Top city officials join in rally

first_imgBeginning at Immanuel Presbyterian Church, an estimated 3,000 marchers followed a 10-block procession to MacArthur Park. “We acknowledge that what happened on May 1 is wrong, that we have to get to the bottom of it, that we’ve got to investigate, that we have to have an open and transparent investigation that ensures that justice is realized,” Villaraigosa told the crowd. Officers on bikes LAPD officers on bicycles patrolled the gathering. Bratton, who apologized for his officers’ actions and demoted two top-ranking officers in charge that day, was on hand Thursday and maintained a high profile. Some marchers called for Bratton’s resignation as they arrived in MacArthur Park, but Bratton took it in stride, shaking hands with marchers and mingling with families. “MacArthur Park was an exception in the city and we want to keep it this way,” he told reporters. But the chief faces many questions in the weeks ahead. The ACLU petition follows concerns expressed earlier this week by consent decree independent monitor Michael G. Cherkasky, who noted the melee in a quarterly report. “While the details of exactly what occurred and why have yet to be determined, the police actions that occurred on May 1, 2007, have raised many questions,” he said, adding that he will continue to monitor the investigation and how it unfolds. Fear of police The immigrants-rights May Day protest ended with baton-wielding police firing more than 140 rounds of rubber bullets into a crowd of protesters that included children. “There was already fear about the police in the community,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, a key organizer of the May Day march for immigration reform. “When they see police beating up people with children, it creates a sense the police are not there to protect us and reinforces misgivings about how much the police are there to protect immigrant communities.” The display of force threw into question how far the department has moved toward reforming itself and cast a cloud over what many believed would be a quick and easy reappointment process for Bratton. Groups that less than a month ago had praised Bratton for his reforms have sharpened their criticism of the department after the rally. Inquiries launched Three investigations of the May Day fracas have been launched, including a federal inquiry into possible civil-rights violations. But ACLU lawyers say the LAPD culture is so troubling that systematic changes need to be made. “This is precisely the sort of action of police misconduct that the decree was designed to prevent,” said Mark Rosenbaum, legal director for the ACLU of Southern California. “What is riding on this is the effect and integrity of the decree.” In the 18-page ACLU petition, lawyers argue that six years of federal monitoring have failed to turn around a “warrior mentality.” It suggests that Judge Gary Allen Feess – who oversees the federal consent decree – consider mandating investigation of the Metropolitan Division, the elite police unit involved in the May Day melee. It asks Feess to consider rotating officers out of their assignments regularly to prevent an “insular subculture” that breeds “a strong code of loyalty,” and the reporting of misconduct less likely. [email protected] (818) 713-3741160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! As Los Angeles officials sought to mend fractured community relations Thursday by joining a march denouncing the police confrontation at a May Day rally, the ACLU filed a scathing petition asking a federal judge to consider expanding a consent decree against the LAPD. The strongly worded petition – which calls for a special hearing before the judge – argues that the violent police action earlier this month exposes an entrenched, aggressive culture despite years of hard work to turn the Los Angeles Police Department around. “The LAPD’s apparently deliberate and widespread use of excessive force on May 1 suggests an institution permissive of excessive force – a suggestion that is all too familiar regarding the LAPD,” says the petition filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and constitutional lawyer Erwin Chemerinsky. The federal consent decree was imposed on the LAPD in 2001 after the Rampart scandal revealed widespread police abuse and corruption. The decree required the department to rid itself of the abuse, but it was extended in 2006 due to a lack of compliance with its terms. The decree is now set to expire in 2009. In the months before the melee at MacArthur Park, the LAPD had looked to be in a good position toward having it finally lifted, largely due to reforms implemented by Police Chief William Bratton. But the petition argues that further change is still needed in the department. “The egregiousness of the violations at MacArthur Park, the methodical manner in which they were committed, and the number of officers involved raise questions as to the extent of the department’s progress and the reach of the reforms so far implemented,” it said. In its request for a hearing, the ACLU said the judge should consider requiring reforms similar to those the consent decree imposed on the department’s gang units – including caps on the amount of time an officer can serve in a particular unit. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was on a trade mission to Central America and Mexico when the May Day rally occurred, joined thousands of marchers Thursday. last_img read more