Thursday, May 03, 2007
"To Protect and Serve"
Here in Los Angeles we had an unfortunate event involving our mostly unfortunate police department, which has a burnished reputation for violence and bullying.
On May Day, at MacArthur Park, the mustachioed ones unleashed one of their only too familiar “sweeps” through a crowd legally assembled to protest or request or demonstrate whatever it is they want related to immigration.
The reason for the demonstration is not the focus of this post, but the unnecessary termination of same through police brutality.
L.A. Observed has done a nice job of gathering various sources of reporting on, and community response to, the event.
By way of relevant background, long ago in 1990, the highway scribe was covering the Service Employees International Union Local 399 and its “Janitors for Justice” campaign. The targets of the organizing drive were the gleaming towers of Century City.
A march was assembled by the union, other labor organizations, and notably, members of the local clergy. The cops, for reasons only they and city fathers know, decided the peaceful procession would not enter Century City, and all hell broke loose.
Another mindless “sweep” with truncheon waving meatheads ensued. It didn’t matter who you were; young, old, pregnant, pastor, journalist or janitor. You were in their way and you had been told to move, constitutional rights to assembly be damned.
One pregnant women lost her child. A 70-year old female Salvadoran poet had her arm broken, and even Conway Collis, a member of the State Board of Equalization at the time, got stomped on. Rotten publicity ensued, Century City management caved the next day, and the union got its contract.
Seventeen years later, the buildings are still standing and the fortunes generated within continue apace.
The taxpayers had to shell out $23 million in a court settlement over the abuses rendered by its idiotic occupying army whose counterintuitive motto is, “To Protect and Serve.”
Jill Leovy of the “L.A. Times” overplays her hand in trying to render a “balanced” account of this civic travesty.
She makes much of the fact some young men had been throwing bottles at the police.
the highway scribe asserts that it simply doesn’t matter. You are armored and armed and you will be fine as a police force with overwhelming superiority in numbers and strength before the antagonisms of some malcontents.
You are the adults. You don’t launch a sweep that, in its indiscriminate selection, indicts everyone.
Leovy also has problems with “citizen journalists” on hand, making much of their clash with “paid” and “established news organizations.”
If, over the years, the voices of those least fortunate and most under represented among us had found a sympathetic ear in the “established news organizations,” there would be trust and the antagonisms detailed in Leovy’s piece would not have come to pass.
Instead you have Dave Clark, “a well-known broadcast journalist with KCAL 9 and CBS 2,” telling another less-official guy, with plenty of reason to be mad at the Chief of Police, “We’re trying to work here!”
Excuse the rest of us who aren’t TV stars, Dave.
the scribe understands that the inclusion of these citizen malcontents and muckrakers is messy, disorganized, and not as polished as when things are dominated by your typical media show horses, but neither is genuine democracy.
the highway scribe has worked 24 years with different professional reporting organizations, is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Society of Environmental Journalists, and a one-time shop steward of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild Local 50.
And still the scribe needs a blog.
That is because he knows, unequivocally, that there are vast quantities of daily happenings in our world that are considered “inappropriate” for coverage largely because they run counter to the sensibilities and interests of people who operate and own media outlets.
These citizen journalist characters are not an accident, but a natural product of the way news stories have been told for a long time, and they are not going away.
Nonetheless, the treatment of media workers at this police riot was unconscionable; but don’t take the highway scribe’s word for it. Watch some of the countless videos around, starting with those on the aforementioned “L.A. Observed” site.
They are caught red-handed smirking and smashing their way through a lot of innocent people.
There are unfortunate details to the account; people behaving in ugly ways, but the LAPD started it. The breakdown in order does not begin with the plastic bottles Leovy so assiduously reports, but with an out-of-control squadron of mercenaries taking obvious relish in the task of beating people.
Leovy writes, “When the police had driven the last of the press and protestors to the northwest corner of the park, an order came specifically directed at the press: ‘Members of the media,’ were told they were there illegally by an officer on foot.”
There is no place one can be “illegally” in a free country. That applies to everybody and most definitely to a member of the Fourth Estate who is empowered by the First Amendment to do just what they were doing in Downtown L.A. on Monday:
Observing and report on the abuse of power by those entrusted with the sacred charge of protecting us.