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A May Day preview and review

April 29, 2008 |  5:27 pm

Tomorrow Thursday is May Day, which, depending on your leanings, is a pagan pole-dancing holiday, a day of labor solidarity against The Man, a day off for immigrants and their supporters, or some combination of all three, a grab-bag of un-American activity. (To the latter group, Happy Law Day!)

The last two May Days have been major events in Los Angeles. May 1, 2006 was the Great American Boycott, when legal and illegal immigrants were encouraged to stay away from businesses and schools. The editorial board raised some eyebrows by leaving blank the space where a third editorial would usually run on the page, printing only the words "Pass comprehensive immigration reform now." One million people were said to have participated, and almost all marches were peaceful and law-abiding.

Fast-forward to 2007: no immigration reform, and quite a bit of violence from the Los Angeles Police Department against protesters at MacArthur Park, some of whom threw sticks and water bottles at officers. The boards praised most marchers for a May Day well spent...

Across the sea of shouting and bullhorns and chants rang a plaintive note, a request for recognition, an admission that even illegal immigrants are part of this city and country. To their great credit, those who marched sounded that call joyously, not bitterly. The immigrants and their supporters filed by food stands -- the hot dog wrapped in bacon with onions and chiles appears to have become the official meal of the Los Angeles immigration march; the mango slice dipped in chili pepper its new dessert. Marchers streamed down Broadway and into the Civic Center, some chanting "Si se puede" (Yes, we can), others "USA, USA, USA."

But the board also called out the LAPD:

The images Tuesday of police firing projectiles at people trying to flee a mostly peaceful rally at MacArthur Park are glaringly out of place in the Los Angeles of 2007. At least, they were supposed to be out of place. The city has too much experience with police clashes and too painstaking a process of outrage, investigation, reform and trust-building to excuse this week's scenes of officers assaulting people -- including families with young children -- who had gathered in the park pursuant to a lawfully issued permit.

Three probes are underway, as they should be, and there are still plenty of facts to gather, statements to investigate and video images to sift until it's clear exactly who gave what orders and whether they were properly followed. But it's not too early for outrage.

This year, police have been preparing for the march -- expected to attract tens of thousands of people. With the training, the year-long scrutinizing of police practices, and the monitors who plan to be on the streets, the day should go smoothly. Too bad it's an election year, and even the biggest, most peaceful march doesn't have much of a chance of getting its ultimate goal -- immigration reform.

*Updated with correct day -- apologies from your confused blogger.

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