Will downtown be safe? That's the question on the minds of the central city's many employees and business owners as the Democratic National Convention approaches. With the arrest July 31 of eight demonstrators outside the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia and the still-looming history of the riots after the Lakers won the NBA playoffs, it becomes increasingly likely that the City of Angels will face some serious drama, more than could be created on any local sound stage.
Los Angeles Police Department spokes-person Cmdr. David Kalish acknowledges that local law enforce-ment faces a security challenge. The LAPD's initial desire to keep protesters limited to an area far from the perimeter of the convention was recently quashed by a federal judge; at press time the city is still encouraging protesters to make use of the designated public demonstration area at 11th and Figueroa streets, but police officers will not be able to prohibit protesters from gathering on the sidewalk outside Staples Center.
"Concerning the demonstrators, we believe the vast majority are peaceful and their behavior legal," Kalish said. "They simply want to express their opinions. However, we would be remiss in our responsibilities if we did not learn from what has occurred in other cities, such as Washington D.C. and Seattle, and if we did not pay attention to what some of these individuals have stated their tactics to be. Thus, although we do not expect major problems, we have to prepare for any contingency."
As for businesses located in the area around Staples Center, Kalish said the LAPD had no official position on whether they should stay open or close for the duration of the convention.
"We're recommend-ing people simply use common sense, realizing the vast number [of demon-strators] will be peaceful and not destroy property or endanger public safety," he said.
Kalish said he hopes to be able to compare the convention to another recent event which turned out to be more full of hype than fear.
"What we hope is that this will be another Y2K - that after all this planning and prepara-tion, we have just another great event in Los Angeles."