Police Fire Rubber Bullets, Tear Gas Into Peaceful LA Immigration March

JUAN GONZALEZ: The Los Angeles Police Department is coming under increasing criticism for violently crushing a largely peaceful immigrant right march on Tuesday. Police with riot guns fired 240 rounds, shot teargas and clubbed protesters and journalists gathered in MacArthur Park. At least ten people were injured, including several journalists.

Pedro Sevcec was broadcasting live for the Spanish-language television network Telemundo when police knocked over his monitors and lights and hit his staff with batons. Sevcec told the Los Angeles Times a police officer grabbed one of his cameras and threw it more than fifteen feet to the ground. He said police pointed a riot gun at his face, hit him with a baton and forced him out of the park.

Patricia Nazario of the public radio station KPCC was also injured. On Wednesday, Nazario described to listeners what happened to her.

PATRICIA NAZARIO: The cop jammed me in my ribs with his billy club, and so I turned around square, looking at him. I had my press pass on. I had my mic flag in my hand, my notepad and my pen. And I said, “Why did you hit me? I’m a reporter.” And he said, “Move!” And I said, “I am moving! Why did you hit me? I’m a reporter.” And he hit me again, harder that time, and I fell.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Others assaulted included four employees of KVEA-TV Channel 52 and a reporter for the public radio station KPCC hit by a police baton. Christina Gonzalez, a reporter for the FOX affiliate KTTV-TV Channel 11, suffered a bruised shoulder after she was shoved to the ground. Her camera operator suffered a broken wrist. The incident was caught on tape.

KTTV NEWS: Police in riot gear moved into MacArthur Park after some protesters started throwing rocks and plastic bottles at officers. But this time it was impossible for the news media to be impartial observers.

CHRISTINA GONZALEZ: I am helping her move!

LAPD OFFICER: Move her back away from the [inaudible], or you’re under arrest!

CHRISTINA GONZALEZ: You can’t do that! You cannot do that, and you know that!

LAPD OFFICER: This way! Go this way! Go this way!

KTTV NEWS: It didn’t stop with pushing and shoving. Police officers fired rubber bullets. Protesters say they had no warning that officers were moving in.

CHRISTINA GONZALEZ: We are talking about an order to disperse, which I never heard. Neither did people getting hit by rubber bullets. That man was standing next to a colleague’s network live shot, which caught this.

KTTV NEWS: A photographer was trying to capture all of the action when he was targeted by police. He’s knocked over, then kicked. The officer even grabs and throws his camera. As our crew tries to move to safety, the police officer hits cameraperson Patti Ballaz.

CHRISTINA GONZALEZ: Here is a perspective from our colleagues at Univision. You see us on the right side of the screen. Patti goes down. I am trying to protect her, but they don’t stop, even though I’m telling them we are trying to get to our truck a few feet away.

AMY GOODMAN: A report by FOX affiliate KTTV Channel 11. The LAPD says it gave orders to disperse, but several journalists and protesters have disputed the account. The order was made only in English, not even near the main crowd. LA Police Chief William Bratton admitted the actions taken by the police were inappropriate. He said, “I was disturbed at what I saw.” The LAPD has launched a pair of investigations. Several news groups say they’re considering legal action.

We go now to Los Angeles to two guests. Ernesto Arce is a correspondent for Pacifica Radio station KPFK in Los Angeles. He was shot with a police rubber bullet at the May Day protest. Also on the line, Gerardo Gomez, counselor and homeless rights activist who was shot twice at the protest.

Ernesto Arce, let’s begin with you. Where were you? What did you see?

ERNESTO ARCE: Good morning, Amy. I was at the southeast corner of the park, MacArthur Park, which I believe was at Seventh and Alvarado. I was trying to get a sense of what was happening. I noticed that there was a lot of commotion at that end of the park, and there was a lot of people were running and fleeing. So I wanted to see what it was that was happening, and I also wanted to get onto the Metrolink to get home. But, of course, I wasn’t able to do that, since there was a heavy police presence on Alvarado Street.

It was then that I noticed that, you know, police in — I guess it was two different kinds of cops. There was the regular cops, and then there was the SWAT team, who had come in, you know, very shielded attire. They also were holding what looked like rifles. They began to push people back from the very southeast corner of the park into the park. They were at first using batons. But I noticed that they began to shoot. You know, I wasn’t sure what type of — whether it was teargas or whether they were actual real bullets or rubber pellets. But many people were getting hit. It was at that time that people began to just, you know, flee towards the north of the park. There was a lot of commotion. There was a lot of confusion.

Hundreds of families were still there. Actually, at this end of the park, the main rally, which was attended by approximately 5,000 to 10,000 people, organized by the MIWON, Multiethnic [Immigrant] Workers coalition, was still going on at this time. It hadn’t been broken up, so there was still several hundred families even on the south side of this park. A lot of people were running, screaming. There were families. There were children. There’s a large transient population that lives at MacArthur Park, a lot of homeless individuals, handicapped individuals and, of course, streetcar vendors that, you know, sell different fares, whether ice cream or hot dogs, and they were unable to get out on time.

And the police were relentless. They were merciless. They would hit anyone in their path. They would shoot at anyone. Actually, a lot of people were shot on the back, including myself. And, yeah, it was just — it was total chaos and, again, another example of Los Angeles Police Department brutality. READ MORE

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