Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Community Action Network have filed a proposed class action lawsuit over the tactics used by the city’s police department (LAPD) amid widescale early-June protests against systemic racism and police misconduct.
Filed against the City of Los Angeles and Chief Michel Moore on June 5, the 25-page lawsuit says the LAPD arrested more than 2,600 peaceful protestors over the course of roughly one week, engaging in a pattern of behavior the plaintiffs argue mirrors the very same tactics the force has come under fire for over the last several decades. The plaintiffs allege the LAPD violated proposed class members’ rights under the U.S. Constitution and California law by kettling and detaining demonstrators with excessively tight handcuffs on buses for hours without access to bathroom facilities, water or food.
“The class members experienced numbness in their hands and requests to loosen the zip ties or remove them went unanswered,” the case says. “Without access to bathrooms, arrestees were compelled to urinate on themselves.”
According to the complaint, the LAPD and Mayor Eric Garcetti applied a “ham-handed approach” in categorizing citywide protests as unlawful assemblies and failed to show an imminent threat of violence before police resorted to using crowd control tactics and arresting protestors.
The lawsuit alleges those who were arrested by the LAPD were held despite the fact California has implemented a $0 bail for certain misdemeanors in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the suit, approximately 10,000 additional individuals were struck by rubber bullets and/or police batons “without justification and in a manner…that was contrary to proper use and inflicted maximum injury.”
The plaintiffs say the LAPD resorted to the indiscriminate use of so-called “less lethal” force to terminate peaceful protests such as the one that took place on May 30 at the city’s Pan Pacific Park. According to the complaint, the LAPD’s crowd control tactics, which the plaintiffs note were also used against the city’s low-income residents residing unsheltered on “Skid Row,” were meant to instill fear in protestors and relay that those choosing to “assemble in public spaces to express their opposition to police violence” would face violence and possible arrest.
The suit notes many unhoused individuals on Skid Row had no place to go to avoid the curfew, and some were arrested and tightly handcuffed before being processed and then released back into the streets during the citywide lockdown. Others, the lawsuit says, including a disabled individual in a wheelchair, were struck by rubber bullets in the face and torso.
In the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, tens of thousands participated in largely peaceful protests and demonstrations nationwide and in Los Angeles. The plaintiffs allege the LAPD responded to protests in opposition to a discriminatory police state with “an unlawful police state” that utilized expansive curfews and misdemeanor arrests that undercut proposed class members’ right to engage in protected expressive activity.
The proposed class action looks to represent those who were arrested by the LAPD on misdemeanor charges of failure to obey a curfew, failure to disperse, failure to follow a lawful order of a police officer and/or unlawful assembly in association with the protests over the killing of George Floyd and who were subjected to prolonged tight handcuffing and denied basic needs. The case additionally looks to cover all individuals shot by the LAPD with so-called “less-lethal weapons” and/or struck with batons.