she says. “Our van was the perfect target because it’s the weirdest one out there.”
Cadman says the LAPD cops almost immediately realized her vehicle wasn’t the one in question.
But because the parking lot was federal property, officers from the Los Angeles County Police Department still had to investigate the bomb scare. County officer E. Walton says law enforcement had received a report before the convention that four males had loaded a van with explosives. Though Cadman says the cops used no dogs, Walton says officers did employ specially trained canines to sniff the area. After the dogs smelled no hint of a bomb, Walton says, officers opened the parking lot again.
By that time, the slot for Crashing the Party—which broadcasts street-level news to some 100 public-access stations—was over. One IMC producer claims the organization lost $5000 on renting the satellite truck and paying an engineer to uplink the program.
Representatives with the IMC say they question the timing of the police action, which began just as producers for the show were preparing to go on-air and ended 10 minutes after the program was scheduled to conclude. “We’re suspicious and nervous about what they were up to,” says program manager Eric Galatas, “and we’re questioning their motives.”
The IMC may file an injunction to stop the police from trying to block future broadcasts. Marguerite Buckley, an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild and a member of the Midnight Special Law Collective, says the IMC is right to question the police. “This is a deliberate police plot to interfere with the First Amendment (right) to present to people what’s happening in the streets,” she says.