Judge Denies Emergency Request to Halt LASD's Crowd-Control Tactics


LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A federal judge has denied an urgent request by protesters suing the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department to put an immediate stop to the “indiscriminate'' use of rubber bullets, pepper spray and other crowd control tactics during demonstrations, according to court papers obtained today.

“Although the court is deeply disturbed by the allegations regarding defendants' use of force against peaceful protesters, legal observers, and journalists, it has determined that it would benefit from a more orderly presentation of the facts and legal issues than is possible in the context of a (temporary restraining order) application,'' U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee wrote in Thursday's order.

The proposed class-action suit filed in August alleges the mass detention of more than 2,600 demonstrators in downtown Los Angeles in May and June was a violation of their rights under the U.S. and California constitutions. The suit mirrored a similar complaint brought in June on behalf of Black Lives Matter-LA.

The request for a TRO was made last month, seeking to enjoin LASD from the “indiscriminate'' use of “less-lethal'' projectiles on crowds of demonstrators if there is no immediate threat and no order to disperse with time to comply. The application also sought to have the judge halt the use of chemical agents or irritants to disperse or control crowds without adequate warnings and time to comply.

The lawsuit contends that on at least three occasions -- in Grand Park on May 30, near Pan Pacific Park on June 2, and in Compton on June 21 -- sheriff's deputies imposed arbitrary curfews, declared unlawful assemblies without ensuring that their order was heard, subjected peaceful protesters to excessive detention without access to bathrooms or medical care and used “indiscriminate and unreasonable force'' against protesters, including batons and rubber bullets.

“The consistent, frightening and forceful message that both the LAPD and the LASD have delivered to protesters in recent months is that the constitutional right to peaceably assemble as enshrined in the First Amendment will not stop the law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles County from unleashing rough, indiscriminate violence and dangerous, retaliatory abuses of the powers vested in them,'' the suit alleges.

The plaintiffs further allege that law enforcement targeted “people of color, especially Black people.''

The lawsuit seeks to represent two classes of protesters whose rights of free speech and assembly were allegedly violated by the LASD -- those who were arrested, and those who were allegedly subjected to excessive force through the use of so-called “less-lethal'' weapons, including batons, rubber bullets, pepper balls and tear gas “used indiscriminately against those engaged in peaceful protest.''

According to the suit, LASD acknowledged that the department's “widespread involvement in the May/June protests resulted in deputies firing a sufficient amount of non-lethal ammunition to warrant a resupply to the Sheriff's Department.''

The complaint also alleges that LASD buses were used to detain protesters “under unconstitutional conditions.''

Demonstrators' “wrists were bound in zip-tie restraints in a manner tight enough to leave lasting marks and injuries,'' according to the filing. “LASD then transported protesters to far-away locations and released them in the middle of the night, while Sheriff (Alex) Villanueva's own curfew was in effect. While they were detained on the buses, LASD did not provide protesters water or access to bathroom facilities, despite their repeated complaints.''

Photo: Getty Images

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