A protester does pushups as Los Angeles police in riot gear pause while pushing… (Allen J. Schaben, Los Angeles…)
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said after an initial review of last week's skirmish between officers and protesters during downtown's monthly Art Walk event that he believes the department "overall responded appropriately."
He added that department officials were conducting a more thorough review of the night's events, in which they would look into whether the "hard-line enforcement" approach that police took was necessary.
"I would much prefer to resolve these things through negotiation and cooperation, rather than hard-line enforcement," he said.
"We will look to see if there were opportunities we missed," he said. "At this point, I don't know if this incident could have been handled any better or differently."
Over the last few months, members of the Occupy L.A. movement, with the support of some homeless rights advocates, had been using chalk on city streets to write messages expressing their anger about gentrification in downtown. Police had made a dozen arrests for vandalism and other crimes before Thursday night's Art Walk event.
As thousands of people milled about on downtown streets, a small group of activists handed out chalk to passersby, encouraging them to use the sidewalks as their canvas.
Clashes began between some activists and LAPD officers, resulting in a melee that left a few officers injured and 17 people arrested. The LAPD streamed hundreds of officers into downtown and used less-than-lethal rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.
Beck placed much of the blame for Thursday night's dust-up at the feet of protesters, saying, "Often the other side's goal is not to engage in discussion but to engage in confrontation."
In recent months, Beck said, "there have been a number of times we have explained the law to people involved -- laws about vandalism, about blocking traffic. We certainly should not have to explain the laws about throwing objects at police officers."
Despite discussion among protesters on social media sites about plans to disrupt Art Walk with the chalk protests, Beck said he does not believe the commanders in charge of policing the typically peaceful event anticipated a confrontation of any sort.
Although the swift show of force Thursday night was a departure from the restraint and patience police showed last winter when protesters spent weeks encamped on the City Hall lawn, Beck said the department has not changed its overall approach to dealing with the Occupy movement.