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Group Threatens to Sue Over Cancellation of Powell Party

A conservative legal group backing former Los Angeles police Officer Laurence M. Powell said Tuesday in Washington that it intends to file suit against the city of Los Angeles for interfering with its plans to hold a “welcome home” dinner upon Powell’s release from a halfway house next month.

The Virginia-based Legal Affairs Council accuses the city and the nonprofit Los Angeles Police Revolver and Athletic Club of violating the group’s First Amendment rights by canceling the Dec. 14 dinner for Powell, who was convicted of violating motorist Rodney G. King’s civil rights.

The Revolver and Athletic Club, located at the city-owned Police Academy, canceled the Powell event last week after growing pressure from community groups and politicians.

Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas was prepared to introduce a motion calling for an investigation of the city’s leasing arrangements with the Revolver and Athletic Club.

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Before Ridley-Thomas could act, the club’s board of directors decided it would be against the club’s best interests to hold the banquet at the Police Academy. The board said it “carefully considered the many issues raised by the sponsors of the banquet, the members of the Los Angeles City Council, the members of the Los Angeles Police Commission and its own members.”

Bruce E. Fein, attorney for the Legal Affairs Council, said the athletic club board of directors’ decision was precipitated by city pressure and interfered with Powell supporters’ freedom of expression. In his planned lawsuit, Fein says he intends to seek an injunction in federal court in the coming weeks that would allow the fund-raising dinner to go on.

“You can’t tell Laurence Powell’s supporters to go sit in the back of the bus just because you own the bus and don’t like our views,” said Legal Affairs Council President Richard A. Delgaudio. “Will the U.S. Constitution allow them to do this? I don’t think so.”


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