After the massive demonstration for immigrant rights in Los Angeles on May 1, millions of television viewers nationwide watched horrified as helmeted cops swung clubs and fired shotguns into crowds of peaceful marchers and at well-known Spanish-language news personalities.
The public outrage has prompted an investigation. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund called for involvement of county and state prosecutors, and the League of United Latin American Citizens called for a probe by the Justice Department’s civil rights division.
The outrage has prompted the mayor, the City Council and even the police chief to denounce the excessive force used and call for changes. The riot squad has been suspended, commanders have been reassigned. More can be done.
The LAPD’s actions have added to the climate of fear the Bush administration has fostered with its immigration raids all over the country. Right-wing politicians and media personalities have also stepped up their anti-immigrant hysteria to influence legislation and the 2008 elections.
The May 1 demonstrations across the country showed continuing momentum for immigrant rights, even in the face of raids and deportations. The unity and breadth of the movement, including growing support from labor, indicates the right-wing attack can be reversed.
The May Day actions can be used as a take-off point for stepped up multiracial and labor solidarity with the movement for immigrant rights. This will build both a climate of confidence and the political force needed to win victories like a moratorium on raids as well as legalization and workplace and civil rights for the undocumented. Public opinion is shifting favorably towards these goals.
The investigations into the LAPD actions in MacArthur Park must carefully examine possible ties between right-wing hate groups and the Los Angeles police. The LAPD has a notorious reputation for systemic racism and reaction.
The investigations should also probe any ties between the police and federal officials, including members of the Bush administration. It would not be the first time such links to national right-wing politics have been used for nefarious ends.