- The Washington Times - Friday, August 18, 2000

LOS ANGELES Radical threats of Seattle-style disorder at this year's political conventions fizzled out, as the Democratic National Convention came to a peaceful conclusion last night.

There were protests this week, there were arrests and there are lawsuits being filed against police and the city.

But with only a few thousand demonstrators facing the batons of a well-prepared Los Angeles Police Department, there was never a chance the scene would devolve into the window-shattering anarchy that broke loose last fall during protests at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle.

Like the tepid demonstrations during the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia two weeks earlier, the protests in Los Angeles failed to live up to the hype of organizers, who had once predicted that as many as 40,000 activists would turn out.

There was no way the convention was going to be marred by violence, one LAPD officer insisted one evening this week.

"There are just too many of us," he said, standing at the edge of Pershing Square, one of several protest sites in and around the downtown area. "There will be no Seattle. We're way too organized. We're completely prepared."

He was right. This certainly wasn't Chicago in 1968, when protesters ran wild in the streets during the Democratic convention.

More than 2,000 protesters rallied outside the Staples Center as the convention drew to a close last night. Following Al Gore's speech inside and a series of demonstration speakers outside, protesters and delegates together left the convention area.

Delegates watched the final protest march of the convention, which streamed through downtown streets around 9 p.m.

The LAPD officers were all equipped with gas masks, but they never had to use them, perhaps because this was one of the department's largest mobilizations ever.

About 2,000 of the city's 9,300 police officers were dedicated to ensuring the four-day convention went off without a major incident.

Violence did break out briefly Monday night, however, when protesters clashed with police after a free concert by left-wing rock band Rage Against the Machine outside a designated protest site outside the Staples Center, the convention site.

Rubber bullets, beanbags and pepper spray were fired and 45 persons were arrested.

Although police have denied making any mistakes in precipitating the Monday night clash, there were plenty of questions.

It took around two hours for protesters to gather at the site, but police gave the 7,000 people 15 minutes to disperse after the concert. And when the crowd didn't move fast enough, police charged in.

A teen-ager who calls himself Stream was in the middle of the fracas, scaling a 12-foot-high chain-link fence barricade and unfurling a black flag in front of officers. For his trouble, he was pepper sprayed repeatedly and shot with rubber bullets.

"People were getting hurt, but we had to have this," said the 18-year-old California youth. "But I don't think people were prepared for it."

Police called the concert clash a victory.

"I think Monday let everybody know what was going to happen," said Officer Horacio Lopez, lounging yesterday around Pershing Square. "People saw what they could do and couldn't do."

All week, cars full of police, marked and unmarked, whizzed through the 12 square blocks of downtown with their sirens blaring. Police helicopters hovered overhead. Bicycle and foot patrols completed the battalions that seemed to be around every corner.

"I'm very proud of our guys," Mayor Richard Riordan said. "They have been appropriately aggressive."

Law-enforcement actions were monitored by volunteer observers from the left-wing National Lawyers Guild. "The only illegal actions I've seen have been by police," said observer Randy Ziskin.

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