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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 71/No. 21      May 28, 2007


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(lead article)
'Prosecute cops for May Day riot!'
Demand many in Los Angeles
Firing rubber bullets and swinging clubs, dozens of Los Angeles police officers attacked a peaceful rally for legalization of immigrants held at MacArthur Park on May 1.

LOS ANGELES, May 16—“I’m here so that my voice will be heard and this won’t go unpunished,” Josefina González told a public forum here organized by the Los Angeles City Council two days ago. González was one of many workers clubbed by cops at the May 1 rally at MacArthur Park, where 5,000 people turned out to demand legalization of undocumented immigrants and an end to raids and deportations.

Support has been building for a May 17 demonstration here called by many of the groups that organized the May Day rally to demand prosecution of the cops who brutalized dozens and to demand legalization of the undocumented.

After congregating at the Immanuel Presbyterian Church, protesters will march to MacArthur Park. This will be the first street protest since May Day.

The March 25 Coalition, the umbrella group that sponsored the May 1 march of 30,000, which preceded the MacArthur Park rally that day, held a press conference today where it announced it has endorsed the May 17 protest.

The police fired 240 rubber bullets and beat people with batons to force everyone out of the park, hours before the May Day rally permit expired. Among those injured were a number of reporters, one of whom has sued the city and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).

The police riot against a peaceful rally, composed mostly of workers and their children, has become a major issue in city politics. City Council members are planning four other public forums, with the next set for May 30. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced he will speak at the May 17 rally.

Other groups are planning a June 24 demonstration in Hollywood here to press for legalization.

At the City Council forum, Police Chief William Bratton pointed to three investigations of the May 1 events and said the officers in charge that day have been replaced in their duties. He insisted the cops did not intend to harm the immigrant rights movement.

Many people who spoke at the forum said the actions the LAPD has taken so far in response to demands for justice are not enough and Bratton should resign. “Simply changing posts doesn’t change anything, because they’re still giving them [the cops] the same salaries,” Pedro Reyes, who was also hit by the cops on May Day, told the press. “This isn’t punishment. It’s not justice.”

Word is getting out about the May 17 protest. The action has been reported in the Spanish-language dailies Hoy and La Opinión, and on the popular morning radio show of Piolín.

The demonstration was announced at the Saturday morning meeting on May 12 of day laborers at the Hollywood Community Jobs Center. Workers there said many of them were at MacArthur Park May 1 and were planning to return on May 17. “I think everyone should bring a camera or video camera," said Marcos Rodríguez, a day laborer. "I want the police to know we’re going to be there with a sign in one hand and a camera in the other, in case something happens. It’s time to put an end to Latinophobia and pass a just legalization now.”

“I’m ready for May 17,” said Héctor Gómez, another worker. “I’m ready for a march, a strike, whatever.” He was clubbed in the ankle by a cop on May Day, he said, and still has not seen a doctor. “I waited for hours at the hospital, and finally left. Then I went to a clinic, but they wanted $30 and I only had $20, so I never saw the doctor. Now it’s been 12 days and I'm still in pain.”

“I’ve been talking about this action at American Apparel, the garment plant where I work,” said Chris Remple, who just launched his campaign as the Socialist Workers Party candidate in a special election for U.S. Congress, District 37. “Many coworkers already knew about it. One initially dismissed it saying it would just be used to clean up the image of the police. He said the May 1 cop riot ‘showed who they are.’ But he’s giving it some more thought now. A couple of coworkers are planning to go to the march and walk together.

“An action like this is the best way to answer the brutality and intimidation of the cops,” Remple said. “Back in the streets, saying, as the leaflet does, that our voices will not be silenced.”

The police riot has also broadened discussion among U.S.-born workers, especially African Americans.

“It was unwarranted,” said Tracy Ross, who works in a public school. “They say we have freedom of speech, freedom of assembly. That should go for everyone.”

On the struggle to legalize undocumented immigrants, she said, “I’m not crazy about that. I have children who can’t get a job because everyone wants people who are bilingual, even Burger King.”

At the Farmer John meatpacking plant, where this correspondent works, several African American workers expressed outrage at the police attack. A couple also said they agreed that all workers should have the same rights, no matter what country they were born in. Others were not so sure, but listened to the discussion with interest.
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