One day after being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union over the imposition of curfews, Los Angeles County officials said Thursday there are no plans to enact another one.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was also named in the ACLU lawsuit, also said Thursday that curfews are ending.
“Angelenos are rallying around powerful and peaceful demonstrations against racial injustice,” Garcetti said in a statement. “We remain committed to protecting the right of all people to make their voices heard and ensuring the safety of protesters, businesses, residents, families and our entire community.”
On Thursday morning, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said his agency would not enforce any more curfews.
“Based upon current situational awareness and the recent pattern of peaceful actions by protesters, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will no longer enforce a curfew,” he said in a statement. “Other jurisdictions are free to make their own decisions.”
Los Angeles County officials confirmed via Twitter that “the county does not plan to issue a countywide curfew tonight.”
The ACLU of Southern California issued a statement expressing gratitude that local citizens can now go about their business at night without fearing arrest, while urging other cities to refrain from curfews.
“We are pleased that the county and city of Los Angeles and city of San Bernardino have rescinded their curfews so that the crucial demonstrations to stop police violence and allow black people to live with dignity can continue,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, senior counsel at the ACLU SoCal, in a statement issued Thursday afternoon. “We are also grateful that people throughout L.A. County and San Bernardino can now go outside and live their lives at night without fear of arrest for violating curfew. We hope that other cities and counties in Southern California and around the country will also allow protesters and others to exercise their constitutional rights free from interference in this important moment.”
The announcements, however, do not preclude individual cities from enacting curfews, and at least two have already done so.
Santa Clarita will enact a curfew at 6 p.m., continuing until 6 a.m. Friday. A protest began in that city around noon near the Westfield Valencia Town Center mall, which earlier delayed its planned reopening this week. Santa Clarita is patrolled by the sheriff’s department, and officials at the Santa Clarita Valley station said they would uphold it, despite Villanueva’s statement regarding enforcement.
Beverly Hills had earlier proclaimed a 6 p.m. curfew, but around midday, the city announced it had been canceled.
The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit late Wednesday against the city and county of Los Angeles, calling the curfews that have been issued over the past several days “draconian” and unconstitutional. The suit was filed on behalf of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, protesters, journalists and others.
ACLU claims in the lawsuit that the curfews are a violation of the First Amendment because they suppress all political protest in the evening hours. The suit also contends restrictions against movement outside of working hours is a violation of the Constitution’s protection of freedom of movement.
“The city and county of Los Angeles are attempting to use these curfews to suppress Black Lives Matter-L.A.’s right to protest,” said Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of BLM-LA. “They are attempting to suppress our ability to fully mobilize and focus full attention on the true issue of concern in the protests — police violence against black people.”
Defendants include Garcetti, Villanueva, Los Angeles police Chief Michel Moore and San Bernardino police Chief Eric McBride.
In Los Angeles, countywide curfews were declared Sunday night and every night since then. On Wednesday, county Supervisor Janice Hahn questioned the need for them to continue.
“I believe the curfews in L.A. County were needed Sunday night and Monday night,” Hahn tweeted Wednesday. “But now it seems like they are being used to arrest peaceful protesters.”
The lawsuit argues the curfews also prohibit journalists from being able to fully report their stories from the scenes of the protests.
“These unconstitutional curfews have suppressed a huge amount of important political protest activity and disrupted the lives of over 10 million people,” Arulanantham said before the curfews were lifted. “The curfews must end now.”
The suit was filed on behalf of individual plaintiffs, including:
— Kimberly Beltran Villalobos, a student cited for curfew violations in both unincorporated L.A. County, where she lives, and in downtown L.A., where, according to the suit, she was peacefully protesting;
— Tom Dolan of San Bernardino, executive director of Inland Congregations United for Change. He was leading students who the suit said were protesting peacefully and trying to follow the curfew rules, but Dolan says the rules kept changing;
— Lexis Olivier Ray, housing and justice reporter for L.A. Taco, a local media outlet, who has been covering the protests against police brutality spurred by the May 25 death of George Floyd in police custody. He has observed other journalists being detained and arrested for violating the curfew while covering the protests and fears he will be arrested while reporting on them; and
— Eric Stith, a software engineer who lives near Palmdale — miles from any civil unrest — who simply wishes to go outside at night.
After some curfews were lifted, Abdullah reemphasized the right to protest at any time.
“There was no curfew on the murder of George Floyd,” Abdullah said. “No arrests until we decried his merciless death, no statements of support until people flooded the streets around the world demanding justice. We have the right to march, we have the right to speak out, and not just on the government’s timetable.”
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