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LAPD officials expect crowd of up to 100,000 at immigration march on Saturday

April 29, 2010 | 10:11 am

The Los Angeles Police are preparing for as many as 100,000 marchers to rally for immigration rights in downtown Los Angeles during the annual May Day event Saturday.

LAPD officials are preparing for a surge in the number of participants in the wake of an outcry over a controversial new Arizona law that requires police to check the legal status of people they suspect of being illegal immigrants.

Deputy Chief Jose Perez Jr. said that police initially estimated no more than 60,000 people would participate in the May Day march to Los Angeles City Hall. But Perez said those numbers were revised after organized labor and immigrant rights groups informed authorities they expect far more people.

“We are looking for an orderly crowd," Perez said. "Organizers are also looking for an orderly crowd for this to be a success.”

Marchers are permitted to walk north on Broadway from Olympic Boulevard and eventually gather at City Hall. In addition to the downtown march, police are preparing for small gatherings in MacArthur Park and Westwood.

Perez said the department does not provide details about the number of officers it would have on hand, but said it would be a citywide maximum deployment.

The LAPD wants to avoid any repeat of the May Day 2007 melee in MacArthur Park. That year a contingent of the department’s elite Metro Division officers were videotaped wielding batons and shooting less-than-lethal rubberized bullets in an attempt to disperse the mostly peaceful crowd after a small group of agitators confronted police.

Dozens of protesters and journalists were injured as officers cleared the park. In the aftermath, the department issued a scathing report and the city settled litigation for more than $13 million.

Planning for this year’s march has been in the works for months, police said. With a tight budget the department had to insure that a massive number of officers were available to work the May 1 rally.
In this year’s planning, march organizers and other groups have expressed concern about how the LAPD will approach the marchers, who would include illegal immigrants.

Police, however, have assured marchers that the department will continue to be guided by Special 40, which prohibits officers from initiating action against people solely to discover their legal status. “It shows the fear and emotion behind this [the Arizona law], Perez said.

First established three decades ago by then-Police Chief Daryl F. Gates, the order has been embraced by Chief Charlie Beck, who calls the rule an important key to build trust and relationships with immigrant communities.

-- Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein