LAPD critic sues city alleging retaliation when she was arrested during 2014 downtown protests

Jasmyne Cannick speaks during a news conference with Black Lives Matter Los Angeles activists in July.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

A political consultant and writer who has written highly critical stories about commanders in the Los Angeles Police Department has filed a lawsuit accusing the agency of violating her civil rights when she was arrested during a protest against killings by police in 2014.

Jasmyne Cannick’s attorneys filed the lawsuit Friday, alleging that she was taken into custody as payback for stories she wrote that embarrassed the LAPD.

Cannick was one of about 150 people detained during late-night protests in downtown L.A. on Nov. 26, 2014, for allegedly failing to disperse. Protesters were marching through downtown after a grand jury in Ferguson, Mo., declined to prosecute a white police officer who had fatally shot an unarmed black teenager, a decision that set off nationwide demonstrations.


Cannick alleges that the police allowed other reporters to leave the area of 6th and Hope streets after identifying themselves as journalists covering the protests, but when she attempted to do the same, she was stopped from leaving. She was subsequently handcuffed, arrested and searched.

Police Chief Charlie Beck was at the scene of her arrest and made eye contact with her when she was being detained, her lawsuit alleges. Beck is named as a defendant in the suit.

Robert Stanford Brown, one of Cannick’s attorneys, said Beck allowed the arrest because he was upset about her stories on her website, including one in which she revealed that the LAPD had purchased a horse from Beck’s daughter.

“She has written some very embarrassing material about the leadership of the LAPD,” Brown said.

Josh Rubenstein, the department’s public information director, said he could not comment on pending litigation.

According to a police report on the incident, LAPD Sgt. Raul Pedroza recognized Cannick and said she appeared to be leading protesters who were trying to push through a police skirmish line. Pedroza told protesters to “get back,” but Cannick stepped towards officers, the report said.

Cannick says she was not protesting and identified herself to police as a journalist when she attempted to leave.

“None of what the department said is true. I identified myself clearly,” Cannick told The Times on Tuesday. “The department gets creative when they go after you.”

During several days of protests, the LAPD arrested 327 people. Cannick was one of only 27 people who were prosecuted. The city attorney’s office charged her with three misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest but dropped the charges a year later.

A city attorney’s spokesman said the case was dropped because of “insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction” after assessing all the evidence, including witness accounts. Spokesman Rob Wilcox declined to elaborate Tuesday, citing the pending litigation.

Cannick’s lawsuit accuses the city of violating her rights to free speech, wrongfully arresting her and intentionally inflicting emotional distress.

“She was arrested with Chief Beck right there. This is retaliation and selective prosecution,” said Nana Gyamfi, another Cannick attorney.

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