LOS ANGELES, August 14—A day that started with fairly civil civil disobedience protesting the First Nominee’s relation to Big Oil ended with something far less polite. Police, who would later claim that protesters were slingshotting steel balls, fired rubber bullets into a crowd of dissidents leaving a concert outside the Democratic convention hall. The cops’ reaction was so intense that even the Los Angeles Times described it as “extraordinarily forceful.”
Rage Against the Machine’s free show for the protesters at the Staples Center turned out not to be the big news. One hundred yards away, anarchists from Black Bloc thronged the chain-link perimeter fence outside the convention building. As the police warned that anyone “on the fence” designating the sanctioned protest area would be subject to arrest or gassing, black-bandanna-wearing protesters nonetheless went to the fence. They attempted to place a black flag atop the 12-foot barrier, but failed. A couple rows back, Bloc’ers hollered data about police movements: “Reinforcements coming from the right!”
As the cops fired pellets of pepper spray, knocking individual protesters back, demonstrators slowly covered a portion of the fence with signs—not to communicate messages, but to provide cover. Those hit grabbed water bottles to flush their eyes and then returned to the fray. The protesters chanted, “What do we want? Class war! When do we want it? Now.”
Meanwhile, in order to clear a path for the delegates to exit the center (many of them heading for a Paramount party with enough searchlights to make a politician blush), the cops declared the protest area an unlawful gathering shortly after 8 p.m., though protest organizers had a permit allowing them to operate for another hour.
Though the majority of protesters and some 7000 concertgoers cleared the area, some marchers headed toward the police, who numbered at least 400. The cops then opened fire with rubber bullets. At least four protesters were hit—along with several people who claimed they were merely following police orders to disperse. Ten people were arrested.