From LABOR-L@YORKU.CA Sun Aug 13 06:33:24 2000
Date: Sun, 13 Aug 2000 03:16:36 EDT
Reply-To: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
Subject: LOS ANGELES: QUIET BEFORE THE STORM
Los Angeles: Quiet before the storm
By Jim Smith, L.A. Labor News,
13 August 2000
Like a dry, hot desert wind in late summer, a oppressive layer of
foreboding hangs over the city of the angels on the eve of the clash of
two opposing social movements.
Anti-globalization, pro-democracy workers, students, socialists,
anarchists and veterans of battles in Seattle, D.C., and Philadelphia are
poised to confront those torchbearers of civilization and empire, the
leaders of the Democratic Party. They will confront each other on
political, ideological and physical levels. It is the latter that has
ordinary citizens of Los Angeles convinced that we are on the verge of a
Big One, magnitude 7.5 or greater. Depending on their political
persuasion and color of their skin, Angelinos are girding for either a
police riot, or they are anticipating anarchists and/or terrorists
running wild in their downtown streets. As a result, no one except
delegates, demonstrators and police will be showing up on the highrise
field of battle for the next week. However, 3,000 National Guard troops
are standing by to join the fracas.
Poor L.A. She began as a paradise of mountains and fields. Later she
contracted a hacking couch from the SMOke and foG. Her Native California
Indians were nearly extinguished. Her Mexicans were conquered by manifest
destiny and her African-Americans saw their good union jobs disappear in
the late 70s as auto, rubber and steel plants "went South." Rampant
development - a literal fear of ecology - riots, earthquakes, uprisings,
a paramilitary police force that was unaccountable to anyone, fires,
droughts, and rebellions finally led us to Ramparts, the most massive
police misconduct scandal in U.S. history. No wonder Angelinos expect the
Instead of calming fears, police and L.A.'s Republican Mayor Richard
Riordan (who is heading the Democratic Party's convention planning
committee - talk about Coke and Pepsi!) are following Chicago's late
Mayor Daley (whose son is Albert Gore's campaign manager) dictum, circa
Chicago 1968, that "the police are here to preserve disorder." On July
13, the Mayor's byline appeared in an L.A. Times opinion article
entitled, "A Fair Warning to All: Don't Disrupt Our City," in which His
Honor explicitly threaten demonstrators who might interfere with the
expensive happy face L.A. was presenting to the world. LAPD officials
quickly followed up with a biased video presentation to the L.A. City
Council of the Seattle protests that could have been made during the
McCarthy era. The stage was set for serious government violence. County
Sheriff Lee Baca's statement, August 10, "We have plenty of room in our
jails" was merely icing on the cake.
Antidotal evidence says the LAPD is itching for a fight. L.A.'s first
African-American Police Chief Willie Williams was quickly deposed when he
actually tried to implement reforms called for by the Christopher
Commission in the wake of the Rodney King beating and subsequent massive
uprising. He was replaced by Bernard Parks who acts as if he has never
heard of Warren Christopher. Parks appointed Tom Lorenzen, to be the
former head of L.A.'s SWAT squad, field commander of the convention
detail (what valuable skills does he bring to the job?). Friends who have
relatives who are married to cops say the LAPD wants to regain its honor
after its slow reaction to the 1994 uprising and to the Lakers' victory
party riot last month. "It's the Vietnam syndrome again."
ON THE EVE OF THE ENCOUNTER
It's Saturday night. Tomorrow is the first big march - for Mumia Abu
Jamal. He is the poster model for the fight against capital punishment.
He is becoming our patron saint, in the way that Che Guevara is the
patron saint of Cuba. The fact that he is wrongly accused of killing a
Philadelphia cop is incidental - except to the cops who see red at the
mention of his name. If we can get past Sunday without police violence,
we have a chance to get home free.
I visit the Independent Media Center in Patriotic Hall, which is just a
stone's throw (excuse the expression) from the "Office Supply" depot (you
won't get a free commercial plug from me), where the convention will take
place. About 100 veterans and new video, audio and print journalists are
gathered in a stuffy room where they lay plans to cover the demonstration
with military precision. If the pen is indeed mightier than the sword,
these are the people for the establishment to fear. They're well
organized and they have diverse skills which are not in service to the
corporations. What could be scarier? "Democracy Now," the "Nightline" of
the alternative media will be encamping on these premises by Monday and
delivering TV, radio and web feeds across the country. Do the Democrats
have a chance of winning the ideological battle? I think not.
Onward to the Peoples Convention which is holding forth in the Belmont
High School auditorium. Downtown is thick with California Highway Patrol
and LAPD vehicles. What will it be like tomorrow.
The Peoples Convention was nearly left out in the cold. It wasn't until
Aug. 4 that legal pressure forced the school district to honor its
contract and allow the convention to use its auditorium. The uncertainty
of a location obviously hurt its attendance. When I arrived, no other
media are present and about 50 diehards are listening to the windup of a
panel on the CIA's role in bringing crack cocaine to south central L.A.
This has been a hot topic in the Black community since Gary Webb broke
the story in the San Jose Mercury News and lost his job as a result.
In the previous four days, Peoples' conventioneers had heard from United
Farmworker Vice President Dolores Huerta on the need for third parties
and various local political radicals and some elected officials on issues
ranging from neoliberal globalism to the need for a gang truce in Los
Angeles. As I left, organizers were distributing 30-odd resolutions for
ratification or rejection by the body. In spite of the lack of violence
and terrorism, early arriving media from as far away as Japan had aired
parts of the four-day proceedings.
My last stop was the Convergence Center. It was only yesterday that a
federal judge had barred the LAPD from staging a preemptive raid on this
West 7th street headquarters of the D2KLA and the Direct Action Network.
The four-story building was thronged with people. I made the mistake of
walking in with my press credentials showing. For this, I was quickly
accosted by a security person who told me that media visitation hours
were over. Fortunately, my union had endorsed D2K early on. This gained
me entrance to the ground floor with a promise not to go higher where
important meetings were underway. The ground floor turned out to be a
production area for giant puppets - those icons that have taken the place
of the saints and the Virgin Mary in our political processions. In fact,
the judge specifically prohibited the LAPD from messing with the puppets
- unless they were weapons (as if an icon is not a weapon!).
Tomorrow, and the next few days, will tells us if the First Amendment is
alive and well in Los Angeles. Right now it's a toss-up.
L.A. Labor News <http://www.LALabor.org> will publish daily reports on
its website on the Battle of Los Angeles, with a particular emphasis on