Police Tactics at L.A. Rally Reignite Scrutiny The Los Angeles Police Department's uneasy relation with the news media is in the spotlight again in the wake of Tuesday night's melee at an immigrant rally in MacArthur Park. TV crews and other journalists were pummeled with batons and rubber bullets as a police riot squad cleared the park.
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Police Tactics at L.A. Rally Reignite Scrutiny

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Police Tactics at L.A. Rally Reignite Scrutiny

Police Tactics at L.A. Rally Reignite Scrutiny

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NPR's Carrie Kahn reports.

CARRIE KAHN: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spent Cinco de Mayo trying to reach out to the city's immigrants. He cut short a trade mission to Mexico and flew home Friday to personally oversee investigations into police actions at the May Day rally.

M: I was deeply and personally troubled by the events of May 1st. Those images hit me in the gut.

KAHN: Those images caught by TV news crews showed hundred of police dressed in black riot gears, some with batons, others shooting rubber bullets into a crowd demonstrating in LA's MacArthur Park. I was at the south end of the park as a small group of demonstrators threw soda cans and bottles at police. I described what happens next on NPR's newscast.


KAHN: The police moved the crowds straight into the park and cleared everyone in their way, like Christina Gonzales, a local TV reporter. Cameras caught her trying to help her videographer, who was just struck to the ground by a police officer.

M: I am helping to move her. As you can see...

U: Move her back away to this (unintelligible) side or you're under arrest.

U: This way.

M: You can't do that.

U: Move that way.

M: You can't do that. You cannot do that, you know that.

KAHN: The images of reporters pushed and hit by officers have run on nightly news across the country all week. That's been hard on LAPD chief William Bratton, who has worked to repair the department's relations with the press. Speaking to a packed room of angry reporters the day after the incident, Bratton tried to make amends.

M: I think of myself as media-friendly, and so the treatment that you received yesterday at the hands of some Los Angeles Police officers, as well as some of the residents of the city, is something we cannot tolerate. I won't tolerate it.

KAHN: Bratton has made strides in repairing the LAPD's contentious relationship with the press, says Joe Domanick, a senior fellow at USC's Institute for Justice and Journalism. But he says changing the culture of the rank and file has been harder.

M: I still think that there is a significant portion of the rank and file that believes that the press is the enemy, that they're liberals, that they're do- gooders, that they don't understand what it's really like to be a policeman in the street and they have nothing but contempt with the press. And I think that's what we saw on Tuesday.

KAHN: The LAPD is still under a federal consent decree and there are guidelines the department must follow when dealing with the press. Those were agreed upon after reporters sued the LAPD following similar treatment during the 2000 Democratic National Convention. Victor Narro, with the National Lawyers Guild, helped negotiate those press guidelines.

M: They've violated every single aspect of this policy and the settlement agreement, and that's why the National Lawyers Guild is now looking into the possibility of litigation.

KAHN: Narro isn't alone. Friday, a TV camerawoman filed a claim against the police department, as did several rally participants. Patricia Nazario, a reporter with KPCC Public Radio in Los Angeles wants answers. She says a police officer struck her twice at the rally even though she was wearing a press ID. Nazario says she's covered dozens of public protests, but none like Tuesday's.

M: I've covered them in Buenos Aires. I've been to Bogota, Columbia and I was pulled over by the police and all of my bags were searched, including my purse. And never ever have I've been so violated as I was by the LAPD.

KAHN: Carrie Kahn, NPR News.

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