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LA police issued restraining order from headquarters of DNC protests

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- A federal judge Friday issued a temporary restraining order that bars Los Angeles police from the headquarters of protesters who plan demonstrations during next week's Democratic National Convention unless they have a search warrant.

U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson's ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of protest groups D2KLA, the Direct Action Network and the Los Angeles Coalition to Stop the Execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal, as well as the National Lawyers Guild.

The lawsuit alleged the police were unlawful in the surveillance of people at the center, copying their license plates as they entered and exited the four-story building on the outskirts of the downtown area, about two miles from the Staples Center, where the Democrats' convention is to begin Monday.

"We have a huge victory here today," said Cindy Fighting, an organizer with Direct Action Network, an umbrella group for protesters rallying on behalf of a variety of causes.

"The law is the remedy for this," Fighting said. "The problem is they (the police) are not following their own law."

Other incidents at the protesters' headquarters have included police arrests of people for jaywalking in front of the building and pushing people against the wall, Fighting said.

"Our puppets and literature cannot be seized and based on our deposition, it is clear that the police have been violating our rights out on these streets."

D2KLA is a coalition of protest groups organized for the Democratic Convention demonstrations. Mumia Abu-Jamal is a former Black Panther and radio journalist who is on death row after being convicted of killing a Philadelphia policeman. Abu-Jamal was the focus of anti-death penalty protests in Philadelphia at the Republican National Convention earlier this month.

"We are very happy that the federal district court judge has protected the First Amendment rights of those who are sending a message of their concerns about the Democratic Party," said Ramona Ripston, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California.

"The police have no right to do what they have been doing to the protesters," said James Lafferty, of the National Lawyers Guild, a plaintiff in the case. "Their behavior has been designed to chill the protester's constitutional rights. This judge's ruling is wonderful."

A police statement said only that the ruling "has validated our right to conduct legal investigations anywhere in the city."

Dozens of young people were working in the four-story building Friday preparing for next week's protests, due to start at noontime Sunday.

On the ground floor, groups of painters were making banners and signs. Huge puppets were being fashioned from papier-mache. One table was covered with stacks of paper advertising protests against everything from bio-engineered food, world hunger and multinational corporations to police brutality, racism and unequal access to health care.

Across from the sign makers, a half dozen people prepared a vegetarian meal, provided by Seeds of Peace, a nonprofit group that fed demonstrators at anti-World Trade Organization demonstrations in Washington and Seattle.

On the second floor, groups organizing protests against racism and hunger met separately.

Terry Stone, 53, with a group that claims 35,000 children die of starvation worldwide each day, dismissed police estimates that tens of thousands of demonstrators may converge on the city to protest during the convention.

"They're saying that so, when only 5,000 show, they can say it's a failure," she said.


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Friday, August 11, 2000


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