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Schools, businesses prepare for Democratic Convention protests

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Schools close to the site of next week's Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles are putting their students through emergency training and some businesses are preparing to close, even though police say they are prepared to safeguard the community.

In this story:

Teachers ready for overnight stay if necessary

Delegates, party leaders will visit school

Republican convention provides useful information

Six blocks from the Staples Center, where the convention will be held, 1,200 kindergartners through fifth graders at the Tenth Street Elementary School have been taught what to do if the school has to go into lockdown mode.

Students at the school, which has year-round classes, have learned how to lock themselves inside the building in the event of unrest outside, said Consuelo Garcia, the principal.

If things get out of hand during the school day, metal shutters on first-floor windows would be shut and school doors locked, she said.

Teachers ready for overnight stay if necessary

Garcia and the teachers are preparing to stay at school overnight if parents' access is blocked and they are unable to pick up their children.

"In the worst case we would be prepared to feed and house them," she said.

As in all public schools in this earthquake-prone region, Tenth Street Elementary has enough food and water to sustain the student body and 100 teachers and administrators for three days, she said.

Two hundred parents showed up at a school meeting on Wednesday night and were told the Los Angeles Unified School District had promised to send two unarmed campus aides to help.

The Los Angeles Police Department has assigned 12 extra officers on bicycles to the immediate area.

Some parents asked why the school was not being shut down during the convention but feelings were mixed on that. Ed Pardo, spokesman for the school district, said, "The district feels it (the school) is the safest place for the children."

Delegates, party leaders will visit school

Students, most of them children of immigrants from non-democratic countries, will be following the convention to learn about democracy, Garcia said. Several delegates and Democratic leaders will stop by during the convention, she said.

Concern over potential crime has affected the business community in the vicinity of the convention center, to the point that shopkeepers in the nearby diamond district plan to close during demonstrations.

But police are ready, said Lt. Horace Frank, an LAPD spokesman. Of the department's 9,322 officers, 2,000 have been detailed to the convention and undergone intensive training over 18 months, he said.

The city can draw on extra resources "from 10 different entities," he said, including the Secret Service, California Highway Patrol, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and others.

Estimates on the number of protesters expected range "anywhere from 30,000 up," said Frank. The first protest is scheduled for Sunday.

"Whether they actually come we don't know, but we have to plan with that in mind," he said.

Nearly all vacation requests by police officers have been turned down and all regularly scheduled days off canceled, Frank added.

Republican convention provides useful information

The police in Los Angeles learned a lot from demonstrations at the Republican National Convention held last week in Philadelphia, he said.

"Some of these individuals are getting more and more violent towards innocent people in the community. That's a very big concern to us," he said. Eighteen police officers were injured during the Republican convention.

Frank said the political agendas of the protesters may be different. "Anarchists have much more resources on the West Coast than they did in Philadelphia. I think it is reasonable to believe that there are individuals out there whose sole mission is to perpetrate violence against businesses, individuals and against police officers.

"We'll do what we have to do to ensure the safety of the people in the community," Frank said.


Friday, August 11, 2000



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