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CNN Today

L.A. Police Chief Confident His Force Ready for Convention Protesters

Aired August 11, 2000 - 1:10 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Apart from the delegates and the dignitaries and the hordes of media descending upon this city, there are sure to be the protesters. No one knows how many, perhaps 50,000. That's a number that's been mentioned. But we do know 2,000 of the Los Angeles Police Department's 9,322 police officers have been assigned to this detail this week. They'll be working 12-hour shifts. Vacations have been canceled. A judge overruled the city's plans to corral protesters far away from the meeting site, so convention organizers responded with a 15-foot fence around the Staples Center. Some nearby businesses are choosing to close for the week, and at least one school nearby, about six blocks away, is prepared to lock down if the streets get violent.

The first organized protest is scheduled for Sunday.

A man who's spent the past 18 months preparing for the next six day, Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard Parks. Thanks for joining us.

CHIEF BERNARD PARKS, LOS ANGELES POLICE: Thank you, Lou.

WATERS: "The Los Angeles Times" this morning, "Shadow of '92 Riots Shapes LAPD Stance on Protests." And it says that you began, even before Los Angeles got the convention to come here, you were preparing for this week. How did you do that?

PARKS: Well, I think we've been looking at this. When we applied for and put forth the effort to convince the convention to come here, we began to look at how we would best be able to plan and how we'd operate in that environment.

WATERS: Now, your police spokesman, Lieutenant Franks, said that you learned something from the protesters in Philadelphia. What did you learn?

PARKS: We learned a great deal about the tactics, similar tactics that we saw in Seattle and Washington, D.C. We also observed how diligent they are in the sense that many of these protesters that want to be illegal work 20 hours a day trying to get their cause in front of the public eye.

And so we learned a great deal of tactics, how we can perform some of the things that are important strategywise in dealing with it. WATERS: And the legal scholars today are wondering how you're going to balance the public's right to assembly and free speech with protection and safety of the public.

PARKS: Well, I think the No. 1 thing is that we handle thousands of demonstrations in this city every year, and most of them go unnoticed because people abide by the law. And most of the demonstrators here for the convention are going to abide by the law. But we're going to have to find methods and means for those who don't want to be legal to impact them, and not allow them to destroy party, injure people or disrupt the normal flow of business or the convention.

WATERS: Do you have any accurate forecast of how many people you're going to be dealing with here?

PARKS: No, we do not. There are some very soft figures, We hear the number of 50,000 protesters, 30,000. We do not have an accurate number. We'll see once the people get on the street. We know from the parade permits that many of them are talking about 2,000 to 5,000 per parade. They're within a couple of hours each other in the sense of going through the city streets.

But we do not know until they show up just exactly how many people are out there and then how many people that will choose to be violating the law.

WATERS: When you sat down here, I asked you if everything was under control. You said everything's under control and it's going to stay that way.

You sound very confident.

PARKS: I am very confident. I believe we have the best municipal police department in the world. And I think the training and the people that have been in charge of this planning have done an outstanding job. And I think that the public and the world will see that as the convention progresses.

WATERS: Thanks, Chief Parks.

PARKS: Thank you.

WATERS: Hope you have a good week.

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