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CAMPAIGN 2000

95 Arrested as Protesters and Police Make a Day of It

Activism: So many groups take to the streets that they get in each other's way. Officers keep a close watch on the demonstrators wherever they go.

August 16, 2000|SCOTT MARTELLE and NICHOLAS RICCARDI | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Los Angeles police arrested at least 95 demonstrators Tuesday as a diverse array of activists, by turns angry and jubilant, energetic and heat-weary, marched and rode through downtown streets to champion issues that ranged from animal rights to gay rights, buses to bicyles.

Throughout the day, battalions of police in riot gear filled the streets, keeping tight control of the swirling protests. By nightfall, in a bizarre game of cat-and-mouse, small groups of protesters marched through downtown, chased by scores of police wherever they went.

There were so many marches that demonstrators could scarcely keep from running into each other as they commandeered swaths of the city's center. They demanded higher women's wages and "justice for youth," the legalization of drugs and better treatment of veterans, teachers, and county workers, among other causes.

At one point, there was temporary gridlock when youth protesters met up with women's march demonstrators at 3rd Street and Broadway. "This is mad, crazy," one protest leader said as police tried to direct traffic.

Delegates Aren't Getting the Message

This week's protests are timed to coincide with the Democratic National Convention, although it has not always been clear whether demonstrators are trying to sway delegates to their causes or merely siphon off some of the news media attention.

Delegates say the demonstrators' message is not getting through. "I don't even know what they're demonstrating about," said one Michigan delegate, Bill Hanner, a teacher from Battle Creek. "I don't think they're doing a very good job of getting their message out, because we're very willing to listen."

Police arrested the animal rights activists Tuesday afternoon on Grand Avenue between 6th and 7th streets after they had entered the two stores chanting slogans but causing no apparent damage. After they were led onto police buses in plastic handcuffs, one cried, "This is what happens when you stand up for what you believe in."

Police said they seized a bottle of charcoal lighter, a bag of paint balls and an aerosal can, which they referred to as a homemade flamethrower. Police said 45 people were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit felony crimes--bombing businesses--LAPD Cmdr. David Kalish said.

Later, at 18th and Flower streets, between 50 and 70 people wearing bicycle helmets were arrested after about 100 cyclists wreaked havoc on downtown streets with a demonstration of "Critical Mass," an international movement in which cyclists take over city streets to promote their cause: more bicycles, fewer cars.

Paul deValera, 29, a Reseda resident who rode in the demonstration, acknowledged that the group had been "riding wildly." He said the bicyclists had swarmed a black limousine and were riding on the wrong side of the street. That, he said, led to the arrests.

Later still, a protest for gay rights turned tense after about 1,000 demonstrators, who had intended to hold a rally in front of the Federal Building at Los Angeles and Temple streets, were boxed in by police. After intense negotiations, the group turned back and marched to Pershing Square, chanting, "We're here, we're queer, we're fabulous, get used to it!"

Among the other demonstrations Tuesday:

* About 3,000 teachers, clad in red T-shirts, completed a grueling yet orderly 2 1/2-mile march across downtown on a Pilgrimage to Save Public Education--and hoping to bring attention to their demand for a double-digit pay raise.

* A larger-than-expected crowd of 1,000 rallied across from Staples Center to castigate the U.S. government for maintaining economic sanctions against Iraq.

* An estimated 1,000 county workers joined a union rally near Staples Center to hear Los Angeles City Atty. James K. Hahn and state Sen. Richard Alarcon (D-Van Nuys), among others. "What do you want?" they chanted. "Fair share! When do you want it? Now!"

* About 300 people gathered at MacArthur Park to watch a series of skits and short speeches organized by the Bus Riders Union.

One of the skits consisted of a bus rider with an Al Gore mask being confronted and ultimately pushed off the stage by a caped superhero--Super Pasajero (Super Passenger). The organizers demanded that the federal government enforce civil rights consent decrees between the union and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and use its influence to stop rail construction and help fund the purchase of 1,000 new buses.

* About 200 protesters chanted and banged drums at a youth rally near the Belmont Learning Complex to decry poor school conditions in minority neighborhoods. The Los Angeles Unified School District had been building a new Belmont school until environmental concerns prompted school officials to abandon it last year.

"We're marching for educational justice," first-grade teacher Ramon Martinez said. "We feel that young people and minorities in low-income neighborhoods are set up for failure."

'The Power of Women Don't Stop'

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