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Council Affirms Rights of Protesters

Politics: Motion stops short of opposing preemptive arrests or unusually high bails. Goldberg says 'climate of fear' is being created.


The Los Angeles City Council voted 13 to 0 Friday to require city agencies to respect the rights of demonstrators during next week's Democratic National Convention, but the lawmakers stopped short of opposing such police tactics as preemptive arrests and unusually high bails for protesters.

"We don't want to hamstring our Los Angeles Police Department and we do not want to indict them on the eve of what should be a very positive week for the city of Los Angeles," Councilman Rudy Svorinich Jr. told his colleagues.

However, Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg, who introduced the motion, urged the council to adopt a list of seven provisions, including prohibiting the police from intimidating activists.

"It's important to say what it is we want to have done," Goldberg said. "I'm not asking for anything that is controversial. We are just saying we are going to be following the constitutional rights of the protesters."

Goldberg said she proposed the emergency motion amid reports that police are harassing activists and maintaining constant surveillance of the demonstrators' headquarters near MacArthur Park.

"There is an atmosphere of intimidation that is unbelievable," Goldberg said. "What we are doing is creating a climate of fear."

The councilwoman--a veteran of many protests--asked the council to voice its opposition to "preemptive arrests of persons for the purpose of preventing them from participating in demonstrations."

She also asked the council to call on police to promptly transport arrested demonstrators to booking areas and make sure medical assistance, food, water and restrooms are readily available.

"Police officers will not, under the color of law, engage in actions aimed at intimidation of demonstrators," Goldberg wrote in her motion.

Those activities include "selective enforcement of laws, enlisting private persons to . . . report on demonstrators, attempting to gain access to demonstrators' meeting facilities illegally or through false pretenses, and confiscation of any sign, banner or puppet."

As a compromise, Svorinich recommended that the council adopt only the last paragraph of Goldberg's motion.

It stated: "The city of Los Angeles will not attempt to impinge on the exercise of the constitutional rights by demonstrators during the Democratic National Convention; and that demonstrators during the DNC will be afforded their full rights by the Police Department."

Councilman Hal Bernson seconded Svorinich's motion. "I don't want anyone to get the message that we are trying to repress anyone's right to demonstrate and make your views known," Bernson told a group of about a dozen activists who attended the council meeting. "The Police Department has a very difficult problem to deal with, not because of the people who want to demonstrate legally, like yourselves.

"Unfortunately there are others who would cast a shadow on the legitimate, law-abiding people's ability to make their point of view known. That's what we have to recognize."

Afterward, the activists and their attorneys said they were disappointed by the council action.

"It's a sad day," said James Lafferty, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild. "What happened today can only be understood in one way: The City Council of Los Angeles refused to pass a resolution that did nothing more than reiterate the fundamental rights that protesters have in this country. . . . It can only send a message to the police that they are going to turn a blind eye to the Constitution."

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