Documents Available as City of L.A., Charlie Beck Sued by Michael Brown Protesters, National Lawyers Guild, over November 2014 Rights Violations

April 2015 Death by Cop march in Westlake.  It's not what this lawsuit is about, but it's a good picture.
April 2015 Death by Cop march in Westlake. It’s not what this lawsuit is about, but it’s a good picture.
Yesterday night the Times reported that a suit was filed in federal court on January 14, 2016, on behalf of people, including NLG-LA lawyers there to observe, whose rights were violated by the LAPD in November 2014 during a protest against a Missouri grand jury’s failure to indict Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown. For whatever reason, newspaper articles like this never link to the court filings, which I, and maybe even you, find fascinating. On the face of it this case has nothing to do with BIDs, although it’s conceivable that a connection will develop,1 but I’m going to collect filings here anyway since I’m going to read them myself, so I might as well distribute them. I don’t plan to write much on them, but who knows? I set up a page to display them. It’s also reachable through the menu structure above. Right now the initial complaint is there and is well worth your time. There are some selections after the break:

This is what "kettling" looks like, according to Wikipedia.
This is what “kettling” looks like, according to Wikipedia.


This action arises out of the unlawful detention and arrest of approximately 170 individuals engaged in demonstrations at or near the intersection of Beverly and Alvarado Streets on November 24, 2014, and Sixth and Hope Streets on November 26, 2014. The police herded Plaintiffs as they marched, finally surrounding them and preventing them from moving forward on the sidewalk. By kettling the demonstrators, detaining, interrogating and searching them, and arresting those at Sixth and Hope without first issuing a lawful order to disperse, Defendants violated Plaintiffs’ rights under the U.S. and California constitution, as well as their statutory and common law rights.


Plaintiff Torie John Rivera is a resident of Los Angeles County and works in downtown Los Angeles. On November 26, 2014, Mr. Rivera was peaceably and lawfully participating in a protest in downtown Los Angeles in response to a grand jury decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Mr. Rivera, without notice or warning, was surrounded by police officers and kettled on the sidewalk at Sixth and Hope streets. Mr. Rivera was arrested and held for almost an entire day. No criminal charges were filed against Ms. Rivera. He sues as an individual and on behalf of a class of similarly situated individuals.


In addition, the NLG-LA has long advocated against unlawful surveillance of persons engaged in protected First Amendment activity, including the compilation of databases of participants in public protest. The NLG-LA suffered injury when the Defendants kettled the demonstrators, issued an unlawful and inadequate dispersal order, arrested them, denied them released on their own recognizance, and collected personal identifiers on individuals engaged in lawful First Amendment activity. On information and belief, the NLG-LA alleges that the LAPD used both individual officers and electronic equipment to collect personal information on those engaged in the protests in November 2014, including the use of a Stingray and similar electronic equipment to sweep up any cell phone numbers used at the time and in the vicinity of the protests. Defendants’ actions interfered with the NLG-LA’s right to assembly and speech. The NLG-LA plans to assist, plan, participate in, hold similar events in the future, on its own or in conjunction with others, and is fearful that the police actions of November, 2014, including the unlawful collection of information on those participating in First Amendment activity in public places, will be repeated absent injunctive relief to prohibit the practices, policies, and customs of the LAPD that resulted in the unlawful action against peaceful demonstrators on November 26, 2014 in downtown Los Angeles.


The majority of Plaintiffs were incarcerated for approximately 14 hours, despite the fact that they were entitled to release on their own recognizance (OR) pursuant to California Penal Code § 853.6. LAPD Lieutenant Andy Neiman was quoted in the media as saying all demonstrators who were unable to post bail would be held until they were able to appear in court early the following week. Commander Andy Smith told news media that while LAPD would typically release individuals with similar charges OR, “In this case, because these people are part of a protest that is continuing, they will not be released on their own recognizance.” After holding Plaintiffs for an extended period of time, they were finally released OR only because Chief Beck decided to let them go at that time. Penal Code § 853.6 imposes a mandatory requirement to release misdemeanor violators on their own recognizance either before or immediately after booking unless individualized probable cause exists to believe that one or more exceptions to the statute exists as a basis to deny OR release. There was no reasonable basis to believe that each and every one of the Plaintiffs came within any of these enumerated exceptions, but no individual assessment was made. The entire Plaintiff class was denied the individuals assessment of criminal liability that is the hallmark of due process and each had their liberty unlawfully restricted as a result of a deliberate decision by Defendant City to ignore the command of Penal Code § 853.6.

  1. Neither I nor my colleagues have had time to write about this, but if you read the minutes and the emails I’ve collected you’ll notice a theme of BID hostility towards protesters of all types. The LAPD notifies BID security of protest marches, the BIDs complain about them, check into the validity of their permits, photograph them, and so on. So if it comes out that BIDs were involved in suppressing this and/or other protests I wouldn’t be surprised. Furthermore, one of the causes of action involves LAPD surveillance of protesters. Given the scope of BID surveillance we’ve managed to document here, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if BIDs were sharing information about protesters with the LAPD.

Image of Death by Cop March is by Neon Tommy, is available here, and is released under the CC BY-SA 2.0. Image of kettling is via Wikimedia under the usual terms.

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