Police, protesters face off outside Democratic convention

LOS ANGELES - Activists returned to the streets Thursday for the last day of the Democratic National Convention, protesting destruction of the environment, denouncing big business and promising to greet Al Gore's acceptance speech with a chorus of chants and drum beats outside the convention.

The biggest rally began at Pershing Square, a gathering place for demonstrators this week, where about 100 activists criticized Citibank for funding projects that they said were ruining the environment.

The protest, called ''Spank the Bank,'' moved about two blocks to Citibank Center downtown, then returned to Pershing Square without incident.

''Boycott Citigroup, the world's most destructive bank,'' read stickers that protesters pasted downtown.

Elsewhere, environmental activists rallied in Century City, an area west of downtown where Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore was staying, and called for protection of wetlands.

''Save it, don't pave it,'' they chanted.

A day earlier, bottle-throwing protesters and baton-wielding police clashed briefly in a tense moment outside the convention before both sides backed off without anyone seriously hurt and only a few arrested.

Through Wednesday, police made 192 convention-related arrests.

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 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. Police quickly surrounded them but backed off again after people began drifting away peacefully.


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