Curfews in L.A. City and County, and City of San Bernardino cited in the lawsuit
LOS ANGELES — Today, the ACLU Foundation of Southern California filed an emergency lawsuit on behalf of Black Lives Matter - Los Angeles (BLM-LA) and individual journalists, protesters, and other individuals — the suit challenges the draconian curfews imposed throughout Southern California to crack down on widespread protests against systemic police violence towards Black people.
The curfews’ extraordinary suppression of all political protest in the evening hours plainly violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and their blanket restrictions on movement outside working hours violate the Constitution’s protection of freedom of movement.
“The City and County of Los Angeles are attempting to use these curfews to suppress Black Lives Matter – L.A.’s right to protest,” said Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of BLM-L.A. “They are attempting to suppress our ability to fully mobilize and focus full attention on the true issue of concern in the protests — police violence against Black people.”
The curfews have also prohibited a massive swath of entirely innocuous activity, including grocery shopping, recreational activities, visiting loved ones, and in some cases even seeking medical treatment.
And they have made it extremely difficult for many journalists — already under siege by police at rallies — from being able to fully report their stories.
In Los Angeles, county-wide curfews were declared Sunday night and every night since then. Even a member of the county board of supervisors, Janice Hahn, has questioned the need for them to have continued.
“I believe the curfews in L.A. County were needed Sunday night and Monday night,” Hahn tweeted Wednesday. “But now it seems like they are being used to arrest peaceful protesters.”
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles by the ACLU SoCal on behalf of BLM-LA and individual plaintiffs, including:
- Student Kimberly Beltran Villalobos, cited for curfew violations in both unincorporated L.A. County, where she lives, and in downtown L.A., where she was peacefully protesting. One citation came when she was simply moving her car near her home to avoid a parking ticket.
- Tom Dolan of San Bernardino, executive director of Inland Congregations United for Change. He was leading students in a peaceful protest that tried to follow the curfew rules, but the rules kept changing.
- Lexis Olivier Ray, housing and justice reporter for L.A. Taco, a local media outlet, who has been covering the protests against police brutality spurred by the murder of George Floyd. He has observed other journalists being detained and arrested for violating the curfew while covering the protests and fears he will be arrested while reporting on them.
- Eric Stith, a software engineer who lives near Palmdale — miles from any civil unrest — who simply wishes to go outside at night.
It has become increasingly clear that law enforcement officials are not just controlling crowds, but also suppressing speech. L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told reporters that the L.A. County curfew will remain in force “until the organized protests are gone.”
Ahilan Arulanantham, senior counsel of the ACLU SoCal, said, “These unconstitutional curfews have suppressed a huge amount of important political protest activity and disrupted the lives of over 10 million people. The curfews must end now.”
The defendants in the lawsuit include:
- Eric Garcetti, mayor of Los Angeles
- Michel Moore, chief of Los Angeles Police Department
- Alex Villanueva, sheriff of Los Angeles County
- Eric McBride, chief of San Bernardino Police Department
Read the lawsuit here: https://www.aclusocal.org/sites/default/files/aclu_socal_blm_20200603_complaint.pdf