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Protesters Get Carried Away in L.A.

Demonstration: While one local student allows herself to become one of 37 arrested while protesting LAPD actions, another teen chooses to walk away.

August 17, 2000|DAVID KELLY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

With a defiant fist in the air and thumping helicopters overhead, Kristen Schroer of Thousand Oaks was hauled off to jail Wednesday after her arrest on suspicion of blocking a sidewalk during a protest against police brutality.

The 18-year-old student joined dozens of demonstrators as they walked to the Los Angeles Police Department's Rampart Division, gagged themselves with white cloth, sat down and refused to budge in the face of hundreds of heavily armed officers.

She faces one misdemeanor count of blocking an official public building and was being held late Wednesday at the Los Angeles County Jail. Thirty-six other protesters were also arrested.

Before the march, Schroer and a group of protesters, including Wendy Raymond of Thousand Oaks, met in a corner of MacArthur Park and quietly plotted their own arrests. March organizers had warned police there would be nonviolent, civil disobedience outside the Rampart station, which is being investigated on a wide range of corruption charges.

As they headed down Rampart Boulevard, Schroer became edgy. She admitted being frightened of the grim-faced police surrounding her. At the same time, her anger at how they handled earlier protests kept the fear in check.

*

Seventeen-year-old Raymond seemed more militant.

"I have to protest the way the police have had such control over us," said Wendy, a flowered scarf covering her face. "They are trying to scare us into submission."

Schroer attended the Rage Against the Machine concert Monday night when officers fired rubber bullets and used pepper spray on rowdy participants and onlookers outside Staples Center.

"I'm a little worried," said Schroer, who will attend UC Davis in the fall. "I think it's so early for them to get out of hand. They have pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets; it's just a bad situation. And the way they [police] are standing is very provocative."

Her only protection against tear gas was a blue scarf she planned on wrapping around her face if things became ugly.

Police met protesters at the station in force. Some carried silver tear gas cartridges and shotguns while others videotaped the throng from the roofs.

A circle of activists, including Schroer and Wendy, linked arms and donned white gags. They walked up to the police and sat on the sidewalk in front of the station.

Capt. Mike Moore, the station commander, told them they were violating the law and to move immediately.

They refused.

He warned them they could get 90 days in jail and pay a stiff fine if they didn't leave.

They stayed.

"Give me a nod of your head if you are refusing to leave," he asked the protesters, who kept their fists in the air.

The officer, who was extremely polite, told them they were under arrest and then apologized because it would take so much time to book them.

"This is going to take some time so be patient," he said. "Lower your hands and submit to arrest."

As agitated demonstrators pushed closer to police lines, leaders of the march urged them to back off.

A drum beat sounded rhythmically in the background as four police helicopters hovered low overhead. Then the crowd grew silent and again raised fists.

Schroer, wearing olive-drab khaki shorts and sandals, sat quietly in the sun awaiting arrest.

Three officers surrounded her. They gave her one last chance to walk away. She declined, and they grabbed her hands, swung them around her back and slid on white, plastic restraints. Schroer was then hoisted by three policemen and carried into the station.

*

She looked nervously back at the crowd before disappearing inside.

None of the protesters walked on their own into the station.

When it came her turn, Wendy had changed her mind. Jail was not for her. She walked away and sat on a curb beneath a tree. She didn't want to discuss the reasons why.

A number of legal services offered free help to activists in the event of arrest. Some protesters wrote the phone numbers on their bodies.

LAPD spokesman Jason Lee said the activists were having their identities confirmed and being checked for outstanding warrants. Once that was finished and they posted bail they could be released.

Lee didn't know how much bail would be but said it "would be a pretty small amount."

"It takes a lot of time to process 37 people," he said. "But they were peaceful and that's what we like to see."

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