From Peace to Pellets


LOS ANGELES, August 15—Dubbed “Human Needs, Not Corporate Greed,” a mass march through downtown L.A. this evening began peacefully but ended in police violence denounced by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Multiculti in face and sound, the march brought more than 10,000 people into the sun-drenched streets of Los Angeles. The blocks filled with members of MECHA (Mexican Chicano Student Association) calling out “el pueblo unido jamás será vencido” (the people united will never be defeated) and Tibetans sounding gongs. The Billionaires for Bush or Gore rolled beneath the sheets, performing Bush-and-Gore-in-bed scenes.

Walking and dancing and generally California good-vibing from Pershing Square to the Staples Center, protesters cavorted and chanted through largely Central American downtown L.A. Sweatshop workers appeared in windows, or behind gates, some showing support, some lobbing the occasional sewing spool. From other windows and terraces, families waved and cheered.

Firetrucks sprayed water to cool the overheated dancers. Much festivity followed the Peace and Justice float, from which riders alternately called out messages in Spanish and blared Rage Against the Machine’s Battle for Los Angeles, a psych-up for those anticipating the band’s free concert outside Staples.

At Staples, the good vibe went awry when Black Bloc anarchists confronted police through the fence separating the protesters from the convention center.

On a giant video screen, Hillary Clinton thanked the delegates for their warm welcome, while outside two anarchists scaled the fence and sat atop it. Other demonstrators raised fingers to the helicopters buzzing above. Some 30 minutes after the protesters were ordered to disperse, one hour before the permit was to end, police in military formation rushed in on horses, firing rubber bullets and pepper spray on peaceful protesters still trying to exit.

The National Homeless coalition, which had a permit to march on a nearby sidewalk, was caught unawares in the midst of riot police, and reported one of its organizers hit by rubber bullets as well.

The police response was condemned by the ACLU, in a press release issued after the protests. “Had the police cooperated with the rally organizers, the night could have ended calmly and smoothly,” the ACLU wrote. “Instead the police response tonight created huge risks. When people see batons raised, riot gear, and mounted police clearing an area, a tense situation becomes a volatile one.”