Dressed in black, covering their faces with bandanas or ski masks, some Occupy protesters, also known as ninety-nine per centers, made an impression at Los Angeles’ annual May Day rallies on Tuesday.
While an earlier rally through downtown was peaceful and festive, Occupy protesters arrived mostly in the late afternoon and gathered near Pershing Square as they were instructed to do on the Occupy May 1st website.
Part of a national movement, the Occupy protesters’ message has centered on economic disparities where one percent of the population holds the vast majority of the wealth in the United States, leaving the rest of the population far behind.
Last fall, protesters camped outside City Hall for two months until they were forcibly removed by LAPD. Compared to Occupy protests in other parts of the country, violence was minimal in Los Angeles.
Mostly made up of young adults, the Occupy crowd set a different tone from years past on Tuesday, as well as from a smaller protest march and rally held earlier in the day led by immigrant rights activists.
A few of the occupiers carried trash cans converted into shields spray-painted with an anarchist symbol, several dozen appeared ready to incite a riot. Many chanted “F— the Police” and boldly put their middle finger in the face or direction of police officers who were out in force, wearing riot gear.
A few skirmishes were reported but only one arrest was made in downtown Los Angeles, however the Los Angeles Police are looking for three suspects allegedly caught on tape assaulting officers.
*LAPD Charlie Beck said Wednesday that they are looking for a protester who hit a female officer in the back of the head with a snare drum during a scuffle with demonstrators. The officer suffered a concussion from the blow that left a dent in her ballistic helmet, according to Officer Wendy Reyes of LAPD Media Relations. Police say the attack was unprovoked.
In another incident, two suspects were caught on tape carrying a wooden sign using it against a line of LAPD officers from behind. Four officers fell forward and one had his helmet knocked off, according to LAPD.
LAPD Central Division officers were on a tactical alert from 6:40 p.m. to 9:45 p.m.
Ten May Day protesters were arrested at the Los Angeles International Airport, during a one-day job action held by airport workers.
Past May Day rallies in downtown have celebrated International Worker’s Day with calls for comprehensive immigration reform, workers’ rights and an end to deportations.
At the first march and rally, organized as Supporters of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, marchers carried a banner as wide as the street reading “Legalization Now” in Spanish. Many carried signs reading “Obama: Where is the reform?” and chanted “Obama, listen. We are in the struggle.”
But other issues were also plastered on signs and banners carried by protesters, and delivered by speakers, including gay rights, voting in this year’s Mexican Election, jobs and more.
“We’ve been struggling for civil rights for a long time,” said Suyapa Portillo of the 32 LGBT organizations represented as the “Queer Contingent.” “We are also immigrants, also workers. …We want our president to pay attention to us as immigrants. … A lot of these things would not be possible without coalition building.”
Portillo, also on the board of the Latino Equality Alliance, said marchers included individuals at all phases of immigration, from undocumented workers to full-fledged citizens.
Occupy protesters, on the other hand, focused their banners on ending corporate tax breaks and loopholes, capitalism, and creating a fairer distribution of the country’s resources. They called for lightening the tax burden on middle class and poor Americans.
Before the rallies got tense, 25-year-old Jackie, who declined to give her last name, told EGP that she and her friends, all Occupy protesters, were there in solidarity with the immigrant and worker rights activists.
24-year-old Archie, who also declined to give his name and had his face concealed, said there are numerous reasons to protest.
“If there’s anytime to get out of the house and turn the TV off, it’s today,” he said.
Steve Lewis, 70 and a retired film editor, said it was his first time participating in a May Day rally, but he, his wife and sister-in-law have been supporting the Occupy movement since it began last fall.
“This is just the beginning of the season,” he said, referring to the upcoming presidential election.
His wife, Caroline, said they came out to protest the mortgage crisis and “legal bribery” among other issues.
Ryan Pulliam, a 24-year-old resident of North Hollywood, said he was there in solidarity with immigrant rights protesters, even though he is not “Spanish or Mexican.”
He said the Occupy Movement brought him out for the May Day rally, though he couldn’t convince any of his friends to come with him.
“Before today, I never held up a sign or attended a protest … I’m not poor or anything, but I see what’s wrong and I feel compelled to change it.”
Information from City News Service was used in this report.
* Update: Brian Mendoza, 23, has been arrested and booked for allegedly assaulting the female officer, according to LAPD. He is suspected of hitting her on the head with a drum.