Categorized | protest

Police, Crowd Control and the Protests

Posted on 30 November 2008 by admin

Kevin Miniter, who was arrested in the widely seen footage during the initial Prop 8 protest march the day following the election, has spoken to the Washington Blade to recount his story.

I have to admit that while protesting, I wondered what might happen if I were to be arrested. Not surprisingly, Kevin makes it pretty clear that it wasn’t pleasant.  In the end, they released him after 2 days, presumably without charges. But he was released with bruising and bleeding resulting from a questionable use of force when subduing him. Seems to be that they were using him as an example to keep the rest of the crowd back. The video below shows the event.

From my perspective during the initial protests, the LAPD seemed to use forceful and intimidating stances in their initial attempt to control the unexpected march. The West Hollywood Sheriff’s were a lot more friendly and I definitely felt that they were protecting us while using reasonable means to keep the crowd orderly and peaceful. Without question, I felt a big difference that first night when we crossed into LAPD territory.

The following day at the Los Angeles Mormon Temple, the LAPD was also quite intimidating. Officers followed the activity with ominous video cameras, they used tactics to try to disrupt and divert us, and at times formed “skirmish” type lines to block us.  Ultimately, I think the Mayor told them to lighten up in telephone contacts (we were told conversations were happening with him at certain stand offs).  By the end of the march, I found the LAPD to be taking the event in good stride, and the crowd had grown much more friendly toward them.

There were still some disturbing incidents, including the arrest of “panasonicyouth” and a friend as described on the LAist blog and written about him here on BuzzNet. These followed a violent attack by a Yes on 8 supporter who jumped out of his truck and punched someone marching against 8 in the face.

But something has been nagging me. I do not yet feel certain of what my rights are when protesting. I’ve found some officers step in and control things when a long series of officers before had not.  For example, for weeks before the election, and quite a few days after, I was often alone protesting on a large center median in front of the Mormon temple. Quite a number of officers stopped to chat, and sometimes they told me to not hesitate to call 911 if counter protesters arrived.  They said it was best to be safe and err on the side of calling prematurely rather than risk having no officers on the scene if things suddenly got out of hand.

Much later that day, and after a handful of other people showed up to join me, we were all ordered to the sidewalk, for no other reason that I could determine other than that officer’s discretion. He claimed that the dozens if not 100 officers who had not passed me or stopped over the weeks I was on the median might not have enforced “the law” but that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t breaking it.  I can’t see any reason why a very wide center median should be off limits as there clearly wasn’t any interference with traffic, other than having our message seen.

At another point in the marching, the LAPD tried to confiscate my sign, saying the stick on it was too big and they didn’t know what my intentions were. “Free speech,” I responded in disbelief. It’s not like we were an angry mob, and I had used the sign for countless hours of protesting and marching prior to this without any interference from the police.

I suppose that I can understand closer policing of protest activities after things spilled into the streets following the election.  But I still wish that I had a better understanding of the rules.  Especially if should be allowed to stand on that center median.

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