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Los Angeles pays $12.85 million to May Day marchers and bystanders

February 4, 2009 | 12:54 pm

Macarthur_2  Members of the Los Angeles City Council agreed unanimously today to pay $12.85 million to immigration demonstrators and bystanders who sued the city claiming they were injured or mistreated by police officers during the May Day 2007 melee in MacArthur Park. The payout will settle nine lawsuits against the city.

The settlement is another blow to the city’s treasury related to LAPD misconduct in the midst of serious budgetary problems. The settlement of the May Day cases comes on the heels of the council’s approval last week of a $20.5-million payout to four current and former police officers who claimed they were falsely arrested and mistreated in the wake of the scandal involving the police department's Rampart Division.

The council still faces other legal troubles related to the May Day incident--there were 27 pending cases related to the demonstration before today’s settlement, according to officials with the city attorney. Only one case involving a broken camera had been settled.

Forty-two people, including nine journalists, were injured as a pro-immigration march wound down in MacArthur Park on May 1. LAPD officials said the scuffle was set off by a group of agitators who threw bottles and other objects at police. The department’s Metro Division used batons and fired rubber bullets to disperse what was a predominantly peaceful gathering.
Chief William J. Bratton said the fracas was an aberration for the department, but promised it would lead to changes in policy and training. He called the decision of his officers to use that level of force a “command and control breakdown.”

In response to the incident, Bratton announced that he was disciplining 11 officers and calling for the termination of four. In another step toward preventing a recurrence, Bratton set up a new bureau known as the Critical Incident Management Bureau that overseas major events and protests.

-- Maeve Reston and Joel Rubin

Photo: Los Angeles Times