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Mayor promises action against abusive officers

Times Staff Writer

In a show of solidarity with families confronted by police during Tuesday’s immigrant rally at MacArthur Park, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told Cinco de Mayo audiences around Los Angeles on Saturday that action would be taken against officers found to have violated the law.

The mayor stepped up to a downtown pulpit Saturday night and vowed, “There will be consequences.

“There will be an investigation into what occurred,” Villaraigosa said in Spanish, assuring about 300 parishioners at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church that “not even police are above the law.” The church is a few blocks southwest of the park where officers in riot gear fired foam bullets at people and used batons on demonstrators during the May Day rally.

Villaraigosa’s 7 p.m. appearance at the service was hastily arranged after he returned to Los Angeles from Mexico on Friday to quell community anger and question why Los Angeles Police Department officers apparently violated protocols.

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Earlier in the service, Father Alfonso Amezcua delivered a pointed sermon. With Villaraigosa seated only a few feet away, Amezcua said, “We’re not seeking revenge. But what do we do about officers who fire weapons at innocent people? What do we do about officers who swing batons at peaceful demonstrators?”

The mayor nodded in sympathy.

Earlier, during the Mass, Villaraigosa, who was seated in the front pew, rose and walked down the center aisle toward the back of the church, grasping people’s hands and hugging parishioners. He then returned to give his speech at the end of the hour-long service.

During his 10-minute address, he told the parishioners, “It doesn’t matter to me whether you have papers or not. You came to work. We all have the same dreams. We want peace and decent jobs.”

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His message was welcomed in the church that serves a predominantly low-income Latino immigrant community.

“The mayor is right,” said Paola Ortiz, 16. “We’re trying to have our voices heard in a peaceful way, not to hurt anyone or be hurt.”

Earlier in the day, Villaraigosa spoke to several hundred people attending the 15th annual Watts Cinco de Mayo Fair, promising that offenders would be held accountable.

“I want you all to know that what we saw on May 1 was unacceptable,” he said. “Everybody has the right to march, to stand up and speak out.”

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louis.sahagun@latimes.com


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