All of a sudden it looked like the bad old days this week in Los Angeles. A peaceful pro-immigration rally in the downtown area Tuesday descended into chaotic violence as the LAPD charged in swinging with batons and firing more than 200 rounds of foam bullets.
The melee was sparked when a small group of protestors, their faces covered in bandanas, broke off from the rally, blocked traffic and starting peppering riot-ready police with epithets and filled water bottles.
These antics which marred the wonderfully peaceful tone of both this year and last's pro-immigrant demonstrations certainly merit excoriation. But not the heavy-handed over-reaction by LAPD.
Local news stations and Youtube brim with videos showing the cops swarming into the park where nothing was happening except thousands sitting on the grass listening to speakers. Several journalists and reporters were also manhandled and clubbed sparking a chorus of outrage from professional press organizations.
The violent police action comes just as Chief William Bratton is up for renewal of his tenure. Even his critics agree that Bratton has made noteable strides in reforming a once notorious department. A near unanimity of the 15 member city council had been leaning toward his re-appointment precisely because of his demonstrated support of authentic and deep police reform.
To his credit, Bratton came quickly to the scene of the confrontation. And his in his day-after press conference the Chief agreed that what he had seen had been both "disturbing" and "inappropriate." He announced two probes of the incident, but California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez has called on the L.A. County District Attorney to open his own independent investigation.
Here's the L.A. Times piece on what happened to the reporters who were attacked. Kudos to the Times who had the good sense to quote me on the topic :)