LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Top Los Angeles law enforcement officials say they will not pursue criminal or financial penalties against protesters who have been detained, it was reported today.
The decision follows complaints by many 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, the Los Angeles Times reported. Many of those were taken into custody last week for either violating curfew rules or failing to disperse after the LAPD had declared their protest unlawful.
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 organizations have also decried videos that show police officers responding with violence against protesters, swinging batons and firing foam and sponge projectiles.
Those advocates said the city's new stance does not resolve all the concerns outlined in the lawsuit. They added that officials shouldn't waffle on repercussions but rather dismiss the charges immediately.
“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.
Though city officials said those protesters won't face criminal charges, it remains unclear how authorities plan to resolve their cases, according to The Times. City Attorney Mike Feuer said the process will be “nonpunitive'' and “outside of the courts,'' and Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said officials are leaning toward leniency for anyone not suspected of vandalism.
Moore said the process 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.''
Moore and Feuer declined to elaborate but said more information would be available today.
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 1st Amendment and that her office has more important cases to pursue.
A group called #HistoricCore announced a memorial service for Floyd at noon Monday at First Street and Broadway in Downtown L.A., with more protests starting as early as 11:30 a.m. at multiple locations.
Police and prosecutors are still pursuing cases against individuals accused of serious crimes. Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for Feuer, said 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.
Moore said that although the National Guard was leaving the city Sunday, about 250 personnel would remain on standby at a nearby military facility.
The police chief said the LAPD is also beginning to demobilize. About half of the officers on the force would have their first days off in a week on Monday and Tuesday, and the other half on Wednesday and Thursday, he said.
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.
In downtown Los Angeles, a group of protesters estimated at between 150 and 300 by police demonstrated outside the steps of City Hall on Spring Street. Those numbers varied throughout the day at City Hall and Grand Park.
In West Hollywood, demonstrators marched south on La Brea Avenue and headed west on Santa Monica Boulevard Sunday evening, according to the sheriff's department.
Earlier that afternoon, a caravan of vehicles from the Hispanic and black communities drove through Compton on the way to downtown L.A. and the headquarters of the Los Angeles Police Department.
In another part of Compton, a handful of demonstrators dubbed the “Compton Cowboys'' rode horses to show their support.
In Beverly Hills, what that city's police department described as a peaceful bicycle protest moved through the city, headed westbound on Santa Monica.
In East Los Angeles, demonstrators gathered peacefully at Mariachi Plaza.
National Guard troops, meanwhile, were leaving the Los Angeles area Sunday evening, eight days after being deployed to assist in managing protests and looting, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced.
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.
Garcetti called for the National Guard on May 30 after heated protests in the Fairfax District that ended with some burglaries and thefts by people police believe were not associated with widespread demonstrations against racism and police brutality.
Also, effective Sunday, Pasadena police Chief John Perez suspended the use of carotid-restraint controls by Pasadena officers, the department reported. The department's use-of-force experts say they are exploring alternative techniques and options for confrontations with dangerous or violent suspects.
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