Posted on May 7, 2007

Protest Violence Leads To Probe Of LAPD Unit

Andrew Glazer, AP, May 6, 2007

Riots, dangerous standoffs and terrorism are crises for which the Los Angeles Police Department created its elite Metropolitan Division.

Community activists are wondering why this helmeted, baton-wielding unit was called to clear out a park after Tuesday’s peaceful immigration march and whether their appearance somehow instigated the violence that ensued.

“Their presence is provocative,” said Carol Sobel, president of the National Lawyers Guild, who has worked with the police department to change policies, including when Metro officers are activated.

Seeing Metro officers “standing there, pointing . . . weapons, in black uniforms with their [face-] shields down, and it’s like an enemy state,” she said.

During the melee at MacArthur Park, about 600 police officers, including 100 from the Metro Division, fired more than 240 rubber bullets and beat demonstrators and members of the news media with batons but made no arrests, Police Chief William Bratton said.

Bratton said he was troubled by videotaped images of the police response and said four investigations are under way.

Fox reporter Christina Gonzalez, who was pushed by officers, said she heard them laugh and say, “Double time, it’s tussle time.”

The 288-member Metro squad was designed as a mobile crime-fighting unit that could be deployed to hotspots.