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More claims filed in melee on May Day

first_imgSobel said individuals filing the claims hope to get a court order forcing the LAPD to implement an annual training program to comply with the procedures that were supposed to be in effect after the Democratic National Convention in 2000, when more than $4 million was paid to demonstrators who had been attacked by officers. “It does no good to say we are going to have a new training program unless it is put into effect every year,” Sobel said. “Unfortunately, the LAPD has a short institutional memory. “What happens is they are provided training in the academy, but once they go to the stations they’re told to forget all that, that they will teach them what they need to survive on the streets.” Sobel said the legal action seeks to force a permanent change in the LAPD. “Policies are only words on a piece of paper, and we’ve seen over and over again in this city that officers ignore policies and ignore training sometimes because they are so instilled with a view, that they get from other officers, that it’s OK to use force as a first means, it’s OK to use force against poor communities, it’s OK to use force against people of color. “That’s part of the culture of the Police Department that needs to be changed.” While attorneys welcomed the changes proposed by Bratton and Deputy Chief Mike Hillman, Sobel said she questions whether the message will be passed down to officers. “And what happens when Hillman retires?” Sobel asked. “He has been on the cutting edge of reforms, and once he’s gone, who will be there to make sure the department does the right thing?” Nick Velasquez, a spokesman for City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, said the department is concerned about the number of claims, but cannot comment until they are received and studied. The city has 45 days to review the claims. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the high number of claims reflects the seriousness of the problems that day, and that he is eager to see the final report on the incident from the LAPD and Police Commission. Antonio Rodriguez, part of the team of attorneys involved in the legal challenges to the city, said the goal is to force change. “We want the mayor, the chief, the Police Commission and the City Council to pay attention to this,” Rodriguez said. “They are the ones who can make the department change.” In the claims, the attorneys acknowledge that some protesters threw items at the police, but say it was primarily fruit and empty water bottles and that the police could have easily contained the protest. The claims also say the police order to disperse could not be heard by most in the crowd – including officers on the scene – and that it was issued only in English by officers in a helicopter. Bratton has ordered a number of changes in procedures, including better planning and cooperation between the LAPD and demonstrators. [email protected] (213) 978-0390160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! But police officials have previously said the melee developed after an officer was pushed off his motorcycle. Police said they declared the event an unlawful assembly but were unable to disperse the crowd. Sobel said witnesses have told attorneys the officer was not pushed and that his motorcycle fell over on its own. The situation quickly escalated, and officers eventually shot rubber bullets into the crowd. Televised images showed several people, including members of the news media, being struck by police with batons. The rally, which attracted a crowd of about 5,000, came at the end of a peaceful day of speeches and demonstrations for immigration rights in the city. Police Chief William Bratton took responsibility for the incident. He disciplined the two top commanders who were on the scene and also developed a new training program for crowd control. Disputing statements by Los Angeles police that demonstrators started the melee that erupted at the May Day immigration rally in MacArthur Park, attorneys for 152 people filed additional claims Thursday for damages. “We are providing video clips and evidence that the problems that developed that day were not caused by demonstrators, but by the police themselves,” attorney Carol Sobel said at a news conference outside City Hall where the claims were filed. The claims, the precursor to a lawsuit, now total more than 240, and Sobel and other attorneys are asking federal courts to allow a class-action suit to be filed. The Los Angeles Police Department had no comment on the claims, which are being reviewed by the City Attorney’s Office. last_img read more