LOS ANGELES - Hundreds of activists backing public education, women's rights and dozens of other causes took to the streets Tuesday around the Democratic National Convention. About 45 were arrested in the biggest standoff with police.
But a day after an hourlong melee pitted rock-throwing protesters against police firing pepper spray and rubber bullets, the demonstrations were largely peaceful and smaller than those in past days.
Groups orchestrated everything from their messages to their matching outfits. Teachers wore red; labor wore green. Around the well-planned rallies, impromptu protests sprung up and died out like random whirlwinds. Small groups of people, with no apparent cause, jumped and screamed, often taunting police.
The only confrontation came during a protest by animal rights activists who marched in a downtown business district, stopping in front of stores including a fur shop and banging on windows. Police, many in riot gear, headed off the activists about eight blocks from the Staples Center convention hall.
Police kept the public and the media out of a two-block area around a California Federal bank while they made arrests one by one, eventually taking about 45 into custody.
On the periphery, about 200 people gathered in spontaneous protests, clapping, banging drums and shouting at the police to re-open the streets. Minutes later, police ordered that crowd to disperse.
''We were peaceful demonstrators. It was a lawful assembly. This is an unlawful arrest,'' Geoff Kerns said while he and others were handcuffed in the shade of a skyscraper.
As he was led away, he shouted his group's phone number and Web site.
The protesters were booked for conspiracy to commit a felony because of items found in their backpacks, said Cmdr. David Kalish, top police spokesman. Among the items were flammable liquids including charcoal starter, small fireworks, what looked like road flares and a slingshot.
Elsewhere, activists crisscrossed the downtown, gathering at a $170 million abandoned high school, at a downtown square that has become a countercultural mecca and the convention hall itself.
- Protesters carrying dove puppets made of shredded white cloth marched from the unfinished Belmont Learning Center to the nearby office of California Gov. Gray Davis.
Belmont has become a symbol of failure for the nation's second-largest school system, which abandoned the building after learning the land beneath was contaminated by an old oil well. Thousands of students in the poor city neighborhood were left without permanent classrooms.
''We're here to demand equal and relevant education for all,'' said Lester Garcia, 18.
- Union supporters and women's rights activists marched from a downtown park to a federal building where U.S. marshals and police in riot helmets blocked the entrance.
''LAPD, go away! Racist, sexist, anti-gay!'' a crowd of hundreds chanted before dispersing peacefully.
- In the evening about 1,500 union members, marching to another downtown hall to take a strike vote, stopped for a brief rally in the protest area.
The group from the Service Employees International Union filled the lot with a sea of green signs demanding a ''Fair share for L.A. County's working families.'' Some 47,000 SEIU members work for Los Angeles County hospitals and offices.
- About 1,000 people attended a rally denouncing U.S. support for sanctions on Iraq. Organizers brought about 400 miniature coffins made from cardboard and pasted with pictures of malnourished and dying children who they say are suffering as a result of the U.N. sanctions.
On Monday, hundreds of demonstrators threw rocks and fired slingshots at police, who answered by firing rubber bullets and beanbags from shotguns, swinging batons from horseback and firing pepper spray to drive protesters away from Staples Center. Six people were arrested and at least four were slightly injured.
Delegates inside were generally unaware of the Monday night melee. The debris left behind - rocks, smashed plastic water bottles and sticks - was quickly cleared away.
The Police Department, which has kept a show of force on downtown streets throughout the convention, called its actions appropriate and vowed any protesters who broke the law would meet an equally strong response. Many of the demonstrators were arrested while failing to leave public streets under police order.
''It went by the book,'' said Kalish.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson and state Sen. Tom Hayden, a veteran of protests at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, accused the police of unnecessary brutality. The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California called the police response an overreaction.
''This is part of a pattern and practice of overkill,'' he said.