Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and other protesters filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Santa Monica this week for responding to mass demonstrations following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year.
The lawsuit, filed Monday for class action status, accuses Santa Monica city and police of using excessive force against protesters, arresting them without explanation and subjecting them to inhumane conditions while in custody.
It is also alleged that the department wrongly focused on peaceful protesters while ignoring people who broke into stores and committed other crimes nearby and used the emergency exit lock to clear the streets of legitimate protesters.
“By preventively banning peaceful gatherings, cutting down demonstrators, subjecting them to unlawful violence, arresting them and holding them tied to buses for hours with no access to toilets, water or food,” the city violated the protesters’ constitutional rights, the lawsuit claims .
Santa Monica spokeswoman Constance Farrell said the city is looking into the lawsuit but has no comment on her claims.
The lawsuit is similar to a class action lawsuit filed by Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles and other anti-Los Angeles protesters over the Los Angeles Police’s handling of protests in LA during the same period in late May and early June last year.
Floyd died in May 2020 after being arrested by Minneapolis police and nailed to the ground with one knee behind the back of his neck by former detective Derek Chauvin, who was recently convicted of murder and sentenced to 22½ years in prison.
Floyd’s murder sparked protests across the country and around the world, and tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in the LA area to voice their outrage. Some protesters spiraled out of control in downtown LA, the Fairfax District, Santa Monica and other areas as riot geared police skirmishes against protesters and others in the crowd broke into shops and started fires.
Curfews were imposed across the region, the National Guard was called in, the police made thousands of arrests and used projectile weapons to clear the streets.
Many boutiques and stores were broken into in Santa Monica, where most of the riot occurred on May 31st. The city counted 178 cases of “looting” of non-residential buildings, 49 incidents of vandalism, 10 assaults on officials, 18 damaged police cars, 12 arson, 17 serious assaults and nine break-ins in connection with the unrest that day.
On October 21, just days before her retirement, then Santa Monica Police Chief Cynthia Renaud – also a named defendant in the new case – wrote in a letter to the community that the department was “resourced and trained to deal with protests ”. and seditious activities that might break out within this protest ”were however unwilling to deal with a third and simultaneous component: the organized criminals.
“Massive groups of extremely organized individuals unrelated to the protests, highly mobile, well-coordinated looting in multiple locations across the city,” and “taxing the ministry’s resources in the first hours of its instigation,” wrote Renaud.
Amid the chaos, police made hundreds of arrests, many for curfew violations rather than serious crimes such as burglary or arson.
In its lawsuit, Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles alleges that the Santa Monica Police Department and other police officers who invaded the city through mutual aid agreements with the department abused their power by indiscriminately arresting people just for being outside Even when people who identified themselves as greater threats to the community were not followed up and even though many of the people outside had been surprised by a curfew that was postponed for hours without their knowledge.
The lawsuit contains reports from several demonstrators.
David Brown, a Santa Monica resident, claims he peacefully protested when he was arrested on the street and beaten with batons. He claims he was taken to a makeshift jail at Santa Monica Airport and left in a cell with no access to food, water or a toilet for hours – then cited for a curfew and drove to LA, where officers told him that he should not re-enter Santa Monica even though she lives there.
“Mr. Brown wants to be able to protest peacefully in the city in the future without having to worry or fear that he will be arrested again, especially by being in the city where he lives,” the lawsuit said.
Another protester, Kerry Hogan, claims she protested peacefully on her knees, unaware that the curfew had been postponed for several hours, when someone threw a water bottle at the officers and the officers opened fire on the crowd with projectiles hit her in the chest when she got up to leave.
“The law enforcement agency’s reaction was immediate and unjustified and fired” [projectiles] Indiscriminately included in the group of demonstrators, although a single person threw a bottle and although the demonstrators as a group did not pose an immediate threat of violence, ”the lawsuit said.
As with its case against the city of LA, Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles brought the Santa Monica lawsuit in part because federal court intervened and prevented the Santa Monica police from operating in a similar fashion on future protests.
“The BMLLA intends to support, plan, attend and conduct similar events in the future, alone or in conjunction with others, and fears that the same illegal police actions will be repeated without a preliminary injunction in response to protests against institutional racism and police brutality.” Declaratory action to prohibit the practices, policies and customs that caused the illegal act in response to recent protests, ”the lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit also alleges that Renaud’s mistreatment of the protest caused her to leave the division, alleging that the division and Renaud “failed to establish the necessary guidelines and train officials in lawful responses to peaceful protests”.