Convention Dramas Unfurled, Forestalled
Four activists unfurling a giant flag were arrested Monday in what they called the prelude to high-profile protests during the Democratic National Convention next week.
The protest banner resembled a U.S. flag with corporate logos taking the place of the 50 stars. The protesters tried to drape it off the side of the 15-story Hotel Figueroa, which is across Olympic Boulevard from Staples Center, the convention site.
Two of the activists, using ropes, climbed down the sides of the hotel to unroll the banner while the other two were on the rooftop. The upper left-hand corner of the banner became stuck and never opened.
Witnesses said Los Angeles police officers watched for a time as the activists struggled with the banner. But after more than half an hour, police and firefighters moved in, arrested the four and confiscated the banner.
The flag was raised in protest of “all major peddlers of business influence,” said Genevieve Raymond, in a statement released by the Rainforest Action Network before her arrest. Also arrested was Collette Mercier, who made her way down the side of the building with Raymond, trying to unroll the banner. Mercier is with the Ruckus Society, a group that believes in nonviolent civil disobedience. Both women are 26 and from Berkeley.
The two others who were arrested were identified as Shannon Service, 25, of Palm Springs, and David Murphy, 27, of New York.
The flag-raising was organized by five activist groups, including Los Angeles-based Amazon Watch and the Action Resource Center and Canada’s Adbusters.
The four were arrested and booked on trespassing charges, Los Angeles police officials said. The three women also were booked on suspicion of conspiracy, police said without disclosing any details.
The 1,500-square-foot flag was draped over huge painted images--part of an Apple Computer “Think Different” ad--of Martin Luther King Jr., Bobby Kennedy, Cesar Chavez, and Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Among the corporate logos on the activists’ banner--which displayed the word “Sold”--were those of Citigroup, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Occidental Petroleum.
Chris Hatch of the Rainforest Action Network vowed to return with new protest actions.
“We’re going to have to go back and regroup, but by no means does it mean that [such] events are over. In fact, they are just beginning.”
Los Angeles police responded quickly Monday morning, sending a number of units, including a SWAT unit. City fire crews deployed air mattresses below the climbers in case any of them fell. Seven fire engines, two ambulances and 35 firefighters responded.
More than 35,000 delegates and members of the media will be in Los Angeles for the national convention, which is expected to culminate with the nomination of Al Gore as the party’s presidential candidate. Joining them will be masses of activists demonstrating on a variety of issues, from police brutality and capital punishment to environmental causes and gay rights.
Los Angeles law enforcement agencies have been preparing for the event, mindful of disruptive protests during the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle last December and the World Bank meeting in Washington, D.C., in April.
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