[Hpn] DNC Protest Infiltrators Kept LAPD Informed FWD

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Mon, 21 Aug 2000 23:11:12 -0700 (PDT)

FWD  Los Angeles Times - Friday, August 18, 2000

     by Beth Shuster of the Los Angeles Times
        LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles Police Department calls them
"scouts," and they are so good at their job that, during this week's
protests, some were shot at and others were arrested--by their own

        The LAPD undercover officers assigned to join the crowds of
demonstrators drawn by the Democratic National Convention are a young,
purposefully rag-tag group that has blended easily and invisibly into the
sea of young protesters.

        Throughout the week, they have provided a key element in the police
intelligence gathering network, as they circulated unnoticed within crowds
across the city.

        The LAPD's undercover operation was "an extremely critical part of
the [department's] plan," said Cmdr. Tom Lorenzen, who oversees the Police
Department's convention planning unit. "Without good intelligence, we would
not be as efficient as we are."

        One morning this week, some of these undercover officers met before
going out on the streets in their work clothes: T-shirts and shorts,
bandannas, flip-flops and sneakers. They are allowed to break department
policy by wearing beards and keeping their hair long. One even wore a "Free
Mumia" bandanna.

        When asked if they were worried about getting swept up in trouble,
they shrugged. It's all in a day's work for these officers. One, however,
said, smiling, that he was a little worried about being shot "by one of
those," pointing to fellow officers in uniform checking out shotguns.

        In fact, a few were shot at by their colleagues using stinger
rounds and bean bag projectiles during Monday's melee in which hundreds of
police attempted to move the large crowd that lingered after a concert by
the rock group Rage Against the Machine, police sources said. A day later,
a couple of these undercover officers were arrested in a bicycle protest in
which about 100 cyclists tried to block city streets, these sources said.

        The arrests of 42 animal-rights activists Tuesday, allegedly while
in possession of materials authorities said could be made into homemade
flame throwers, came from information supplied by undercover officers,
police said Thursday.

        Federal and other local agencies also had undercover officers
working inside the demonstrations this week, police sources said.

        But the LAPD has a particularly long and rich history of spying on
political dissenters dating back to the "Red Squad" of the 1930s that
regularly broke up union and leftist meetings, hustling protesters to jail.
Then, in the late 1970s and 1980s, it was learned that officers from the
Public Disorder Intelligence Division had infiltrated left-wing groups and
that others had spied on local politicians and critics of the department.

        Because of the LAPD's dubious history of political spying, this
week's activities have lead some to wonder whether the officers are
observers or provocateurs.

        "The concern always is the chilling effect it would have on
protected speech activities," said Erwin Chemerinsky, a professor of
constitutional law at University of Southern California. "Even if we're
doing nothing wrong as a group we still might talk differently if we know
there is an uninvited police officer among us."

        Lisa Fithian, an organizer with D2KLA and the Direct Action
Network, said members of her group saw people dressed as protesters sitting
in a police car after last Sunday's anti-police rally.

        "It's standard operating procedure: infiltrate and disrupt,"
Fithian said. "They are potentially trying to incite problems in the midst
of our demonstrations. We're not doing anything illegal, we're not doing
anything wrong. The question is do they create problems in the midst of our
meetings or actions?"

        LAPD officials say the information gathered this week was
invaluable. And the use of technology such as cell phones has vastly
improved the undercover operation.

        That intelligence has improved the department's ability to more
quickly move officers to specific areas of trouble, officials said.

Copyright LA Times


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