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May Day protests marred by vandalism in San Francisco

May 1, 2012 |  3:06 pm


May Day demonstrations were marred by vandalism in San Francisco, while other demonstrations in California were largely peaceful.

Protesters were converging on downtown Los Angeles for a march and rally this afternoon near City Hall. The march is expected to jam the afternoon commute, with numerous streets scheduled to be blocked off until at least 7 p.m.

Hundreds of demonstrators from the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, the Party of Socialism and Liberation and the Latino health activist group Bienestar gathered at the intersection of Olympic Boulevard and Broadway about 1 p.m. to rally and begin marching to Pershing Square, where a larger rally was planned.

Thousands of protesters were expected to participate in May Day rallies across Los Angeles to register their views on a variety of issues, including fair labor practices, immigration and income inequality.

PHOTOS: May Day protest

Police said the group at Olympic and Broadway had not caused any problems.

“It’s festive,” LAPD Officer Sara Faden said over salsa music blasting from a truck.

In a sign that the ideals of the Occupy movement still resonate, in Oakland about 400 people gathered at City Hall plaza at midday to reiterate their commitment to confronting social inequality and police aggression.

Some demonstrators wore face coverings and carried shields crafted from plastic garbage cans. Others identified themselves as medics, with crosses of red tape, in the event of clashes with police.

A small skirmish broke out between some protesters and riot-gear-clad officers. About 12:40 p.m., at least one protester threw bottles and at least one metal paint can at officers who formed a line to hold back the crowd.

One officer, who asked not to be named, was splashed with yellow paint and kicked in the ribs as he sought to arrest a protester who officers said had rushed the police line.

Separately, CBS reporter Doug Souvern tweeted that protesters attacked and dismantled one of his station's news vans.

In San Francisco, May Day protests began early, as a demonstration that started peacefully in Dolores Park on Monday night ended with widespread vandalism.

More than 100 masked protesters -- dressed in black and gray and wielding crowbars and paintball guns  -- descended on a busy restaurant and retail stretch in the city’s Mission district. Vandals smashed windows, defaced cars and attacked the neighborhood police station.

On Tuesday, a glass crew was parked outside of the Mission district police station, and Jeffrey Garcia was inside filing a police report about damage to his two vehicles. His Volkswagen Passat and Chevrolet pickup had been parked on Valencia Street while he had dinner at a nearby restaurant.

“I heard the noise, and the next thing I know, I come out and bang!” said Garcia, who provides battery service for a towing company. Vandals had slashed all four tires on his Passat, keyed the shiny black car and sprayed it with red paint. His pickup was also keyed.

He was at a loss to explain the vandalism and the protesters.

“We work 20 hours a day, and they have nothing to do,” he said. “I don’t know. It’s just crazy.”

Brittney Nicolulis, manager at a home furnishing boutique on Valencia Street called Therapy Home, said she and her colleagues heard a rumbling about 9 p.m. Monday and looked out the window to investigate.

“Our first assumption was peace marchers,” said Nicolulis. “We get those all the time. We ran to the door and heard smashing and gunshots and sounds that were not about peace.”

Nicolulis, who was with her colleagues at Therapy’s clothing store next door, took shelter behind the cash register as vandals smashed windows at both stores.

“They came really fast and left really fast,” she said, “like a hurricane. It was really scary. It felt apocalyptic and primal. We keep hearing this was Occupy Wall Street and against the corporations. But this is a locally owned business. You’re not putting any corporation out. We’re the little guys. Everyone I talk to, nobody gets it.”

A police source said there was one arrest.

Tuesday saw wider disruption in San Francisco but far less damage.

In advance of a threatened strike by union workers, the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway & Transportation District decided to shut down ferry service for the Tuesday morning commute. Service resumed as normal in the afternoon.

Hundreds of demonstrators snarled traffic on busy Market Street during a lunchtime demonstration, chanting union slogans and “We are the 99,” performing street theater and painting an outsized yellow and red “Rise up 99%” sign on Montgomery Street in the middle of the Financial district.

Ismael Lara, a Financial district janitor, joined the protest Tuesday because his contract is slated to expire in July and his company is asking for deep concessions from its workers.

“Hopefully we’ll get a little bit of money, and benefits will stay the same,” said Lara, who marched with his wife. “They want us to pay for some of our health insurance.” 

By the time the demonstration began to dissipate and move west on Market Street just before 2 p.m., police said there had been no arrests.


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-- Maria L. Langa in San Francisco, Lee Romney in Oakland, Sam Quinones, Matt Stevens, Rosanna Xia, Paloma Esquivel, Andrew Blankstein and Betina Boxall in Los Angeles.

Photo: Dozens of people begin to gather at the intersection of Olympic and Broadway in downtown L.A. as some carry a banner featuring labor icon Cesar Chavez before a May Day march. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times