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CONVENTION 2000 / THE DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION | NOTES
FROM THE STREETS

What Does It Take to Get Arrested in This Town Anyway?

August 18, 2000|NORA ZAMICHOW

Snippets and scenes from around Los Angeles as the Democratic National Convention unfolded this week.

More than 300 protesters arrived at the Los Angeles Police Department's infamous Rampart station Wednesday to condemn police brutality after a mile-long march from MacArthur Park. As police began arresting demonstrators, Hal Carlstad, 75, tried to elbow his way through a battery of news crews and demonstrators, only to be stopped by helmeted police.

"I'm trying to get arrested too," Carlstad, a retired teacher from San Francisco, said with a sigh. "But the police won't let me."

PAPER CHASERS

At noon Wednesday, an activist standing on a flatbed truck tried to separate demonstrators into two camps. He waved to a group of huge papier-mache figures that were used in street theater.

"People who want to risk arrest, come forward," he called out over a microphone. "Anyone who doesn't want to risk arrest, please follow the puppets."

EQUAL OPPORTUNITY

For the fourth time in as many days, Maria Guardado, 64, of Los Angeles, carried a banner in a march.

One day, she carried a poster denouncing Americans as "executioners of Latin Americans." The next afternoon, it was a canvas "Free Mumia" sign. Then she marched with a Ralph Nader placard. Her last sign read, "Sindicato de Pasajeros [bus riders' union]."

"I believe in many things," Guardado said in Spanish.

TOO POOPED TO PROTEST?

A 22-year-old from Portland, Ore., took a break in the shade in Pershing Square on Wednesday before setting off on yet another march.

Confessed Tomas Garduno, a recent college graduate: "I have protest fatigue."

A MOTHER'S LOVE

Earlier this week, one middle-age woman toted a sign that read: "Proud mother of a North American anarchist."

Susan Billig, a librarian from Santa Barbara, came to support her son, a 26-year-old Black Bloc anarchist. Though police had focused attention, even pepper spray and rubber bullets, on the Black Bloc, Billig was not worried.

"I'm going to keep my eye on him."

TOP-SECRET MISSION

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, the designated protest area in front of Staples Center was occupied by 25 protesters wearing yellow shirts bearing pictures of broken spectacles. These activists were angry with Los Angeles Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti; their signs urged Garcetti to "release the files" and "analyze the bullet fragments."

Asked about the meaning of these signs and T-shirts, protesters said they were not allowed to reveal it to reporters.

TICKED OFF

While protesters presented a veritable laundry list of fairly familiar woes, one demonstrator pitched a relatively obscure cause. Barbara Hunt, 40, of Monrovia, dressed up as a giant deer tick with a reddish backside and a green cape that read: "Lyme disease, a national health crisis."

FALSE ALARM

Police thought all was quiet Wednesday evening until three youths on skateboards rolled up to report an abandoned black briefcase under a tree downtown.

The street was quickly cordoned off. Bomb squad units moved in. Just as a bomb-sniffing Labrador was being led to the package, a disheveled man in a mismatched suit ran up.

"I got a bag there," John Ellison told police. The West Hollywood man was filming a "mockumentary," and his cameraman had left the valise. The dog smelled at the briefcase and wagged its tail.

COPPING A SOUVENIR

In a parking lot on Olympic Boulevard, about 100 police officers posed for pictures--an apparent convention memento. They stood under a large banner that read, "Goreporate America."

GENERAL DISTRESS

This week's protests were an initiation for 21-year-old Patti Topette of Cypress. She doesn't claim membership with any organization or have any specific agenda. "It has something to do with growing up in the suburbs where everybody's pretty well-off," said Topette, who drove to the protests every day from Orange County.

THE REAL HEAD-TURNERS

In anticipation of a rally in Santa Monica, L.A. County sheriff's deputies pulled up beside a Gap clothing store and proceeded to load up with shotguns and bandoleers of beanbag shells.

Next door, customers watched from their seats at the sports bar Hooters, known for its scantily clad waitresses.

"This is definitely more interesting than what you see in the bar," said patron Jason Healy, 21, of Culver City.

DID HE GO TO DISOBEDIENCE SCHOOL?

Mimi LaValley, 19, a sophomore at New School in New York City, marched in Los Angeles with her German shepherd.

His name: Nonviolence Riot, or Riot for short.

THE MESSAGE WEARS OFF

Bob Valdez, 53, of Gardena, wrote with white paint on a black T-shirt in capital letters, "Unmask [Los Angeles Mayor Richard] Riordan's police state thuggery."

But after several hours of marching in the sun, Valdez discovered indoor house paint doesn't wear well. The words had dissolved as he perspired.

HAIR TEASING

Early Tuesday morning, Dave Atkerson, 21, of Long Beach, and George Hernandez, 16, of South Gate, were strolling around the heavily guarded perimeter of Staples Center when police drove by the two black-garbed young men.

"Nice hair," said one officer, referring to Hernandez's spiky locks. A few blocks later, one officer called to another, saying, "There go Darth Vader and Darth Maul [a character in "Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace"]."

Hearing these jeers, Atkerson said, "Frankly, people like that need more sensitivity training."

EYEWITNESSES TO HISTORY

Clare Holzer, 35, and her 11-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, watched the protests from their Tujunga home and decided to participate. Holzer said, "I wanted my daughter to be part of history so that when she's older she'll be able to say, 'I was there, I saw the cops with rubber bullets, I saw the protests. I was there.' "

*

Compiled by Times staff writer Nora Zamichow from staff and correspondent reports.

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