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Police, protesters face off outside Democratic convention

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LOS ANGELES — Bottle-throwing protesters and baton-wielding police clashed briefly in one of the tensest moments outside the Democratic National Convention before both sides backed off without anyone seriously hurt and only a few arrested.

Wednesday's confrontation took place on a sweltering afternoon when some 2,500 protesters marching toward the Staples Center convention site stopped to block an intersection.

Some delegates arriving for the convention's evening speakers were escorted through the crowd, while others walked around to other gates through a security fence.

"Whose streets? Our streets!" the crowd chanted.

When police tried to reopen the intersection, some of the protesters began throwing bottles and other objects. Officers responded by firing rubber bullets and charging the crowd with batons. After a dramatic standoff, the march resumed.

After another brief scuffle, protesters returned to Pershing Square, the downtown park that has been their base since the convention began Monday. Police quickly surrounded them but backed off again after people began drifting away peacefully.

Earlier in the afternoon, 38 protesters were arrested for blocking the entrance to the Rampart police station, center of a scandal in which rogue officers allegedly framed, shot or roughed up those they arrested, then lied to convict them.

The arrests followed a march by about 600 people, who walked to the station chanting "No justice, no peace, no racist police," and presented a list of demands.

The parade and arrests of protesters who sat in front of the station took place with little of the angry confrontation seen in earlier protests. The Los Angeles Times reported that protest organizers and police began meeting long before the march and scripted out just what kind of civil disobedience would bring symbolic arrests without stirring the crowd to violence.

"They asked what it would take to get arrested," Capt. Michael Moore told the paper. "We looked up the law and gave them some ideas. They wanted to lie down in the street, but we told them they wouldn't get arrested for that."

Instead, the two sides settled on a plan for the demonstrators to sit on a sidewalk, he said.

The U.S. Justice Department's Community Relations Service took part in the talks, the paper said.

Protesters promised to be out in force on Thursday, the last day of the convention.

A variety of demonstrations were planned, including a march on the downtown offices of two big businesses, Citibank and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.

Protesters said the rallies would culminate Thursday evening outside the Staples Center when Vice President Al Gore accepts his party's nomination for president. As Gore is making his acceptance speech inside, protesters planned to be outside shouting, banging on drums and making as much noise as possible.

In all, 40 people were arrested Wednesday, bringing the total for the convention to 192.

Hours after the last of the protests, some 20 police cruisers converged on an intersection near the demonstrators' headquarters and cited four people for jaywalking as they returned to the site. Organizers, who were sitting down for dinner when police arrived, locked their doors as helicopters circled overhead.

Police, who have tailed demonstrators everywhere during the convention, have defended their actions as necessary to maintain the peace.

Protesters complain they have been harassed.

"Not one person should have been arrested," Michael Novick of the August 16th Coalition for Justice, angrily told a news conference Wednesday night. "Not one person."