[Hpn] Homeless to PROTEST at Democratic convention in LA. Cops watch closely. FWD closely. FWD

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Tue, 23 May 2000 10:12:07 -0700 (PDT)

FWD  Washington Times / 22 May 2000 / LA, CA, USA


     Thomas D. Elias
     Special to The Washington Times

LOS ANGELES - This city is bracing for a crisis, fearing it could be a
target for extremists and demonstrators when the Democratic National
Convention comes to town in mid-August.

Groups ranging from the anarchists who turned last fall's World Trade
Organization meeting in Seattle into a festival of riots to a coalition of
the homeless now say they are targeting Los Angeles.

While about 40,000 demonstrators are expected for the Republican convention
in Philadelphia two weeks earlier, some activists say they may put twice
that many into the streets of Los Angeles.

At the same time, convention organizers have had to overcome problems
ranging from a shortage of buses for ferrying delegates from their
far-flung hotels to the Staples Center convention site to a shortage of
cash for the privately financed event.

The convention will bring more than 4,600 delegates and alternates to town,
along with 17,000-plus media personnel. They will stay in 84 hotels in six
cities in and around Los Angeles.

Convention organizers are not concerned about the 6-month-old Staples
Center, which was under construction when Democrats picked their convention

"The facility is exceeding all expectations," said a spokesman for the
Democratic National Committee. "We expect to provide broad Internet access
for the first time, so that if someone in any state wants to see what their
delegation is doing, they will be able to track it."

But the potential for massive protests worries authorities.

"Certainly, we have to have contingency plans for any potentiality," said
Police Chief Bernard Parks.

Police are working with the FBI, the Secret Service and 30 other state and
local agencies to prepare for the convention.

"There's a message that needs to be sent, and that is that the law
enforcement community will be prepared to deal with any civil unrest or any
other incidents that may occur," said Special Agent James V. DeSarno Jr.,
assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles field office.

Reinforcing that message, California Gov. Gray Davis this week included
more than $4 million in his proposed state budget plan for police overtime
and equipment to be used in preparing for riots, vandalism or terrorism.

Such warnings do not faze potential protesters. The San Francisco Examiner
reported early this month that about 200 professional demonstrators and
amateur anarchists will attend a summer camp to prepare for their Los
Angeles effort.

"I think we're at a particular moment, an historical moment," said Jai
Ching Chen, 27, an organizer with Youth Action for Global Justice, an
Oakland-based group that expects dozens of its members will be in Los

Added anti-globalization activist Leone Hankey, "L.A. is a good reflection
of the injustices of the global economy because it is one of the most
globalized cities in the world."

Meanwhile, advocates of the homeless, led by longtime activist Ted Hayes,
are planning a convention of their own  the Los Angeles National Homeless
Convention - just six blocks from the Staples Center.

Mr. Hayes, working from a small enclave of domed homeless-shelter huts set
up during the late 1980s just across the Harbor Freeway from the convention
site, hopes to mobilize many of Southern California's estimated 80,000

"We think the convention is an opportunity to call attention to the plight
of homeless veterans," says Celes King, longtime local head of the Congress
of Racial Equality.

Police have already roped off a block-size area near Staples, near the
junction of the Harbor and Santa Monica freeways on the south edge of
downtown, as a "protest pit" like those set up at past national political

But activists say they are determined not to be confined to any small area.
They have enlisted a network of lawyers to help them.

"The Constitution is not set aside for the week the Democrats come to
town," said Jim Lafferty, executive director of the Los Angeles office of
the National Lawyers Guild.

Added organizer Margaret Prescod of the Every Mother is a Working Mother
Network: "The protest pit is like a prison."

And Los Angeles police say they can't close off a section of the city near
the convention hall, as police did last month in the District to contain
demonstrators at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings.

"Ideally, we'd shut down the buildings and block the streets like they did
in D.C. and have a closed environment," said Police Cmdr. Thomas D.
Lorenzen, head of the DNC 2000 planning group. But pressure from local
businessmen, who are counting on delegates to spend heavily, precludes
that, he said.

Convention organizers say they believe the joint law enforcement task force
will hold protests in check, just as a similar force prevented any violence
when Los Angeles hosted the 1984 Olympics, where terrorist violence was
considered even more of a threat than it is this summer.

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