LAPD sued over Democratic convention
LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) - A lawsuit was filed Thursday in federal court accusing the City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Police Department of violating the rights of protesters.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of four Los Angeles-area activist groups, alleges that during the Democratic National Convention last August, the LAPD intentionally and repeatedly abused its authority by using police tactics that restricted, suppressed or inhibited the actions of demonstrators who had the constitutional right to express contrary views in a peaceful manner.
The decision to file the court action comes almost a year after the week-long convention convened. At times, police in riot gear used less lethal munitions - pepper spray, rubber bullets, bean-bag projectiles and batons - against protesters who police say set fires and threw objects that could cause great bodily injury such as chunks of concrete block and steel fence.
In October, similar police tactics were allegedly deployed during a protest march against police brutality. A splinter group of marchers threw bottles, vandalized bus stops and screamed obscenities.
"The LAPD criminally, intentionally and brutally violated the rights of tens of thousands of people who were attempting to exercise their right to engage in peaceful political protest, " said James Lafferty, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.
"Throughout the convention, and again on October 22nd, the police prevented people from joining demonstrations, issued illegal orders prohibiting or terminating legally authorized marches and rallies, flew their police helicopters so low over rallies that speakers could not be heard, prevented people from using public sidewalks and arrested demonstrators without just cause."
The suit seeks permanent injunctions to stop the LAPD from interfering and using excessive force, as well as unspecified punitive and compensatory damages. The suit was filed on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild's Los Angeles Chapter, the Los Angeles Coalition to Stop the Execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the Los Angeles Chapter of the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation and the D2K Convention Planning Coalition.
"We do not believe in police brutality nor do we practice it," Sgt. John Pasquariello of the LAPD told CNN. "Any and all allegations that we used unreasonable or unnecessary force will and have been investigated. We do not believe in violating people's First Amendment right to protest peacefully."
At a news conference announcing the lawsuit, protesters said they had needed almost a year to prepare their case.
"The right to take to the streets in political protest is as old as the United States Constitution itself, yet for far too long the LAPD has operated as a law unto itself as though it were above the constitution," said Dan Tokaji, an American Civil Liberties Union Attorney of Southern California, one of the plaintiff attorneys.
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