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L.A. city attorney drops mandatory meetings for curfew violators

Protesters outside City Hall in Los Angeles
Protesters gather outside City Hall in Los Angeles to condemn the police killing of George Floyd.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles protesters arrested for violating curfews while demonstrating against the police killing of George Floyd won’t be prosecuted and now won’t have to attend meetings planned by City Atty. Mike Feuer.

After receiving pushback from activists and local Black Lives Matter leaders, Feuer dropped the strings attached to dismissing the cases. On Monday, he said protesters arrested for curfew violations would be required to attend “dialogues” or other events with law enforcement and community stakeholders designed to focus on police interactions, bias and other issues.

Some 2,500 people were arrested in L.A. alone for curfew violations and failure to disperse while protesting last week. Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey had already announced she would not charge any of those violators.

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“We evaluated a number of factors in deciding whether to make attendance at these events voluntary or mandatory for protesters who were arrested for these violations,” Feuer said. “On the one hand, for example, although I very much hope there is never a future need for another curfew in Los Angeles, if one is ever imposed, in whatever circumstances, it will be important that our residents take it seriously and comply with it.”

But, he said, “the factors weighing in favor of voluntary participation in our program were more compelling, particularly given how unprecedented — indeed, absolutely extraordinary — the events of the last two weeks have been.”

Feuer said the goal of these discussions is to promote meaningful change.

“If those arrested were required to attend as a necessary precondition to our office not filing a case, but then chose not to participate, they would be subject to prosecution. Those prosecutions could result in peaceful protesters having a criminal record, which is not an outcome I support — especially here, given the rights they were exercising at this crucial time.”

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He also said resources would be better used making the city safer, but he strongly encouraged those who were arrested to participate.

The decision by city law enforcement officials to not pursue criminal or financial penalties against protesters follows complaints by many of those arrested that they spent hours in plastic handcuffs crammed in buses without justification, leaving them with injuries and potentially exposing them to the coronavirus.

Many of those arrested were taken into custody on suspicion of either violating curfew rules or failing to disperse after the LAPD had declared their protest unlawful.

A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and Black Lives Matter L.A. claims the curfews illegally suppressed constitutionally protected protests and violated people’s freedom of movement. The organizations have also decried videos that show police officers responding with violence against protesters, including swinging batons and firing foam and sponge projectiles.

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Those advocates said the city’s new stance does not resolve all the concerns outlined in the lawsuit, and they urged that all cases be dismissed.


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