[Hpn] ACLU Letter of Protest to the City of LA - circulate please

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Mon, 21 Aug 2000 23:09:20 -0700 (PDT)

ACLU Letter of Protest to the City of LA and LAPD

Please circulate appropriately:

Below is a letter sent to the City Attorney this morning.

Dan Tokaji
Staff Attorney
ACLU So. Cal.

August 15, 2000


Debra L. Gonzales
Deputy City Attorney
200 North Main Street, Suite 1700
Los Angeles, California 90012

Re: SEIU Local 660 v. City of Los Angeles, CV 00-7119-GAF
    D2K Convention Planning Coalition v. Parks, CV 00-8556-DDP

Dear Ms. Gonzales:

 As you know, we represent the D2K Convention Planning Coalition and other
groups engaging in peaceful and protected speech around the Democratic
National Convention.  We write to express our outrage at the egregious
violations of basic civil rights committed by the Los Angeles Police
Department (LAPD) last night.  We demand an immediate meeting with you and
LAPD officials with decisionmaking authority, so that the police
lawlessness that the world witnessed last night is not repeated at the
other marches and rallies that will be taking place this week.

 The pretext for the LAPD's shutdown of the lawful, protected demonstration
that was taking place last night was apparently the actions of a few
individuals, throwing debris over the southern fence of the public assembly
area, and two young men sitting on top of this fence.  None of these people
were affiliated with D2K, and the rally's organizers made efforts to stop
them.  But instead of dealing with these few individuals, by citing or
arresting them, the LAPD decided to use this incident as an excuse to
commit blatant violations of the most basic constitutional rights.

 At approximately 8:00 p.m. -- an hour before the rally's scheduled
conclusion under its lawfully issued permit -- the LAPD unilaterally pulled
the plug on the entire event.  The LAPD did so even after rally organizers
had assured LAPD officials, including Lt. Fred Booker, that they would
voluntarily ask people to leave the public assembly area, but before the
organizers had had the opportunity to do so.  Without allowing rally
organizers peaceably to ask the crowd to disperse, the LAPD shut off the
power while music was being played on stage and -- in a scripted message --
improperly declared the entire event an unlawful assembly.

 Despite the LAPD's unlawful action in terminating the assembly, rally
organizers continued to attempt to cooperate with the police.  D2K
organizers encouraged those present to leave expeditiously, while at the
same time informing the LAPD officers on the scene that it would take some
time to clear the numerous people present from the public assembly area.

 The LAPD refused to wait.  Numerous LAPD mounted officers, in full riot
gear, chased demonstrators, media and, observers into the southern end of
the public assembly area.  Then, without warning, those officers chased the
frightened people to the north out of that area, swinging their batons with
their horses galloping after spectators.  At the same time, other officers
in riot gear fired upon others in the assembly who were desperately trying
to leave.  Numerous innocent spectators, including legal observers and at
least three members of our legal team, were struck with projectiles fired
from LAPD guns.  One of them, Professor Karl Manheim, was required to
obtain medical treatment at a local hospital for his LAPD-inflicted
injuries.  We do not yet know how many other people were injured, or how
seriously, by the LAPD's orchestrated assault.

 There is no conceivable justification for the LAPD's actions last night.
In shutting down this event, the LAPD violated D2K and its members' basic
constitutional right to assembly and expression under the First Amendment.
In clearing out the entire area through the use mounted police in riot gear
using pepper spray, rubber bullets, and batons -- and thereby injuring an
as yet untold number of people -- the LAPD has violated their right to be
free from the use of excessive force under the Fourth Amendment.  This is
undoubtedly only the tip of the iceberg.  We know, for example, that
numerous legal observers and members of the media were assaulted by LAPD
officers in riot gear last night as well.  The LAPD further violated the
constitutional rights of legal observers, by declaring a group of them
located on a sidewalk near Loyola Law School -- on Albany north of Olympic,
several blocks from the Staples Center -- an unlawful assembly and ordering
them to disperse, for no other reason than to eliminate witnesses to LAPD
misconduct. The LAPD's unlawful assembly orders also violate the settlement
agreement in the Vassos litigation, which requires the LAPD to narrowly
tailor such orders.

 The police misconduct witnessed last night cannot be tolerated in a
democratic society, especially outside one of the most important events in
the Nation's political life.  As you yourself stated to the Court just last
Friday, the First Amendment rights of protesters are every bit as essential
as the rights of those gathered inside the Staples Center.

 The LAPD has not merely failed to protect demonstrators' right to free
speech; it has run roughshod over them.  What happened last night was
nothing less than a premeditated police riot.  Two different federal judges
have already found the LAPD to have violated the First Amendment rights of
protesters at this Convention.  This is the LAPD's third strike.

 We must have assurances that the LAPD will not repeat its conduct of last
night at other events this week, and especially not at D2K's rally
scheduled for the last night of the Convention, August 17, 2000.  We demand
an immediate meeting and LAPD officials with decisionmaking authority.
Should you refuse to meet with us, we will have no choice but to move ex
parte for another order, preventing the LAPD from violating our clients'
First and Fourth Amendment rights.

     Sincerely yours,

     Daniel P. Tokaji
     ACLU Foundation of Southern California

     Carol A. Sobel
     Law Office of Carol A. Sobel

     Robert M. Myers

     Professor Karl Manheim
     Loyola Law School

                By: ________________________
      Daniel P. Tokaji


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