With 117 days left for the arrival of the now traditional May 1st street marches in LA, unexpectedly, the Los Angeles Police Department convened an early meeting held on January 18th with several key organizations and leaders involved in the city’s immigrant rights movement and who have officially filed for permits to march in downtown LA on May Day 2012. Knowing the existent and the present tense relations of this movement and the LAPD, veteran members of Occupy LA attempted to convene a meeting of the minds with several key leaders and hopefully present a unified front on that day, however the effort was unsuccessful.
The meeting took place at the 6th Street Police Station and it was chaired by Commander Perez, who recently led the Nov 30, 2011 early morning assault on the Occupy LA Liberty Camp at City Hall, that resulted in 300 arrests and the destruction of the camp. He was accompanied by five other LAPD officers, also representing the brass. Perez expressed the department’s desire to get an early start and work with the May 1st organizers to ensure a safe and successful event, with no arrests and self policing. After a few other details he turned to the organizers and asked what their marching plans were for that date.
Mario Brito representing SEIU and another group was first and candidly he shared that this time labor was going at it independently and put forth that they expected to have over 20,000 striking workers on the street in May. Additionally besides working with the LAPD’s Labor Detail, he was also willing to share this developments with the police detail present. He stated thousands of SEIU workers would strike various employers on the night of April 30th and on the next day they would join, what he hoped, to be one unified march of all the groups, and that this sector, unofficially was in support of the general strike called by Occupy LA. Raul Murillo and Juan Jose Gutierrez of the Full Rights Coalition shared their plan to start their walk on Broadway by 12 noon and essentially articulated some political generalities. William Torres for the Women’s Coalition addressed respect for the veterans in this movement, in particular Gutierrez and Rodriguez and also hoped for a peaceful and harmonious day. Ron Gochez, Martin Terrones and Carlos Montes of SCIC, emphasized an afternoon 4:00 PM start and emphatically stated that their coalition was not taking part in one unified march and thereafter, almost meekly, expressed their displeasure over the fact that in 2011, they believed to have been disrespected by the LAPD and some of the organizers present, meaning Murillo, Gutierrez and Torres. Lastly they also stated their support for the general strike. Victor Narro of the National Lawyers Guild addressed the point of legal observers as monitors for the Guild. Michael Novick informed the group of Occupy LA’s plans for a general strike and threw this movement’s support for all the marches. Lastly, Javier Rodriguez, also of Occupy LA as an individual and the Dec 12 Coalition stated that it was too early to call for details, that with three and a half months to go, things will probably evolve and that the aspirations are that the coalitions will unify and stage one sole mobilization as we have successfully done in certain years since 2006. Perez denied any manifestations of no respect to SCIC as did Gutierrez. Sargent Baker outlined his participation in coordinating these events with all the groups since 2006 and in particular, he narrowed it to the mega march of March 25, 2006, which besides filling all the three streets in the hearts of downtown, that is Spring, Broadway and Hill Sts., astoundedly, it extended from City Hall, all the way to Jefferson Blvd. “That was the biggest of them all,” Affirmed Baker.
There were other minor details that surfaced, but in sum that’s what was unveiled. At four months prior to May Day, the brass could have sent the coalitions a written memo outlining their concerns and proposed changes, but apparently they were banking on the psychology of some of the leaders, who last year were entrapped, fueron emboscados, into a shouting brawl, of all places, inside the police headquarters. You can be certain that the blues must have relished that bizarre scene. Instead Perez astutely convened this meeting and not surprisingly, it appears it met the expectations. Understanding that the police is foremost a political power in LA, in terms of intelligence, the exchanges between the activists were a bonanza of information handed to them on a silver platter. They were able to garner, first hand, political positions, a window on the organizers plans and strategies, and most important a view on the continued divisions lingering in this sector. Specifically that of SCIC and the Full Legalization coalitions, led by Gochez and Gutierrez, in which they –the LAPD brass- played a significant role in intensifying and deepening the split of the last two years.
The role of the police in American capitalist society is to control it period. It is a massive national enforcement machinery, of millions of soldiers at all levels of government, which along with the country’s armed forces, it’s at the disposal of the elite ruling class in every city to defend the status quo consisting primarily of an economic system that favors profits at the expense of the well being of the overwhelming majority of the people and a political structure that is corrupt to the core. It is public knowledge that millionaires are the majority in congress, which essentially makes America a plutocracy. In this case, it is the City of Los Angeles, in a state that economists see as the 7th largest capitalist global economy in the planet.
But here in LA, the history of Mayor Villaraigosa’s shock troops, the LAPD is full of institutional human rights violations on all its citizens, and, especially on people of color and immigrants and of course activists. On the latter the chapters of infiltration, spying, illegal gathering of intelligence, conspiracies attacks and destruction of organizations and social movements are many. The examples go back to the early history of the LAPD as a corrupt repressive apparatus. From the days of Chief Parker through Chief Gates it became a powerful military force and corrupt institution dedicated to put down the unions community organizations. Plain and simple, the police has always seen activists and the social movements as threatening and as of nine eleven, breeding grounds for potential terrorism. The May 1st 2007 attack on that small three thousand people afternoon march, which ended in McArthur Park stands a as a glaring example. That afternoon, the blues took no prisoners, 250 men, women, children, seniors and journalists were beaten to a pulp. The fact that none of the brass nor the troops did any prison time for this, is a gross example of the lack of justice and the existent impunity prevalent in LA as well as most cities in America.
Although members of the March 25 Coalition, which on that same day of May 1st 2007, organized the morning’s downtown demonstration attended by an estimated 100,000 people days later testified at a police commission revealing that on that same morning the cops had an agenda, that their demeanor was different than in 2006 and that throughout the duration of said event, the LAPD, whose role then was -and is- to guarantee the constitutional right of the people to freedom of expression and dissent and therefore ensure a safe and peaceful political protest, on the contrary, on that morning the police force had been pumped and from 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM they carried out systematic verbal and physical provocations on the organizers and marchers which if responded to, would have led to a violent confrontation and the potential destruction of LA’s historic downtown. However, we can safely speculate the massive amount of people and our tight security held them back and so they moved to plan B, MacArthur Park.
The afternoon May Day march was sponsored by some of the same moderate forces , MIWON, CHIRLA, the Catholic church and Cardinal Roger Mahoney and more, that organized the second march the year before and like then it was designed to blunt the more radical march and boycott called by the March 25 Coalition for the second year in a row. Their walk ended at the park and there the police found the opening when allegedly, they were pelted with bottles by a known group of individuals, who as far as we know, were never arrested. The cops used the incident to then bulldozed into the park and ran amok over hundreds of innocent people beating them with batons and shooting rubber bullets. Unfortunately upon examining the news on the police attack that was repeated over and over worldwide, the security team for that march is never seen, not one single instance, attempting to block the LAPD with a line of their own or in any individual confrontations. Predictably, neither the local prosecutors, the justice department or the media were not able to uncover any police or government conspiracy or a premeditated plan for the police misconduct on May 1st 2007.
The story does not end there, Chief Bratton, who at the time of the incident was lost somewhere near the airport did not resign. The two commanders in charge on May 1st were relieved of duty and apparently were retired from the force. About two years passed when the city finally reached a 12 million plus settlement with the injured people and naturally, the money came out of the city’s public funds.
Nonetheless, the Jan 18th meeting did bring out important and positive developments for the movement such as the fact that there is support for the general strike promoted now by Occupy LA and the recently formed May 1st General Strike Coalition. As well, there is expressed support for one unified march on May Day. As in other years, this may turn out to be a good indicator that unity is possible. For this year also, the Occupy movement is a welcomed new entry that portends to mobilize other sectors of society affected by the present economic crisis. Additionally, from Brito’s enthusiastic report, it could be interpreted that labor, finally, for the first time maybe flexing its muscles independently and we really hope the grand announcements are factual, but we shall see.
Javier Rodriguez is a journalist and a media and political strategist. A long time activist, he was the initiator and directed the making of the 1.7 MILLION historical immigration march in Los Angeles on March 25, 2006 . firstname.lastname@example.org, LaRayueladeJavier.wordpress.com. Isabel Rodriguez is a workers compensation attorney and a long time activist email@example.com. The two are siblings who played a prominent role in organizing the mass street immigration movement of 1984 and 2006 and are now active with Occupy LA.