5/02/2007

Pro-Illegal Alien Protesters Attack Police

A day of mostly calm immigration rallies ended with a clash between police and demonstrators, and Police Chief William Bratton promised a department review to "determine if the use of force was appropriate."

Several people, including about a dozen officers, were hurt during skirmishes at MacArthur Park near downtown Los Angeles late Tuesday. About 10 people were taken to hospitals for treatment of injuries including cuts, authorities said. None of the injuries were believed to be serious. At least one person was arrested, said Officer Mike Lopez.

May Day marches in Los Angeles brought out about 25,000 people, only a fraction of the roughly 650,000 who rallied last year. Turnout nationwide was also light compared to a year ago.

Organizers said fear about raids and frustration that the marches haven't pushed Congress to pass reform kept many people at home. They said those who did march felt a sense of urgency to keep immigration reform from getting pushed to the back burner by the 2008 presidential elections.

The clash at MacArthur Park started after 6 p.m. when police tried to disperse demonstrators who had moved off the sidewalk onto the street. Authorities said several people of the few thousand still at the rally threw rocks and bottles at officers, who fired rubber bullets and used batons to push the crowd back onto the sidewalk.

"(Police) started moving in and forcing them out of the park, people with children, strollers," said Angela Sambrano, one of the rally's lead organizers.

The police action cut short several speeches, said Hamid Khan, who works at the SouthAsia Network. He said officers "overreacted."

Bratton said "certain elements of the crowd" started the disturbance, but the "vast, vast majority of the people who were here were behaving appropriately."

He promised an investigation to determine what happened and whether police used excessive force.

"If officers behaved inappropriately, we will deal with that," he said at a late news conference.

A staff member from Spanish-language TV station Telemundo confirmed to the Los Angeles Times late Tuesday that one reporter and three camera operators from the station had been injured and taken to the hospital by police.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was traveling in El Salvador at the start of a nine-day trade mission, said the incident was "a most unfortunate end to a peaceful day."

Villaraigosa said he asked Bratton, who was scheduled to join the mayor in El Salvador and Mexico, to remain in Los Angeles to oversee a review of the incident.

Maria Elena Durazo, the executive secretary-treasurer at the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said the incident marred an otherwise peaceful protest, and urged changes to police practices. She said the group was "outraged and saddened" by reports of excessive force by law enforcement.

"While we understand that a group of anarchists, not associated with the rally, instigated an altercation with police, we are disappointed that authorities would respond to their actions by herding them into a peaceful crowd and by shooting rubber bullets with little warning," Durazo said in a statement.

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