The Los Angeles Police Department confirmed Thursday it is putting its 37-millimeter projectile launchers back in service at public protests after a federal judge revised a previous order restricting use of the so-called less lethal weapons.
U.S. District Judge Consuelo Marshall’s original order halted the LAPD’s use of the 40mm and 37mm weapons in public demonstrations except when deployed by officers that are properly trained. She also restricted police from aiming the weapons at the upper bodies of demonstrators at close range within 5 feet.
The judge further ordered that the LAPD must give a verbal warning to disperse, consistent with the department’s use-of-force directive, and allow protesters a reasonable opportunity to comply before deploying the launchers except when an officer is attacked.
LAPD then announced it to would immediately comply, and city attorneys then requested that Marshall modify her order ahead of anticipated May Day protests.
On Wednesday, the judge revised her restraining order, allowing police to fire 37mm hard-foam projectiles at the ground in front of protesters after declaring a gathering unlawful and issuing a dispersal order. The weapons must only be deployed by trained officers, and the launchers cannot be used against demonstrators except when an officer is under attack.
An LAPD spokeswoman confirmed Thursday that LAPD had lifted its moratorium on the use of 37mm projectile launchers under the judge’s conditions.
The initial order came after Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles filed a request for a temporary restraining order against the LAPD as a result of a March 25 protest in Echo Park and a March 13 demonstration in Hollywood in which police and protesters clashed and a member of the press was struck by a projectile and knocked out, suffering a concussion, according to court documents.
Deputy City Attorney Gabriel Dermer argued in court Friday that parts of the order were “overbroad” and caused “more harm than good” because it treated both the 40mm and 37mm as crowd control devices, while only the 37mm is used in that capacity while the 40mm is used against a specific person who “is violently resisting arrest or poses an immediate threat of violence.”
The city requested that the order be modified to allow the 37mm devices to be used in crowd control situations “when subjects in a crowd are violently resisting a lawful order to disperse or pose a threat of violence or physical harm,” in line with the department’s policies regarding that launcher. It also requested the 40mm launchers be allowed against specific people “violently resisting arrest” or posing a threat of violence, which the judge granted.
Dermer said the city wanted the order to be modified before Saturday, when the department is anticipating May Day protests which typically happen around the world. He noted that if the department doesn’t have the 37mm launcher as a crowd control tool, officers may “have to go hand-to-hand or use batons or something (that) would potentially create more havoc.”
Marshall asked Dermer if the department was expecting violence during May Day protests. The plaintiff’s lawyer Carol Sobel noted that May Day protests haven’t caused issues in Los Angeles since 2007 in MacArthur Park.
Marshall requested that BLM-LA and city officials meet to come up with language that they both agree on for a modified order.
BLM-LA is suing the LAPD over its handling of the 2020 protests, alleging that police brutalized protesters with hard foam bullets and batons and trampled on their rights. A preliminary injunction hearing is scheduled for Monday in Los Angeles federal court.