Nearly 40 people arrested last May while protesting the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police are suing Los Angeles County and three Southland cities, alleging many were harassed through various means, surrounded during processing by maskless officers and at times forced to urinate on themselves.
“Despite the plain language protection granted through federal and state constitutions alike, the defendants city of Los Angeles, county of Los Angeles, city of Santa Monica, city of Beverly Hills and other municipalities throughout California have taken direct action to silence the voices of the oppressed,” the suit alleges.
The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit was filed Friday by several attorneys and alleges civil rights violations, assault and battery, negligence, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The plaintiffs seek unspecified damages and civil penalties.
A representative for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office could not be immediately reached.
According to the suit, many of the plaintiffs were rounded up, separated by perceived gender, placed on buses and driven to undisclosed locations.
“Additionally, some of defendants’ transport buses unwittingly carried plaintiffs to the Los Angeles National Cemetery,” the suit states. “This location was used to harass, intimidate and cause the intentional infliction of emotional distress to those arrested for peacefully protesting the systemic mistreatment of people of color.”
While in custody, the plaintiffs were routinely denied food, water, access to bathrooms and in some cases contacts with lawyers despite repeated requests, the suit states.
“Plaintiffs were forced to urinate on themselves after hours of unlawful detainment, causing severe emotional distress and humiliation,” the complaint alleges.
The police “instituted systematic efforts of torture and ridicule throughout plaintiffs’ detention” that included playing music such as “Africa” by Toto and Bad Religion’s “Los Angeles is Burning” in order to interfere with the plaintiffs’ ability to post videos of their treatment, according to the lawsuit.
Additionally, many plaintiffs were intentionally left in close quarters with officers who were not wearing masks, the suit says. Social distancing and sanitation guidelines were ignored and the zip-tied protesters were unable to adjust their fallen masks, the suit alleges.
“As such, defendants weaponized the COVID-19 virus as punishment for the expression of truthful speech,” the complaint alleges.