Protesters

Protesters hold signs while marching through the streets of Downtown on June 5.

Black Lives Matter LA, as well as other protest groups and the lawyers who represent them, have asked a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order injunction to bar the LAPD’s use of tear gas, rubber bullets and baton strikes at protests.

“This is very important in the sense that otherwise, people are liable to be injured again,” said Jorge Gonzalez, an attorney who is also representing other protesters who have sustained injuries allegedly at the hands of LAPD. 

This measure is connected to the class-action lawsuit filed in early June by Black Lives Matter, the Los Angeles Community Action Network and the National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles, which lays blame on the LAPD for abusing power and violating the protesters’ First Amendment rights. 

“With the rubber bullets, it’s just unfathomable the way that they’re using them,” Gonzalez said. 

One of his clients was shot in the face with a rubber bullet by LAPD, which fractured her jaw, he said. As a result, the young woman had surgery to repair it with a steel plate. 

The rubber bullets are designed to be shot at the ground, where they bounce and hit the protesters’ legs, Gonzalez explained, which is a practice only to be used when police safety is at risk. Rather than being used as riot control in the instance of protesters throwing objects, LAPD is shooting peaceful people point-blank, leaving many with bruised and bloody wounds, he said. Some protesters have sustained injuries to their genitalia; others have lost eyes. 

Kendrick Sampson, actor and founder of BLD PWR, a grassroots social justice group, spoke out about his experience with police during the first days of protests in LA. Sampson, who has worked closely with Black Lives Matter leaders, posted a video where he described the scene, saying the protests went from peaceful to violent and that “all the aggression comes straight from the cops.”

He was wounded throughout his body after being struck with a baton and rubber bullets multiple times, requiring an emergency room visit, he said. 

“I’m traumatized,” Sampson said in the video. “I’m working through it.”

Protesters’ rights are also being violated, Gonzalez said. About 90% of the over 4,000 arrests that were made during recent protests shouldn’t have happened, Gonzalez said. 

“Almost all of them were arrested for either infractions or minor misdemeanors,” he said. 

Gonzalez explained that when someone receives an infraction for curfew violation or misdemeanor for failing to disperse, the law states that police are required to issue a written citation where the person must agree to appear in court, but they are otherwise free to go. “There’s no authority to arrest them and take them to jail.”

While in custody, protesters have been subject to harsh treatment by LAPD, where many protesters say their zip ties were tied so tight that they lost circulation or were injured in the process of the ties being cut, he said.

On top of that, the many wrongfully detained protesters have been kept in crowded conditions during a pandemic, with no respect for social distancing, Gonzalez said.

Pertaining to enforcing curfews, police are required to give the protesters verbal notification of the curfew, a reasonable amount of time to disperse and must direct the protesters on which way to leave.

“What they would do is they would cattle people,” Gonzalez said. “They would have a line of police officers on the south, a line of police officers on the north, and they can’t go anywhere because there are buildings to the east and the west. They’re trapped.”

This deceiving technique isn’t new and was exercised during the Occupy LA protests as well as the protests in LA after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Gonzalez said. 

“This is something they’ve done before,” he said. “They know what they’re supposed to do. And then they refuse to do it anyway.”

People complying with curfew were still arrested, as many were walking to their cars to leave, Gonzalez said. He mentioned how a mother who was picking up her son from the protests was arrested, along with her son.

“What sense does that make? It makes no sense,” he said. “It’s punitive in nature. They’re doing it because they’re trying to show that they’ve got the power in order to do this, and that’s what these suits are all about.”

Earlier this month, LAPD investigated 56 misconduct allegations, where 28 of those were in regard to excessive force. Since then, 10 LAPD officers have been placed on desk duty.