Thousands had gathered across the street for a free Rage Against The Machine protest concert, which turned out to be peaceful. However, a throng of protesters stuck around after the show, clashing with police.

About 300 people out of the 8,000-strong crowd were involved. The push came after a running battle between police and protesters along a fence directly across from the convention.

Protesters threw pieces of concrete and water bottles, sprayed police with ammonia and fired steel balls and rocks from slingshots. The cops retaliated by firing tear gas and rubber bullets. They then charged on horseback to disperse the crowd, herding people to the far end of the protest area and away from the convention hall.

Protesters, most of them with bandanas over their faces, lit several fires in the concert area. The ground around the officers was littered with rocks, broken bottles and sticks thrown over the fence.

The confrontation took place beneath a huge TV screen outside the Staples Center showing live video from the speeches taking place inside. Convention delegates were apparently unaware of the trouble on the street.

The melee resulted in ten arrests and at least four injuries. In addition, paramedics said several dozen people were treated for the effects of pepper spray and chemicals.

Several innocent bystanders, some of whom were hit in the crossfire, blasted the strong police response. Some said they were hit in the back with rubber bullets or bean bags as they tried to disperse. However, police said they gave the crowd 20 minutes to exit before they took action.

“Today, tomorrow or the next day, or the next day, or the next week, our response will be exactly the same,” Cmdr. David Kalish said.

Perhaps Los Angeles police were trying to make up for recent criticism. They had been accused of reacting too slowly and not protecting people and property during the June rampage outside the Staples Center after the Lakers won the NBA championship.

Before the trouble that followed the Rage concert, the mood had been festive, with the fire department spraying a cooling shower of water on an appreciative crowd that had endured a hot day.

That’s not to say that the politically motivated band didn’t accomplish what it set out to do – protest.

“Brothers and sisters, our democracy has been hijacked,” Rage Against The Machine singer Zack de la Rocha shouted at the start of the group’s 40-minute attack on cultural and social repression, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Though some would argue that the melee – which started about an hour after the band left the stage – would not have occurred had the concert not attracted a crowd larger than expected, the disturbance did not seem to be connected to the band’s music, according to the paper. De la Rocha did nothing to incite the crowd, the Times said.