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Of Riot Gear and Rubber Bullets

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Wilshire & Alvarado - May Day

The presence of a police force lined up with riot gear presupposes trouble. And when someone supposedly threw a bottle near MacArthur Park Tuesday evening, it was a call to action. Or as Chief Bratton later rationalized: "Missiles were being thrown at the officers, and officers [were] responding."

Last year's May Day march down Wilshire featured amiable members of LA's finest police and fire squads lined up on the side of Wilshire chilling out -- dressed normally (in uniform), but with riot gear and more at the ready in nearby cars. And nothing happened. Everybody, the authorities included, appeared to be having a good time.

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Oh except for when darkness fell and police appeared to swarm and beat an unarmed man in front of the Alvarado Red Line Station (video after the jump) as the protest had all but ended.

Once again, last night on Alvarado near Wilshire, where the above photo was taken, saw the forceful removal of mostly peaceful protesters and the police flexed their muscle. The gathering was expected and announced well in advance, just like last year's that drew nearly a half million, and the march up Broadway earlier Tuesday, not to mention the Bulls championship-like gathering of an estimated 150,000 in Chicago's Grant Park.

There are countless arguments to be made about the effectiveness and purpose of demonstrations/marches/rallies/excessive celebrations, as we've seen here. But riot gear and rubber bullets in a public space brings out only the worst of a predominantly passive, well-intentioned, and now-terrified crowd.

photo by Sara Hayes, used with permission