By Philip Kim and Monique
Simpson


Daily Bruin Reporter

One of several UCLA students injured at a protest against police
last month has decided to take legal action against the Los Angeles
Police Department for shooting her in the eye with a rubber
bullet.

What started out as a peaceful demonstration against police
brutality at the LAPD’s Parker Center ended with police
firing rubber bullets at protesters.

“I was targeted because I had a bullhorn,” said
Xochitl Estrada, a fourth-year world arts and culture student.

“I felt like I got slapped in the face. I was surprised
they could do that. I knew they were bad, but I didn’t know
they were that brutal,” she continued.

Within a week, she had a black eye. A doctor found a small
cataract trauma and told her it could grow.

“I have permanent damage to my pupil,” she said.
“My vision isn’t good any more.”

At the protest, she sought medical attention after being shot,
but ambulances were located behind police lines. With police
shooting, it took her three hours to reach help, she said.

She is currently working with the National Lawyer’s Guild
on building a legal case and may be part of a civil rights lawsuit
involving numerous people in the protest. The guild is a political
organization for lawyers and legal workers.

The LAPD is also looking into the protest incidents.

“There is an ongoing, thorough investigation about the
event because there is a possibility of a lawsuit,” said
Officer Jason Lee, spokesman for the LAPD. “A conclusion has
not come and is not coming down anytime soon.”

Brian Montes, a fifth-year history student, also sustained
injuries at the rally when a rubber bullet that hit his backpack
created a bruise that later caused him extensive back pain.

“I could not sit down and it was difficult to change the
gears of my car,” he said.

Despite his injury, Montes said he does not plan to file a
lawsuit.

“I thought about legal action, but it feels funny to ask
the police for money,” he said, adding he might look into a
class action lawsuit.

The October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, which
sponsored the protest, has been approached by the NLG and Joey
Johnson, organizer for the coalition, said they are considering
legal action.

In addition to a possible lawsuit, the coalition plans to
distribute flyers denouncing the police attack and will provide its
account to civil rights groups fighting against oppression of
minority groups, he said.

According to members of the coalition, more than 2,500 people,
including children, participated in the march in front of the
LAPD’s downtown headquarters. Many came to express
frustration with police brutality and the Rampart Division scandal,
where officers in the LAPD’s anti-gang unit are accused of
conspiracy and framing suspects.

“There is police brutality in the Los Angeles area and
cities across the nation,” Montes said. “In order to
prevent it from happening, we need to increase awareness and put
pressure on the LAPD.”

The Los Angeles Police Commission granted the coalition a permit
to march on the streets surrounding Parker Center. Some protesters
said confusion over terms of the permit and where demonstrators
could protest contributed to the conflict.

“A line of police would not let protesters surround the
Parker Center,” said Gillian Claycomb, a third-year
international development studies student.

But police said it did not matter if the group had a permit to
protest because demonstrators were breaking laws by not being
peaceful and blocking traffic.

“If it is a danger to the community and officers, then we
have to put a stop to that,” Lee said.

A number of UCLA students said police were already expecting
dangerous protesters.

Before arriving at the protest, Ellie Cijvat, an electrical
engineering graduate student, saw police in riot gear, preparing
for the worst.

“The police should have shown much more restraint,”
she said.

Others complained that police failed to give sufficient notice
about using violence against the crowd.

“They didn’t give protesters any warning until after
the first shots were fired,” Claycomb, who received rubber
bullets to the leg, said.

But police maintain they were only reacting to protesters.

“The LAPD only used enough force to overcome the
resistance and to fulfill our mission to clear the intersection and
roadway that (protesters) were blocking,” Lee said

After police opened fire, the crowd threw plastic water bottles
at them, Claycomb said.

Some students said they have not been discouraged by this
event.

“One thing I have learned from talking to activists is
that the law enforcement here is especially repressive, more so
than in many other cities,” Montes said. “It is
important to develop a movement to raise the issues of police
brutality.”

It will take more than protests to end police brutality Claycomb
said.

“You have to work at the community level and make
high-quality education accessible,” she said. “Protest
is not enough. It’s easy to have fun at a protest, but you
must dedicate yourself on multiple levels.”