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Judge denies request to block LAPD from using batons, projectiles

City Hall reflected on the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters.
City Hall reflected on the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. (Photo by Nick Agro / For The Times)
(For The Times)

A federal judge has denied a request from Black Lives Matter - Los Angeles and other litigants that Los Angeles police be precluded from using batons and tactical projectiles on protesters pending the outcome of a lawsuit over the tactics.

U.S. Dist. Judge Conseulo B. Marshall ruled in an opinion dated Tuesday that the activists and protesters suing the LAPD did not demonstrate, as required, that they would be “likely to suffer irreparable harm” without the temporary restraining order they sought.

Although those suing “proffer evidence that they previously suffered irreparable harm while protesting and intend to continue those activities, the irreparable harm [they] allege rests on the assumption that more protests will lead to more constitutional violations,” Marshall wrote.

The city and LAPD, however, “offered undisputed evidence that protests have continued after June 3, 2020, but no mass arrests or use of kinetic projectiles and batons has occurred, which tends to dispel” the protesters’ theory, Marshall wrote.

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Black Lives Matter Los Angeles joined a coalition of other protesters and partners, including the local chapter of the National Lawyers Guild and the Los Angeles Community Action Network, in suing the LAPD for its protest tactics last month. They alleged police brutally suppressed legitimate protests using excessive force, seriously injuring many protesters and subjecting others to inhumane and unlawful detentions.

Thousands of people were arrested over the course of six nights in late May and early June amid protests and curfews — mirrored nationwide — over police killings of Black people, including George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The activists said they needed a restraining order to prevent the LAPD from using similar tactics at ongoing protests. They argued the threat of such tactics unfairly discouraged people from exercising their rights to free speech and assembly.

“The LAPD has used so-called rubber bullets and batons indiscriminately to disrupt and disperse protesters with many serious injuries resulting,” attorney Paul Hoffman wrote on behalf of those suing the LAPD. “The images of baton-wielding LAPD officers and protesters’ injuries unacceptably increase the cost of public participation in these important exercises of First Amendment rights.”

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City attorneys had called the request “unwarranted and overbroad,” citing subsequent protests that occurred without police using any force against protesters.

Carol Sobel, an attorney for the protesters, says Marshall’s ruling rejects the idea that police must be prevented from using such tactics and weapons on an emergency basis but does not end the effort to halt their use moving forward. A more permanent end to such tactics is a goal of the class-action lawsuit, she said, and could still be achieved through a different legal mechanism — an injunction.

“Nothing prevents us from moving for a preliminary injunction. Nothing prevents us from moving for a permanent injunction,” Sobel said. “And that is what we are going to do.”


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