May Day protests: Demonstrators calm after clash with police
Hundreds of Occupy marchers peacefully convened Tuesday evening in Pershing Square, an hour after the May Day protest in downtown Los Angeles took a tense turn.
The mood was jovial as about 200 protesters listened to live music and watched performers. Earlier, police clashed with protesters at 4th and Hill streets, causing officers clad in riot gear to swarm the area.
A police official said a female officer was struck in the head with a skateboard and taken to a hospital. The impact of the blow dented her helmet, the official said, but her injury appeared not to be life-threatening.
Angry protesters chanted with their fists in the air after officers refused to let them through a street that leads to the Civic Center. Almost 1,000 protesters marched uphill through the Financial District, looped through Bank of America Plaza and were trying to push their way back downhill when officers turned them away.
Officers issued a call for help at 4th and Hill about 4:20 p.m. when protesters, many from the Occupy movement, began circling officers and chanting, "We are the 99%." The crowd swelled as officers arrived by bicycle, motorcycle and on foot to quell the brewing confrontation.
The crowd quickly calmed down, and officials said most of the thousands of protesters throughout downtown were nonviolent.
After the clash, several Occupy leaders tried to regroup everyone. Shouting in microphones, they led the demonstrators back up Broadway to march in solidarity with Southern California Immigration Coalition.
Hugo Salinas of West Hollywood marched with SCIC earlier, but then joined Occupy protesters. He held a neon green sign that said "Immigration Reform Now."
For Salinas, the May Day protest is personal. The 25-year-old photographer emigrated from Mexico, and understands the plight immigrant workers face.
"I'm here for immigration rights, for equal rights for everyone, " he said. "My boyfriend is here with Occupy. We're all in this together."
Protesters grouped together for various reasons, including some Chinese and Chinatown demonstrators carrying signs that read, "Walmart destroys communities" -- a reference to the retail giant's proposed grocery store in Chinatown.
Bert Voorhees, an attorney and observer with the National Lawyers Guild, marched to Pershing Square with a group of protesters that began in Van Nuys. He joined a crowd of others at Broadway and Olympic Boulevard. He's unsure where the other protesters came from.
"It's complicated," Voorhees said when asked to describe where the march originated.
Representatives from the Lawyers Guild wanted to make sure the protesters' 1st Amendment rights were honored by law enforcement. At least 50 observers were sprinkled in the crowd wearing neon green hats.
An immigration reform group paused at 1st and Broadway streets, rallying around speakers on a parked truck. The group chanted for reform now and spoke of their disillusionment with President Obama's promises in 2008 for immigration reform.
As the sun set and the day cooled, the chanting continued. A group yelled in unison: "The people united will never be defeated."
-- Rosanna Xia, Sam Quinones and Paloma Esquivel
Photo: LAPD confronts protesters at Broadway and 5th Street in downtown Los Angeles. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times