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The Fashion Police

Photo by Steven Mikulan

The Democratic National Convention (DNC) had its share of fashion statements, from the tennis-shoes-with-suits faux pas of the footsore delegates to the hood-and-bandanna chic of the Black Block. But leave it to the fashionistas at the LAPD to come up with the sine qua non of convention wear.

The black LAPD T-shirt, which was being peddled out of the scandal-pounded Rampart Divison last week, is emblazoned LA Summer Games 2000, the LA being an amalgam of the Dodgers’ linked-letters logo and the international anarchist symbol (a capital A in a red circle). Underneath are the words Democratic National Convention, Los Angeles, CA and the dates (August 14–17).

On the back of the shirt, the words Discipline, Honor, Duty, Courage and Strength form a semicircle. Below is a picture of a helmeted police officer shaped from words — what OffBeat’s elementary school teachers used to call a concrete poem (e.g., doggerel about a banana written in the shape of a banana). The helmet is made up of the names of LAPD divisions and stations — Newton, OCB, Central. Forming the head are the names of the other agencies that contributed to the extraordinary paramilitary buildup at the DNC — FBI, Secret Service, CHP. The body is shaped from the names of the protest groups — D2KLA, La Voz de Aztlan, the Ruckus Society. The creature is holding a picket sign reading “DNC 2000”; the handle says “50,000+,” the original estimate of how many protesters would show up for the Demos’ big do.

The curious mélange of design elements defies the easy analysis of earlier T-shirt designs that got the LAPD into trouble — e.g., the “Shootin’ Newton” skull paraphernalia and the “77th Street Eat Their Dead” slogan. But the overall impression one gathers is that the police are expropriating the activists’ own design sense and symbols to lampoon their culture — while celebrating mastery over them.

How OffBeat got ahold of the T-shirt is a story unto itself. One of our friends, Silver Lake voice-over actor Lisa Vacca, was at the Rage Against the Machine protest concert Monday night. While dodging rubber police bullets, she lost track of her cell phone. The next day, she went to the Rampart station to fill out a theft report. Surprisingly, she received a warm welcome.

“I was searched going in, but once in, I found everyone was high-spirited and really rather cordial,” Vacca recalled. A flirtatious policeman whom OffBeat will call Officer Friendly, in deference to his marital status, joked that he recognized Vacca from the demonstrations.

“I told him I was an undercover anarchist,” reported the blond actor. “He told me I looked very Hollywood and mentioned another officer who occasionally moonlights as an actor.”

As she filled out the report, Vacca overheard a Chippie whisper to Officer Friendly, “Two large.” Her interest piqued, she asked Officer Friendly, two what? He pulled out the LAPD shirt. Like the transplanted New Yorker she is, Vacca brashly asked for one of her own. Officer Friendly countered by proffering a shiny, red apple. But Snow White refused, and eventually walked away with not only a shirt but an invitation to go drinking with the cops at the Tiki Ti bar in Silver Lake.

Although Vacca didn’t make it to the Tiki Ti, she did wear her new T-shirt to the Hollywood Bowl, in her own little act of defiance to the police state–like conditions of the previous week. No one noticed, she reported.

—Sandra Ross

Transit Hypocrite

The newly opened Valley leg of the Red Line subway is so successful, downtown commuters are circling like sharks to find an empty space in the North Hollywood station parking lot. But don’t expect to find a sympathetic ear in L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who told the L.A. Times the point is “not to encourage people to use their cars to get to the subway.”

Yaroslavsky thinks residents should take the bus to the station. This despite the fact that the station is surrounded by empty land where more parking could be built — and that, in successful public-transit-dependent cities, such as New York, suburban commuters always drive to their stops.

Zev, of course, is the same guy who sponsored a countywide initiative to halt further subway construction to other parts of the city, while allowing completion of the North Hollywood line in his own district. And Zev isn’t taking his own advice. The supervisor drives a ’99 Jeep Cherokee leased and paid for by the county. Yaroslavsky pays a nominal tax for personal use of the Cherokee, which is a great bargain, because in return the county pays $754 per month for the car lease and covers fuel, cleaning, insurance and maintenance besides.

Yaroslavsky spokesman Joel Bellman says his boss lives nowhere near a subway station. Because the supervisor’s district stretches from West Hollywood to the Ventura County line, “far beyond the reach of any rail or bus lines,” using the subway would be impractical, Bellman adds.

But Yaroslavsky’s Fairfax residence sits within three miles of three different subway stations that offer service to downtown, where meetings of both the Board of Supervisors and the public-transit authority (Zev is a board member) take place. Any number of bus lines run to the stations.

With soccer practice, day care, dry cleaning and Grandma to deal with, who doesn’t have to drive all over town every day? Before Zev can use the subway, new lines will have to be built — but wait, that can’t happen, can it?

—Michael Gutierrez

White House to the Rescue

For everyone who wishes they had been rescued when the rubber police bullets and billy clubs started flying last week, here’s the heartening story of Mendocino County photojournalist Kathryn Gleason. Her unlikely rescuer? None other than Clinton senior adviser Sidney Blumenthal.

Gleason and OffBeat were among the reporters who marched with protesters to the Twin Towers jail on the final evening of the Democratic Convention. When the demonstration ended, police herded the crowd onto the Red Line subway. As protesters spilled out of the train at the Seventh Street Metro station, they saw riot police grab a young man with a blue bandanna around his face and bash his head into the tiled wall. A woman with a videocam jumped off the train and had her head slammed into the tile, as well. Several of their friends locked arms and blocked the door to the train, shouting, “We’re not leaving them with you! Let them go!”

Police and Red Line workers manually shut the doors they could, leaving the rest of us locked inside. After 15 minutes, they shut off the lights, threw open the doors and ordered us to leave, “Now!” The crowd scurried up the stairs, prodded by police batons. One officer struck Gleason on the arm, and she fell to her knees, whereupon she was nearly trampled by police and fleeing protesters, she said.

Gleason eventually made her way up to the street, where OffBeat spotted her limping across the crosswalk, sobbing. We sat her down on the sidewalk and asked police to call a medic or supervisor. Our request went unacknowledged. We were trying to hail a cab, when Blumenthal, his wife, Jackie (also a White House aide), and British Labor M.P. Shaun Woodward walked up and offered to help.

“Are you guys delegates?” we asked.

“I’m on television, I’m on the White House staff, I’m Sidney Blumenthal,” Blumenthal replied, shocked, it seemed, by our ignorance.

Blumenthal and his wife offered to take us to the hospital. Gleason, who has no health insurance, declined — she was bruised and scraped, but more shaken than anything. So we suggested the Independent Media Center (IMC) at Patriotic Hall.

We crammed into the Blumenthals’ small rental — Jackie and Woodward sharing the front passenger seat to make room in the back for Gleason, OffBeat, and an annoying Deadhead, who seemed to be in it for the free ride. The Deadhead initially refused to put his tripod and video camera in the trunk.

“What do you think I’m gonna do, steal your stuff?” Blumenthal asked. He drove frantically around the flashing orange cones, speeding cop cars and street closures.

“I did nothing, I’m a journalist, they hit me . . .,” Gleason sobbed. We attempted to recount what had happened, and asked Blumenthal to tell Al Gore that the LAPD was out of control.

“The issue here now is her,” Blumenthal responded. “Who is going to take care of her? Does this woman — what was your name? — have a place to go tonight? Are there people there who are going to take care of her?”

Finally, we arrived at Patriotic Hall. The Deadhead spaced his gear and had to be reminded by Jackie Blumenthal to come back for it. As we reached for Gleason’s backpack, Mrs. Blumenthal confided that her son had been in Monday’s march, which ended in a hail of police tear gas and rubber bullets, and would have joined Thursday’s march, were he not delivering pizza.

“Tell Al Gore the police are out of control here,” we urged again.

Mrs. Blumenthal nodded and smiled. “I know,” she said.

—Sarah Ferguson


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