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White supremacist rally ends with five arrests and two assaults, police say [Updated]

April 17, 2010 |  4:34 pm

A white supremacist rally on the lawn of Los Angeles City Hall ended with a handful of arrests Saturday afternoon as counter-protesters showered police and white supremacists with rocks, bottles and other debris.

[Updated at 4:50 p.m.: All five people arrested were counter-protesters, police say.]

A rally by 40 members of a group calling itself the National Socialist Movement drew hundreds of counter-protesters from throughout the region. In the hours leading up to the rally, where members called for the removal of all nonwhites from America's southwest, counter-protesters scuffled with people perceived to be sympathizing with the white supremacists' message.

One man, who sported Nazi tattoos, was severely beaten near City Hall while another man, who carried a confusing sign about religion with a scribbled swastika, was pummeled by a mob of people on Spring Street between 1st and 2nd.

The Los Angeles Police Department went on tactical alert during the event and took responsibility for escorting the white supremacists to and from the demonstration site. Earlier in the week the group had obtained a permit for the demonstration.

At the end of the rally, after 2:30 p.m., police escorted the white supremacists to the criminal courts building parking lot to get in their vehicles. However, one car failed to start. A crowd of counter-demonstrators ran to the lot and began hurling rocks and bottles into the parking lot's southwest corner, hitting cars and shattering glass. As some of the white supremacists held shields emblazoned with swastikas over their heads to protect them from the projectiles, others attempted to jump-start the car. 

The LAPD then order the crowd to disperse and reopened the streets.

Commander David Doan said the LAPD's goal was to ensure that everyone was allowed to exercise free speech while avoiding any use of force by officers. “There was a tremendous amount of restraint shown by our officers,” he said. “We allowed both sides to exercise their 1st Amendment rights.”

Doan said it was a frustrating situation for LAPD officers. “We took some rocks and bottles when they arrived and we took some again when the car had some trouble starting.”

The two people assaulted in the crowd have been treated for their injuries and released, Doan said. The LAPD is not providing a crowd estimate, but Doan said the department had more than enough officers on hand.

The department issued a tactical alert as a precaution, Doan said, to ensure it had adequate staffing. “I am very happy. Our people did an outstanding job,” the incident commander said.

-- Richard Winton and Robert Faturechi

Photo: White supremacists rally on the lawn of Los Angeles City Hall. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times