Free-speech activists filed a civil rights lawsuit Tuesday against companies owned by Rick Caruso that oversee the Grove, alleging the shopping center’s management is trying to limit criticisms of the mayoral candidate’s policies.
Caruso, a billionaire real estate developer running for mayor of Los Angeles, has his campaign headquartered at the shopping center, which has also been the site of numerous public events promoting his candidacy, according to the Los Angeles Superior Court suit brought against Caruso Management Co. Ltd. and GMF LLC, alleging violations of the state Constitution.
The lawsuit’s plaintiffs — Gina Viola, Sim Bilal and Youth Climate Strike Los Angeles — in contrast were denied permission by Grove management to hold small-scale marches through the center’s public access ways earlier this month, according to the suit, which seeks injunctive relief permitting criticisms of Caruso’s campaign positions on the Fairfax District property.
An attorney for Caruso did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
While Grove employees continue to distribute signs promoting Caruso’s campaign to mall visitors and allow them to march around the mall holding up the signs, any demonstrations critical of the businessman’s campaign platform are banned, according to the suit.
“It’s becoming a familiar story,” plaintiffs’ attorney Matthew Strugar said in a statement. “A billionaire developer enters politics and celebrates people who praise him while trying to shut down those who criticize him.”
Viola is an organizer with the LAPC Fails Coalition, a group critical of the Los Angeles Police Commission’s response to police violence in Los Angeles. Caruso is a former commission president.
Viola ran against Caruso in the mayoral primary, wining nearly 7% of the vote.
Bilal is an organizer with Youth Climate Strike Los Angeles, a group that focuses on climate change and the environment.