As thousands of protesters planned to gather in downtown L.A., Juan Carlos Bautista's thoughts were on last year. He's from Mexico and has lived in Los Angeles for five years. Bautista overcame painful memories to return to MacArthur Park Thursday. Last year, the 33-year-old construction worker and his four-year-old son had a harrowing encounter with riot police as they marched for immigration reform. He spoke with KPCC's Frank Stoltze. Attorney Jorge Gonzalez translated.
Attorney Jorge Gonzalez (translating for Juan Carlos Bautista): When he started hearing the bullets, he and his son ran over to where they thought they saw the photographers, so that they could be protected from being hit. He was covering his son with his body, and he got closer to a tree, too, so that that would offer even more defense.
What happened was that, as the officers got closer and he tried to get up, one of them pushed him down, and started striking him with a baton, hitting his son, who then urinated all over himself. And so they couldn't find a way to get out, and they were trying to find a way to get out, but there was no, like, evacuation route. The police had them completely closed in.
Frank Stoltze: Did you suffer, or your son suffer, any injuries? Gonzlez (translating for Bautista): The father suffered a broken left leg, and the son was hit with a baton in the area of his buttocks.
Stoltze: So you suffered a broken leg, is that right?
Gonzlez (translating for Bautista): Yes.
Stoltze: You mentioned earlier that your son no longer lives here. Lives with his mother now, in the east? Did he move away because of what happened here in MacArthur Park?
Gonzlez (translating for Bautista): They decided to have the mother take him to live in Virginia, because he had trouble sleeping at night, he would cry, and he was always scared. And whenever they'd go out during the day, and they would see police, and he lives in an area where there are a lot of police, his son would, you know, cling to him, and cry, and was very scared. So they decided to remove him from L.A.
It's very sad for him. He calls him every day, every single morning before he goes to school, he calls him. He says he's getting a little bit better over there. It's very different, and the police cars apparently have a different color to them, and all. But he does have reminders, and sometimes he'll see things on TV, and he'll tell his mom that the police tried to kill him and his father.
Stoltze: One last question. Are you afraid about this year's march? To be here, in the park again?
Gonzlez (translating for Bautista): And he's conscious of it, that, you know, inside, deep inside, he still ponders what the police will do. And he does, he's very nervous, he's very scared, and he thinks about it.