Protests Mark L.A. Convention





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LOS ANGELES - On the final night of the Democratic National Convention, Berkeley's delegates partied the night away, while the city's protesters wrapped up their week of anti-corporate demonstrations.

The week has gone "very smoothly," said Los Angeles Police Officer Jason Lee. Police have arrested 192 protesters, some from Berkeley. Those that refused to give their names as a form of resistance remain in jail, while many others have been arraigned and set free, sometimes having to meet bail as high as $100,000.

While yesterday passed without major incident, the 2,000 police here showed an aggressive presence throughout the week. At the end of a march against police brutality Wednesday, police fired several volleys and struck several protesters and members of the media with batons, bloodying the chest of Don Menzel, a camera operator for Channel 2 News.

Protesters marched several times a day, followed closely by police. At a demonstration against the Los Angeles Police Department Wednesday afternoon, 38 people were arrested for blocking an intersection. The protesters were calling attention to the ongoing corruption scandal in the department's Ramparts division, in which a police officer has been charged with attempted murder and many convicted criminals have been let free.

At an anti-police brutality march, Cornelius Hall, a member of Berkeley's CopWatch, joined family members of people who have been allegedly killed by police officers. Hall said his son was shot in the head by a BART police officer as he walked away from the officer in 1992.

Though a registered Democrat who even went inside the Staples Center for the convention, Hall said many in the Democratic Party have only payed "lip service" to solving problems of brutality.

Nevertheless, Evan Payne, chair of the campus Green Party, noted that many protesters have become supporters of Ralph Nader, or have at least supported his inclusion in the presidential debates.

On Tuesday, 70 bicyclists were arrested for recklessness during a Critical Mass demonstration, similar to the pro-bicycle rides that occur through the streets of Berkeley every month.

After a week of marches for causes such as animal rights and ending U.S. sanctions on Iraq, protesters called yesterday for an end to the U.S. military presence in Puerto Rico and marched through the city's Garment District to demand a living wage and immigrants' rights.

Protesters and police remain tense after the melee that occurred Monday night, when police used rubber bullets and pepper spray to clear people from the "protest pit," injuring several people.

Los Angeles Police Cmdr. David Kalish said officers used reasonable force since some protesters were throwing objects at his officers.

Despite the media's presence at many of the demonstrations this week, UC Berkeley alumna Sylvia Romo said that, looking back on the protests, she was disappointed because the media distorted their many messages, portraying them as disorganized instead of diverse.

"I know that Middle America, watching the Fox network, didn't get the message," she said.

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