Inside the Staples Center, the Democrats nominated Vice President Al Gore and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman as their party’s standard-bearers. Outside, downtown Los Angeles dealt with a new form of traffic: protesters.
The Democratic National Convention brought 30,000 delegates, party workers and news media members to Los Angeles for a $50-million, weeklong extravaganza. It also brought, from Parker Center to Pico-Union, the largest organized street protests in a generation.
There were bicyclists, animal rights activists, bus riders, teachers, ex-cons seeking the vote, homeless activists and anarchists.
The resulting parades were more Doo-Dah than Rose, with homemade puppets and drums and lots of foul language. These strange protesters even used the subway to shuttle between downtown and protester headquarters, an otherwise abandoned, concrete 7th Street building called the Convergence Center.
Some came to skirmish with Los Angeles cops but soon found themselves outnumbered. Thousands of LAPD officers swarmed around downtown, enough to give the city a militaristic edge. The officers’ actions were fierce and punishing, particularly on Monday night in a specially designated protest zone outside Staples.
After a free concert by Rage Against the Machine, a handful of protesters threw bottles and rocks at police over a fence. In response, cops charged the entire, mostly peaceful crowd, using horses, baton blows, pepper spray and “stinger rounds” of rubber and bean-bag bullets to clear the crowd. The treatment was rough and broad enough that Police Chief Bernard C. Parks apologized to peaceful protesters who had been struck while leaving the area.
There were no reports of serious injuries and no significant property destruction. The police commission praised the cops and critics lambasted them. The reception the demonstrators got was so cool it left some activists rethinking the entire strategy of mass protests. Downtown won’t see such foot traffic any time soon.