A third day of demonstrations was underway in downtown Los Angeles Sunday as the outcry continued against the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn federal abortion protections provided under Roe v. Wade.
Sunday’s demonstration, organized by the groups The Feminist Front and Generation Ratify, began at 1 p.m. at Grand Park. It comes on the heels of two days of demonstrations following the U.S. Supreme Court 5-4 decision Friday to overturn 1973’s Roe v. Wade ruling.
At 1:48 p.m., the Los Angeles Police Department reported that a “small group” had gathered downtown, but said say the flow of traffic was not affected.
Several streets around the Civic Center were temporarily closed Saturday as two large demonstrations were held in downtown, one at Grand Park and another outside the federal courthouse on First Street, with a third rally held outside the Federal Building in Westwood.
Saturday’s demonstrations were mostly orderly and peaceful, except for a brief attempt by protesters to access the Hollywood (101) Freeway. Police said a group entered the off-ramp from Broadway Avenue at about 3:42 p.m., but the off-ramp was cleared about 17 minutes later.
Friday’s protests were not as peaceful, however, as a 30-year-old man was arrested for allegedly attacking a police officer with a “makeshift flamethrower” and could face charges of attempted murder.
Hundreds of protesters gathered downtown in the hours after the Supreme Court announced its decision, and after some skirmishes occurred, the LAPD declared an unlawful assembly and issued a temporary citywide tactical alert to clear the streets.
Two people were arrested and four officers were injured, LAPD officials said.
Michael Ortiz, 30, was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and Juliana Bernado, 23, on suspicion of resisting an officer.
Police said Ortiz hurled a makeshift flame thrower at an officer who had to be treated for burns at a hospital. Bernado allegedly tried to take an officer’s baton, prompting police to fire a 40 mm less lethal round at her before she was taken into custody.
“I condemn the violence against officers that occurred last night (Friday) and into today (Saturday morning),” Police Chief Michel Moore said Saturday. “Individuals participating in such criminal activity are not exercising their First Amendment rights in protest of the Supreme Court decision, rather, they are acting as criminals. The Department will vigorously pursue prosecution of these individuals.”
The Police Protective League also issued a lengthy statement Saturday condemning the actions of some in the crowd at Friday’s protest.
“As a society, it should be easy to condemn attacking police officers with improvised blowtorches, or throwing fireworks, rocks and bottles at officers under the guise of `protest.’ Yet, the silence is deafening from our so-called community’s leaders.” League officials said. “This type of raw violence on display in Los Angeles and across the nation from dangerous mobs hell-bent on destruction has nothing to do with a woman’s right to choose. Rather, it is nothing more than disgusting opportunistic behavior carried out by criminals hiding behind our First Amendment.
“LAPD officers are sick and tired of being violently targeted by criminals using the First Amendment as a shield for them to purposefully attack police officers,” the statement continued. “Our officers are sick and tired of the silence and inaction from our elected and Department leaders when they are attacked. Seems some of these `leaders’ forgot how to Tweet or they can’t seem to find their voice to condemn these attacks on our officers when it does not fit their political narrative, align with their point of view or ruffles feathers.
“Violence is violence and it must be met with a strong response, and order must be restored. We demand the leadership of the LAPD to set aside politics and focus on protecting our officers and law-abiding residents from criminals.”
Some on social media characterized the police response as “heavy handed.” A reporter with L.A. Taco, a platform that covers food and culture, tweeted late Friday that he was assaulted by a group of officers.
“LAPD officers shoved me and jabbed @joeyneverjoe in the stomach with a baton, sending him to the ground. We both identified ourselves as press repeatedly,” tweeted Lexis-Oliver Ray.
On a video, officers in riot gear can be heard shouting “leave the area, go back” and Ray describing himself as a member of the press.
Spokeswoman Norma Eisenman of the LAPD’s Media Relations Division told City News Service on Saturday that the department had no comment on Ray’s tweets. She added that no media staging area was set up for the demonstrations.