Los Angeles, CA – Activists are furious the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) used horses to help with crowd control on Inauguration Day, and accused police of “medieval” tactics that violated past reforms.
The incident occurred near City Hall on Jan. 20 after two groups had gathered for two different events, the Los Angeles Times reported.
First, a roofers’ union set up a celebration on the steps of City Hall to mark President Donald Trump’s departure from the White House.
And then a pair of food trucks that were often seen at protests in the city set up on 1st Street near the City Hall South Lawn to give out free food to homeless people, the Los Angeles Times reported.
LAPD Commander Al Labrada said that the food trucks parked illegally on the street drew a crowd and blocked traffic.
So at about 3:30 p.m., officers asked the Riot Kitchen and Revolution Ribs food trucks to move from their illegal location, the Los Angeles Times reported.
It didn’t go over well.
Eight officers on motorcycles who tried to get the trucks to move were surrounded by angry people who screamed insults at them.
Cmdr. Labrada, who was in charge of the scene, said one motorcycle was surrounded and protesters filmed cell phone videos of him while they stuck stickers on his motorcycle, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The LAPD mounted unit had been staged nearby because of the threat of violent protests in connection with the Inauguration of President Joe Biden, so when the situation became heated at the food trucks, Cmdr. Labrada said they sent the officers on horseback in to accomplish what the motorcycle officers could not.
But when the police responded on horseback, the crowd continued to challenge the police.
Cmdr. Labrada said the mounted unit didn’t begin to push the crowd with their horses until after some of the people had surrounded two mounted officers and put stickers on the face shield of one of the horses, the Los Angeles Times reported.
— PRECIOUS CHILD (@_preciouschild) January 21, 2021
He said the mounted units couldn’t safely turn their horse away from the crowd so it was decided that they would continue forward.
“We’re not going to allow our officers to be surrounded or assaulted or put in a dangerous situation,” Cmdr. Labrada told the Los Angeles Times. “Our intent is not to push the crowd. Our intent is to get our horses out of there, to get out and deescalate the situation.”
The LAPD has about 40 horses & are part of the Metro Division Mounted Unit. The acquisition of these horses is through the Los Angeles Police Equestrian Fund (a non-profit). The LAPD spends $75k a year for farrier, vet, & janitorial services related to the horses.
Poor horses. https://t.co/xPGZqPLjtf
— Kenneth Mejia (@kennethmejiaLA) January 21, 2021
Attorney Carol Sobel, who has previously sued the LAPD for their civil disturbance tactics, claimed one of the mounted officers was waving a long baton called a bokken at people in his way, the Los Angeles Times reported.
But LAPD has closely reviewed all of the bodycam videos from the mounted unit and determined that none of the protesters were struck with a baton and none of the officers violated department policy.
“Fortunately, no one was injured,” Cmdr. Labrada said.
Sobel complained there was no excuse for bringing horses to a peaceful gathering, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“It’s, again, the lack of planning and training,” she said.
Sobel complained the experience was “déjà vu” to the early days of LAPD riot tactics, the Los Angeles Times reported.
— Sarah Reingewirtz (@sarahimages) January 21, 2021
“With the horses, that bokken, the fact that they did not connect with anyone is just luck on their part,” the activist said. “Why would you ever put yourself in that position? This is a really bad response.”
She demanded that LAPD investigate the handling of the crowd on Jan. 20, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“This is not a SWAT situation, this is not a hostage situation, this is not an armed person,” Sobel said. “The police need to figure out how you deescalate that. You don’t deescalate by bringing in large horses.”