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Parade Permits Pave the Way for a Steady Flow of Demonstrations

Hearing: Police Commission will allow 13 groups to organize protest marches downtown during the convention.


Clearing the way for a pageant of protest marches through downtown before and during the Democratic National Convention, the Los Angeles Police Commission on Friday approved parade permits for 13 protest groups.

The action presages a lively convention week in the city center. With as many as four protest marches scheduled per day, the flow of demonstrators through downtown streets will be strong and steady. Most parades will start off in Pershing Square Park and disband at the public assembly area at Figueroa Street and Olympic Boulevard; others will snake past strategic locations such as the Parker Center police headquarters and the Federal Building.

Under the directive of a federal judge--who last month found the city's parade permit procedures overly restrictive--Friday's Police Commission hearing proceeded smoothly and mostly without debate.

"I don't think they had much choice," said Daniel Tokaji, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. "They would have been facing contempt of court if they had failed to grant the permits."

Last week, Tokaji met with representatives of the LAPD, the city attorney's office and other city officials to hammer out parade details.

All that was left was for the Police Commission to approve the plans. There were, however, some slight modifications. In the case of the U'wa Defense Working Group and the Bus Riders' Union, Lisa Specht, an attorney for the convention committee, asked that their marches be rerouted to avoid the Wilshire Grand Hotel at Wilshire Boulevard and Figueroa, which will serve as committee headquarters.

The matter was quickly resolved, as protest groups agreed to a compromise. But at least one organizer saw the last-minute change as indicative of an overarching disregard for protesters' 1st Amendment rights.

"It's a little bit troubling for the Democratic planning committee to show up without notice at the hearing and ask for some of the routes to be changed," said Leone Hankey, of the Southern California Fair Trade Network.

Another activist, Joan Bender of the United Steelworkers of America, complained that city officials have been "functioning in a time warp. Most of these events are occurring within two weeks--for some, it's in less than 10 days--and to delay the approval process about what should be a fairly routine issue seems to be a rather subtle form of obstructionism."

In one of the hearing's lighter moments, the commission granted a special request by the Southern California Fair Trade Network to use a horse-led stagecoach in its parade. The group hopes the Wells Fargo trademark will draw attention to what it perceives as the bank's unfair lending practices.

Friday's approvals follow a written ruling issued July 20 by U.S. District Judge Gary Feess, who declared the city's parade permit procedures unconstitutional because of a requirement that applications be made at least 40 days in advance. He also said the procedure for obtaining permits to use public parks is unconstitutionally vague.

Feess also directed the LAPD to recommend to the Police Commission that the permits be issued, paving the way for Friday's actions.

"I was happy that the meeting went relatively smoothly, considering the number of permits that were considered," said Deputy City Atty. Debra Gonzales. "Everybody made some reasonable accommodation on both sides."

Meanwhile, during a separate meeting near MacArthur Park, organizers from the two coalitions planning protests--the D2K Network and Rise Up! Direct Action Network Los Angeles--said that in spite of what they contend is a City Hall campaign to demonize them, they plan to use only nonviolent forms of protest.

Protesters plan to gather at 9 a.m. in Pershing Square on each day of the convention except Wednesday to mobilize mass marches through downtown. A march in support of death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal will be held Aug. 13, the Sunday before the convention.

The next day, as the convention opens, protesters will march under the theme "Human Needs, Not Corporate Greed" to support the U'wa, an indigenous Colombian tribe opposed to an oil company's plan to drill in their homeland. On Tuesday of convention week, a puppet procession, complete with effigies of Vice President Al Gore, will assemble to support a range of women's and youth issues. Police brutality, racial profiling and the growth of prison populations will be the subject of the next day's protests with a "No More Ramparts!" rally in MacArthur Park.

And on the convention's last day, a Thursday, activists are scheduled to focus on global justice and the "destructive practices" of corporations. A candlelight vigil is scheduled to coincide with the acceptance speech of Gore.

"We're going to see a lot of parades," said Tokaji. "Unfortunately, in Philadelphia, it seemed that there was a lot of media attention when things went wrong, but very little attention paid to what people were actually saying. We hope that people in this city and throughout the country, including the media, will pay attention to what the demonstrators are saying."


Time staff writer Johnathon E. Briggs contributed to this story.


Police and city officials scrambled to find a new place to meet with reporters. B1

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