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Class Action Expands Against Los Angeles Police Department

— June 24, 2020

The lawsuit alleges that LAPD officers indiscriminately–and sometimes brutally–arrested peaceful protesters.

A class action accusing the Los Angeles Police Department of brutality against Black Lives Matter protesters has been greatly expanded.

According to The L.A. Times, the expanded lawsuit details protesters’ alleged injuries and stories of mistreatment. It also relays accusations of inadequate leadership amongst the police department’s upper echelons.

The complaint, notes the Times, was filed at the beginning of June by the Los Angeles chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, in tandem with Black Lives Matter and the Los Angeles Community Action Network.

In total, the groups say that more than 3,000 people were arrested in anti-police brutality protests. Most of those arrests occurred in the span of just several days, with activists claiming the LAPD misapplied and manipulated legal protocol to clear protesters off the streets.

Many protesters who were taken into custody by the LAPD claim to have physically mistreated. The lawsuit also calls attention to the potential misuse of non-lethal projectiles—including rubber bullets, sponge bullets, and foam–which appear to have been fired directly at protesters.

Man in light grey sweater and dark grey slacks with hands cuffed behind his back; image 4711018, via
Man in light grey sweater and dark grey slacks with hands cuffed behind his back; image 4711018, via

And in some cases, the police were so capricious in their use of non-lethal projectiles that they hit bystanders, too. One homeless man, who’s participating in the lawsuit, claims to have been shot by police for no apparent reason.

“Cincinnati is disabled and in a wheelchair,” the lawsuit states. “He pleaded with the police not to use force on him before being shot in the face.”

Another man, Linus Shentu, says he was sitting in a parked car near an ongoing protest. An LAPD van pulled up alongside the vehicle; officers disembarked, arresting Shentu and the vehicle’s other occupants.

Shentu and his friends say they “experienced numbness, bruising and soreness from the handcuffing and the forced removal from their vehicle.”

Attorneys have pointed to such numerous instances of misconduct as indicative of widespread failure.

“We want to show the scope of what happened over all of these days and the range of injuries,” said civil rights attorney Carol Sobel. “What’s extraordinary about this is how many people got show in the upper torso or the head, because those are potentially deadly strikes.”

Rubber bullets, while commonly used in riot control, are supposed to be fired at people’s legs or on the ground immediately in front of them—headshots can and sometimes have been lethal.

Sobel told The Los Angeles Times that officers’ face-to-face interactions with protesters were also often unwarranted. For instance, many people were arrested for offenses which would ordinarily merit nothing than more a curbside citation.

The lawsuit accuses Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore of facilitating the arrest of low-risk protesters, even as coronavirus remains a large-scale public safety threat in most of the United States.

“These were not just poorly trained officers,” Sobel told the Times. “These were mis-trained officers being directed by the chief.”


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