by Cindy Henderson; this article was originally published in Partisan issue no. 24, printed November 2007.
The dust had scarcely settled in Mac Arthur Park after the May Day police riot, as activists and residents began mobilizing against the violation of their civil rights and for the protection and autonomy of the neighborhood. Peace and Freedom Party activists were there at the inception.
"Oppression mobilizes people quickly," said Bilal Ali, co-founder of Peace and Freedom Party's People of Color Caucus, speaking with other activists after the incident. Ali had assisted a 17 year old youth who sustained injuries at the event.
MacArthur Park is in the heart of the Pico-Union district of Los Angeles, home to L.A.'s working poor and immigrant community. Organizers of the permitted May Day Rally for Immigrants and Workers Rights believed the LAPD had intended to intimidate and silence the ethnically diverse area by targeting the militant but peaceful gathering.
Within days of the attack with billy clubs and rubber bullets nearly 40 activists, almost all Black and Latino, met at an East L.A. cafe to plot a strategic response to the whitewash and media spin they knew would follow. Copwatch, Critical Resistance and Peace and Freedom Party's People of Color Caucus were represented at the first meeting, along with Union del Barrio, ACLU's People of Color Caucus, Food Not Bombs, Community Action Network, independent activists and community residents. We became the Peoples Network in Defense of Human Rights.
After debriefing about the LAPD's reckless endangerment of an entire neighborhood, we planned a rally/press conference in front of Parker Center on May 8th. Outside, people marched with banners and chanted "Fire Chief Bratton" and "No Justice, No Peace, No Racist Police." Others inside offered there testimony about the events, overviewing a list of demands:
- We want full accountability of the LAPD and their actions against our communities. All police officers responsible for oppressive, abusive and excessive force on May 1, 2007 need to be held accountable.
- A list of all officers present at the May 1, 2007 march be distributed to the public.
- We demand that all LAPD officers have clear identification on their person at all times, as mandated by California Penal Code 830.10.
- We demand an elected civilian police review board composed of a diverse group of community members elected by the community and not appointed by LAPD or elected officials. This board must have the power to subpoena and indict the police. The community will maintain control of this board at all times and have access to an independent prosecutor.
- We will not tolerate the LAPD or any other law enforcement body taking on the task of ICE in our communities using their presence as an intimidation tactic to oppress us.
- We are demanding a public apology from LAPD Chief of Police Bratton, and the commanding officers responsible for giving the orders to attack our communities.
- We demand immediate removal of all police officer presence at community and political demonstrations or actions in exercise of their constitutional rights to free assembly. As an alternative, traffic and parking enforcement personnel should be used to facilitate traffic.
On behalf of the entire Los Angeles community who felt and witnessed the police repression that took place on May 1, 2007, the Peoples Network in Defense of Human Rights demands a response from the LAPD.
Cindy Henderson is Los Angeles County Chair of the Peace and Freedom Party