LOS ANGELES – Police Chief William J. Bratton said Wednesday that some of the police tactics used to clear immigration protesters from a park were inappropriate, as news videos showed officers striking people with batons and firing rubber bullets into crowds that included children.
Rally organizers denounced Tuesday's police action as brutal and unnecessary, and worried what the incident could mean for an immigration rights movement known for its peaceful rallies.
Images showed police hitting a television cameraman to the ground and shoving people who were walking away from officers at Tuesday's demonstration. Some injured people were seen in the videos, including a Hispanic man with a bleeding welt on his stomach and back.
The clash at MacArthur Park started after 6 p.m. when police tried to disperse demonstrators who had moved off the sidewalk onto the street. Authorities said several of the few thousand people still at the rally threw rocks and bottles at officers, who fired rubber bullets and used batons to push the crowd back onto the sidewalk.
Bratton and city leaders later held a televised news conference to outline investigations.
With Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa away on a trade mission, City Council President Eric Garcetti spoke to viewers in English and Spanish, stressing the duty to protect the people's right to assemble and for "a free and unencumbered news media."
"This was not a pretty picture," said John Mack, who as president of the five-member Police Commission is one of Bratton's bosses. "This incident raises serious concern regarding the use of force by some individual officers."
The civilian commission, which sets policy for the Police Department, has opened its own investigation.
Bratton said the clash occurred as the rally was winding down. He indicated police were initially trying to deal with 50 to 100 people who were not part of the rally organization.
The department fielded 600 officers, including 100 from its elite Metropolitan Division, considered to be among its most highly trained, who cleared the park, officials said.
Several people, including about a dozen officers, were hurt. About 10 people were taken to hospitals for treatment of injuries including cuts, authorities said. None of the injuries was believed to be serious.
"Our national anchor was being pushed by the batons," Marcia Garcia, a reporter for Spanish-language Telemundo 52, told KCAL-TV. "Our TV set was destroyed — monitors, cables, everything on the ground; it was like a surrealistic nightmare."
Maria Elena Durazo, the executive secretary-treasurer at the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said the trouble was instigated by "a group of anarchists, not associated with the rally."
Angela Sanbrano, a rally organizer and director of the Central American Resource Center, said she saw "a few young men with their faces covered" provoking police. But instead of dealing with them, she said, police began forcing everyone out of the park.
"They were pushing children, elderly, mothers with their babies and beating up on the media," Sanbrano said. "The aggressiveness against the immigrant community is unbelievable."
At least one person was arrested, but police have not released a name.
Protesters marched in cities nationwide attempting to persuade Congress to create a path to citizenship for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. Tuesday's protests were smaller than similar demonstrations a year earlier that drew hundreds of thousands of people in some cities.