The Los Angeles Police Department is bracing for a long weekend of political demonstrations following the California arrival of GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump and boisterous protests in Orange County.
In the aftermath of clashes at an appearance by Trump in Costa Mesa on Thursday evening, thousands of unionized janitors took to the streets of downtown Los Angeles on Friday afternoon to demand higher wages and expanded rights.
The janitors, whose contract expires Saturday, began their rally at Grand Park at noon. Janitors say they could strike as early as next week against what they say are unfair labor practices by major janitorial companies.
On Saturday, supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders are expected to converge on downtown L.A. for a march and rally tied to International Workers’ Day, or May Day, on Sunday.
“We have a very active three days with the Janitors for Justice today at midday, Bernie Sanders on Saturday and May Day march Sunday,” said LAPD Assistant Chief Michel Moore. "We’ll be using the play book that we have successfully used for a number of years.”
The janitors’ march is unpermitted and may disrupt the city’s downtown core, but police will accommodate the protest, Moore said.
Demonstrations in Costa Mesa on Thursday resulted in 17 arrests and damage to several police cars as large crowds of Latino protesters vented outrage at Trump’s claim that Mexico was sending rapists over the border.
On Friday, Moore said he believed the Los Angeles demonstrations would be far more calm, but noted that the images from Costa Mesa were alarming.
“It is disturbing to law enforcement as much as all Americans … it’s almost the ‘60s again,” he said.
“We expect May Day to be peaceful,” Moore said. “We are always prepared for any eventuality were anything to happen. But we have nothing to suggest that will be the case.”
Typically, he said, problems come from outside agitators and not the organized marchers.
As for Saturday’s Sanders event, Moore said the candidate won’t be present.
During the janitors’ rally Friday, participants held signs reading "Justice for Janitors” and chanted, “Si se puede.” An estimated 3,500 people swarmed Grand Avenue demanding justice and fair contracts and called for an end to racism and anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Humberto Lara, 62, of South Los Angeles said he has been working as a janitor for Wells Fargo Bank in downtown L.A. for five years, but under the current contract he doesn’t make enough to support his family.
“We want more benefits,” he said. “The amount we have are not enough and the pay is not enough."
The Sanders march will begin at 3 p.m. on Main Street between Olympic Boulevard and 11th Street, then head north and arrive in front of City Hall at 4. A rally will begin at 6 p.m. and last til about 7:30.
Sunday’s May Day event will start at 1 p.m. at 11th and Figueroa streets. From there, participants are expected to march through downtown L.A. and arrive at La Placita on Olvera Street at 3.
For breaking news in California, follow VeronicaRochaLA on Twitter.