ORANGE, Calif. - In response to the silencing, arrest and beating of a local resident during a January city council meeting, the ACLU of Southern California and the Law Offices of B. Kwaku Duren filed a lawsuit against the city of Costa Mesa today.
ACLU/SC staff attorney Belinda Escobosa Helzer filed the lawsuit on behalf of Coyotl Tezcatlipoca, who at a Jan. 3 city council meeting was abruptly silenced by Costa Mesa Mayor Allan Mansoor half way through his allotted time for public comment. Tezcatlipoca, who also goes by Benito Acosta, was then immediately surrounded by several police officers, dragged out of the meeting room, beaten, arrested and later - while still in custody - taken to the hospital for treatment.
'We are deeply troubled by what happened in January. Our elected officials owe it to their constituents to hear all perspectives and discuss all potential problems or benefits on every topic and not curtail debate,' said Escobosa Helzer, an attorney in the ACLU/SC's Orange County office. 'We filed this lawsuit to help ensure that the Costa Mesa government maintains a forum for all types of discussion and debate and that residents do not fear that if they are opposed to something they will be arrested and beaten for speaking their mind.'
Tezcatlipoca attended the January meeting and was selected to speak as a representative by more than 100 people also attending the meeting in opposition to a plan that would allow law enforcement officials to enforce federal civil immigration law in Costa Mesa.
"I believe that no one should be punished for speaking their mind," Tezcatlipoca said. "I wanted to speak at the city council meeting because this proposal will send shockwaves through the community if it is implemented.
'It is important that I speak up about what happened so that it does not become more common. It's painful to talk about what happened to me, but I don't want this rough, unfair treatment to scare people into not speaking out about this proposal or anything else,' Tezcatlipoca continued.
Escobosa Helzer, who has been monitoring the Orange County proposals, says despite overwhelming public opposition, Orange County and the city of Costa Mesa are slated to enter into an agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The Costa Mesa City Council agreed to allow the city police to enforce federal immigration law and become a part of Orange County Sheriff Michael Carona's October proposal, which has yet to be approved by the County Board of Supervisors.
'Residents have major concerns about the proposal and the ACLU has opposed it as well, but what's at stake is far more fundamental. We filed this lawsuit because a fair and equitable process by which people can raise legitimate concerns in Costa Mesa is in jeopardy,' she said.