Local prosecutors Monday are expected to outline how they will handle the cases of thousands of people who were arrested for curfew violations during recent mass protests against police brutality prompted by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer issued a statement over the weekend saying curfew violators will likely not face traditional prosecution, assuming they committed no other crimes. Details are expected to be released sometime Monday.
“I strongly believe in the value of peaceful protest, and this vital cause deserves the urgent attention of all Americans,” Feuer said Saturday. “Consistent with these values, last week we began developing an approach, outside of the courts, to address curfew violation matters. As we’ve done with previous protest cases, it will be designed to be productive, rather than punitive. I’ll offer more details early next week.”
The decision follows complaints by some of those arrested that they spent hours in plastic handcuffs in crammed buses without justification, leaving them with injuries and potentially exposing them to the coronavirus. A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and Black Lives Matter L.A. claims the curfews illegally suppressed constitutionally protected protests and violated people’s freedom of movement.
The day after the lawsuit was filed last week, Los Angeles County and most Southland cities stopped imposing curfews, saying the protest marches had become noticeably more peaceful, absent the violence and looting that marred some of the gatherings early on.
An ACLU attorney said Feuer’s decision to seek an alternative to prosecution for curfew violators does not resolve all the concerns outlined in the lawsuit, saying all charges against them should simply be dropped.
“Given what we have seen this week with respect to how LAPD enforced the curfew — the many videos and news reports of excessive force and ambush tactics — any move by the city attorney to force people to defend themselves against curfew charges would be tantamount to sanctioning police repression,” said Adrienna Wong, senior staff attorney at the ACLU.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore told The Times the process for handling those arrested for curfew violations will focus on educating those arrested on the legal rationale for curfew and dispersal orders, “so that people are more equipped to understand their responsibilities should they find themselves in a similar situation in the future.”
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, whose office would handle curfew violations in parts of the county without their own local prosecutor’s office, said her office is “not going to pursue” curfew cases. She said that she supports the First Amendment and that her office has more important cases to pursue.
Funeral services are being held Monday in Houston for Floyd — who died after being pinned to the ground by a white Minneapolis police officer who placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
In the Southland, four funeral-like processions were being held in honor of Floyd, beginning in South Los Angeles, Long Beach, Reseda and Orange County. The four processions will make their way to downtown Los Angeles, where they will converge for a midday gathering at First Street and Broadway.
Other marches and gatherings are planned across the area.
Tens of thousands of Angelenos took to the streets Sunday to denounce racism and police brutality, with more than a dozen countywide demonstrations tied to the deaths of George Floyd, killed by police on a Minneapolis street, and Breonna Taylor, in her Louisville apartment.
One Hollywood protest drew a massive crowd — “A triumph for the 1st Amendment,” Los Angeles police Captain Steve Lurie, commander of the Hollywood area tweeted. “Today @LAPDHollywood hosted more than 50,000 demonstrators who peacefully marched and spoke out! No arrests, no use of force, and no issues reported.”
Sunday evening, an estimated crowd of about 20,000 peacefully marched west on Hollywood Boulevard from Highland Avenue in Hollywood, according to Los Angeles police and media reports from the scene. Marchers were still moving as of 7 p.m. and most appeared to be wearing face masks, although social distancing did not appear to be observed.
Other gatherings were held in downtown Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Compton, East Los Angeles and Beverly Hills.
National Guard troops that had been deployed to the Los Angeles in the early days of the marches to help control violence and looting, began leaving the area Sunday night. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said a small number of units “will be stationed nearby until June 10 to provide emergency support” if needed.
`We thank the members of the Guard for their willingness to serve to ensure the safety of demonstrators, businesses, residents and everyone in our city, Garcetti said.”
Although local prosecutors are considering alternative methods for handling curfew violators, people arrested for more serious crimes still face potential prosecution.
Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for Feuer, told The Times the city attorney’s office had received at least 30 looting cases from police. The Los Angeles Police Department has formed a task force with other agencies, including the FBI and Santa Monica Police Department, to collect evidence and pursue additional charges as well.
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