Due to the “get tough” mentality of Los Angeles Police Department’s Police Chief William J. Bratton, the downtown crime rate has dropped to its lowest level in more than 60 years. After the attacks on protesters and reporters last Tuesday, during the May Day rally in MacArthur Park, one can’t help but ask, how tough do you have to get?
What started as a peaceful immigration rally quickly went awry as a flurry of batons, rubber bullets, and tear gas filled the air. Women, children, men, the homeless, and the media were all a part of the conglomerated attacks. The police decided not to discriminate in whom they confronted with full riot-geared force.
Identified reporters, both official and independent, became targeted in the melee while trying to help fallen protesters.
Bratton released in an interview for a local Southern California radio station that several news media employees were injured. KPCC’s Patricia Nazario sustained injuries to her hand, ribs, and ankles from a police baton shortly after she filed the live report from the rally.
“I was dumbfounded,” said Nazario in an LA Times article. “I’ve covered riots. I’ve covered chaos. I was never hit or struck or humiliated the way the LAPD violated me.”
Other members of the media who were injured included four employees of KVEA-TV Channel 52, a KTTV-TV Channel 11 news reporter who suffered a minor shoulder injury, and a camerawoman who has a broken wrist.
In a la.indymedia.org article, a National Lawyers’ Guild observer, Sanjukta Paul, described how she was beaten repeatedly, including a blow to the kidneys, as she attempted to separate the police from the crowd. She had demanded that she had the right to be there as she tried to move people off the street, but a cop replied, “No, you don’t,” then clubbed her with his baton.
“We should never be engaged in attacking anyone in the media,” Bratton said, in a CBS report.
City on a Hill Press fears that this incident may be a result of decreasing respect for journalists everywhere from authoritative figures in today’s evolving culture. Reporters were there to do their jobs, covering the event, and yet they were literally thrown out of the way like they were delinquent teenagers loitering outside of the neighborhood 7-Eleven.
At what point do the police have the authority to ignore the First Amendment rights of the media? What would happen to the journalistic integrity of the media if reporters were banned from their role as the watchdog maintaining surveillance over the government?
When looking back on the entire situation, the LAPD Chief declared that, “This incident is one of the more disturbing and troubling in my 37-year career.”
A week later, two LAPD Commanders, Deputy Chief Cayler Carter and Commander Louis Gray have been removed from the Central Bureau Operations command, and will be reassigned.
The use of force by the LAPD was inappropriate and unjustifiable, no matter who is currently paying for the assault on what started as a peaceful protest. Cameramen and reporters were there to fulfill their duties as the press, and should not have been bludgeoned in such an unwarranted manner on May Day 2007.