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ACLU SoCal Communications & Media Advocacy,, 213-977-5252 

August 24, 2023

Pomona is enforcing an unconstitutional sign ordinance against public art. 

LOS ANGELES – Gente Organizada, a community-led non-profit, displays on its public-facing exterior walls pieces of art that say "end institutional violence" and “defund Pomona police.”  

The City of Pomona, in a violation of the group's First Amendment right to free speech, has inappropriately cited and fined the organization under its zoning ordinance—an ordinance that is also clearly unconstitutional.  

This week, Gente Organizada, represented by the ACLU Foundation of Southern California and Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP, sued Pomona for its clear and gross violation of the group's right to free speech.  

“The art and messaging they are trying to erase was a youth-led collaborative effort by Black, Indigenous, and Latinx organizers and artists,” said Jesús Sanchez, co-founder and economic justice director of Gente Organizada. “The City of Pomona is attempting to block our right to free speech, they have threatened our youth center, and have weaponized city code so we cannot exercise our right to artistic expression.”

Gente Organizada displays three pieces of art on its youth center that convey political messages: (1) an image that imitates a roll of film that includes photographs of protests against biased policing; (2) an image of a group of individuals marching with a sign that reads “defund Pomona police”; and (3) an image of some of the group's community partners alongside the message “end institutional violence.” The building also displays a painted sign that includes the group's name and its role as: “A home for: community organizing, youth & parent leadership, wellness, education & arts programs.”   

“Free speech is the bedrock of our Constitution and includes the right to display public art that calls for the reallocation of city resources away from police departments,” said Alyssa Morones, legal fellow at the ACLU SoCal.  “Pomona’s actions constitute an obvious violation of fundamental constitutional rights and the effect in this case is to silence members of the public who wish to communicate messages with which city officials disagree.”  

The decision to cite and fine was erroneously upheld in an administrative hearing conducted by the city.   

“We’re proud to work with the ACLU and Gente Organizada on this important case defending the Constitutional right to free speech and free expression,” said Andrea Feathers, associate at Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP

The suit challenges the city's sign ordinance in its entirety and asks that the court dismiss the citation against Gente Organizada and require the city to repay the group for unconstitutionally administered fines.  

See the following links for images of the art (please attribute to Gente Organizada): Image 1, Image 2, Image 3

Read the complaint: