LOS ANGELES - The ACLU of Southern California sent a letter today to the Los Angeles Police Department demanding that it immediately stop the harassment of protesters at their organizing headquarters, the Convergence Center. The ACLU, joined by private attorneys Carol Sobel, Robert Myers, and Karl Mannheim, the Midnight Special Law Collective, the Working People's Law Center, and the National Lawyers Guild, sent the letter on behalf of the Community Arts Network, the D2K Convention Planing Coalition, and the Rise Up/Direct Action Network. The groups have been using a four-story building at 1919 W. Seventh St. in Los Angeles to prepare for the Democratic National Convention.
The letter cites numerous instances of harassment, including surveillance, selective enforcement of traffic laws near the Convergence Center, and police visits without warrants.
"The LAPD is once again engaged in a dangerous game," said Dan Tokaji, staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California, "They've crossed the line separating legitimate security preparations from unlawful harassment that violates protesters' First and Fourth Amendment rights. The mere potential for a disturbance does not justify the suspension of our Constitutional rights."
"Throughout the process of planning for this convention, the LAPD has pursued an unswerving course of alarmism, division, and fear-mongering," said Ramona Ripston, Executive Director of the ACLU of Southern California. "The tactics of intimidation and harassment targeting protesters at their organizing center are part of that approach. At each fork in the road during this process, the LAPD has had choices -- unfortunately, the department has too often chosen to lay the groundwork for a confrontation rather than build the framework for a peaceful convention. They envision another Seattle and their every action unintentionally contributes to just such a scenario."
"Harassment, surveillance, and 'visits' without any purpose and without a warrant create an environment that is ultimately hostile to free speech," said Tokaji. "These actions are intended to inspire fear and, as far as they succeed in doing that, they also put a chilling effect on speech."
The ACLU of Southern California has requested a satisfactory reply to its letter by August 9, 2000; without which, it will seek a temporary restraining order on August 10.