The L.A.P.D. on May Day – Trying to Change a Negative Image

By Producer Clare Robbins

Present at yesterday’s May Day demonstration was the bad after taste of the Los Angeles Police Department’s aggressive tactics the year prior in Mac Arthur Park. In conversation, many wondered if we would see a sequel to the dramatic melee that prompted a nearly year long investigation into the police department’s actions.

This year however, the mood was considerably different between police and protesters. Officers rolled around in golf-cart type vehicles with an electronic banner above saying “Welcome to the march. Bienvenidos a la marcha.” Periodically, an officer would encourage safety over a loud speaker, and officers were accessible and chatty with passers-by.

[Image Above: Roving police carts displayed electronic messages that said “Welcome to the March,” “Please move to the side of the street,” when protestors waited for the main marches to converge, and “Please follow Instructions.”]

Youth Radio reporter Araceli Romero spoke with Officer Galbraithe, who said that the overall police outlook for the day was optimistic. He said he was there to support participants right to exercise their first amendment right, and act on a moment’s notice to respond to any issues that could arise. When asked about his personal opinions on the day’s meaning, he responded that he “tries to keep it simple. I try not to get too complicated with things.”

Some wondered if this “Officer Friendly” approach by police officers curbed a feeling of spontaneity and dissent at the May Day demonstrations. While some protest organizers commended the L.A.P.D. for their approach, the marches seemed in some ways micro-managed by the police.

The L.A. Times went so far as to credit the peaceful outcome of the day’s events to the police department itself (instead of, perhaps, the thoughtful strategy of demonstrating organizations) in a headline that declared “L.A.P.D’s meticulous preparations pay off in peaceful march. While the tone of this article is somewhat congratulatory, the headline points to the ironic lack of security and safety that the police brought to last year’s otherwise peaceful marches.

When the 3 marches finally converged at 5th and Broadway in Downtown, there was visible disarray among police offers who shouted into headsets and ran around consulting with each other. But the protest remained peaceful and kept moving without a hitch.

Also notable in terms of security at the May 1st marches was the private-public joint action between the L.A.P.D. and the “Purple Patrol” – the Los Angeles Downtown Center Business Improvement District (DCBID)’s private security force – as well as building security guards. It seemed like these various forces collaborated on streamlining security at the demonstration, which highlights questions about the vested interests between the police and the business community.

[Image Above: Downtown Center Business Improvement Districts’s private “Purple Patrol” joins the Los Angeles Police department in patrolling the marches.]

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