Attorneys representing a group called Truth Love Justice said their clients began filing claims for damages Thursday against Los Angeles and its police department regarding the arrests and treatment of protesters from May 30 to June 3.
The protesters participated in demonstrations against police brutality during that time, which were spurred by the May 25 death of George Floyd, killed by Minneapolis police officers and a subsequent video shared widespread on social media of him saying, “I can’t breathe,” before he died.
Attorneys John Carpenter and Sara Azari said they will pursue other claims on behalf of protesters arrested for failing to disperse or breaking curfew.
“The path to justice begins with the truth,” Carpenter said. “When the government enacts and enforces an illegal curfew to infringe on an individual’s expression of the truth, it creates a tool of oppression to benefit those peddling a false narrative and undermines the foundation of our society.
“The voices of people begging for justice have been unlawfully silenced. Even in its wake, the chill of the illegal curfew persists. While its damage has been done, it must never be done again.”
Truth Love Justice representatives said they have also filed claims on behalf of dozens of protesters, including actress Jaime King, who were arrested in Santa Monica and within the county of Los Angeles during that time.
“The curfews were illegal and a direct violation of these protesters’ First Amendment right to assembly and to free speech,” Azari said. “These protesters are warriors seeking systemic change, a cornerstone of which is criminal justice reform, and yet, we had cities criminalizing … thousands of individuals. It was wrong and it was unconstitutional.”
A claim filed Thursday, according to Truth Love Justice, alleged that despite protections granted through federal and state constitutions, Los Angeles and many other municipalities throughout California took “direct action to silence” the protesters.
Claims are filed against a government entity as a precursor to a lawsuit.
The claim alleges rights of individuals’ under the First, Fifth, Ninth and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution were infringed when they were arrested.
“We will review the claim and we have no further comment at this time,” said Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office.
Dozens of protesters were charged with misdemeanor crimes for failing to obey curfew orders and/or failing to disperse, the Truth Love Justice attorneys said.
According to the attorneys, the protesters were treated “inhumanely, driven around in buses for hours, restrained and unable to use the bathroom, harassed and subjected to COVID-19 exposure amid a pandemic.”
The cities of Los Angeles and Santa Monica and the Los Angeles County District Attorney have agreed not to pursue charges against the peaceful protesters, but Truth Love Justice said because of the way in which protesters were treated, they are now seeking restitution.
The attorneys said the Los Angeles Police Department performed “kettling” tactics, in which protesters attempted to disperse prior to the curfew’s enforcement but were directed down winding paths and corralled into an inescapable crowd.
Boxed-in by officers clad in riot gear and wielding batons, using rubber-cased bullets, tear gas, flashbang grenades and sound cannons went after peaceful protesters who were “attacked, mobbed and unlawfully detained and arrested,” the complaint stated.
Attorneys said they are seeking damages for the protesters and “accountability for the city officials and entities behind the unlawful curfews.” The attorneys said they believe their clients are entitled to statutory civil penalties and attorney’s fees for having their Constitutional rights violated.
The attorneys said they, through Truth Love Justice, will be pursuing claims for all protesters, not limited to just those who were injured.
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