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Judge Certifies Black Lives Matter Class Action Lawsuit Against LAPD

A federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California has issued an order to certify a Black Lives Matter (BLM) class action lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). The class action arises from the protests and demonstrations which occurred throughout Los Angeles, California in late May and early June of 2020 in response to the police killing of George Floyd.

Filed on behalf of BLM Los Angeles , and other organizations and individuals, the complaint alleges the LAPD arrested thousands of people engaged in lawful protest throughout Los Angeles. Specifically, the complaint alleges the LAPD violated the class members' First Amendment right to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association.

The complaint also includes a Fourth Amendment allegation based on police misconduct—including the LAPD’s use of batons and rubber bullets—and a due process allegation that LAPD failed to respect the liberty interest of protestors, who were detained for many hours, rather than citing and releasing them, as required by state law.

Four Plaintiff Classes in Black Lives Matter Class Action Lawsuit Against LAPD

On October 3, 2022, the Honorable Judge Consuelo B. Marshall, U.S. District Judge for the Central District of California, issued an order certifying four proposed classes, including:

Injunctive Relief Class: Defined as “[a]ll persons who have in the past participated, presently are participating, or may in the future participate in, or be present at, demonstrations within the City of Los Angeles in the exercise of their rights of free speech, assembly and petition in general, and particularly as it relates to protesting police violence and discrimination against people of color, especially African Americans.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs estimate the Injunctive Relief Class includes tens of thousands of people.

Injunctive Relief Class members allege LAPD has a long history of settlements and consent decrees resulting from LAPD’s historical pattern and practice of aggressively and unlawfully shutting down First Amendment protected protests through:

  • Failing to provide proper “unlawful assembly” notices.
  • Failing to provide reasonable opportunity to disperse.
  • Failing to provide directions for dispersal.
  • Unleashing unreasonable and excessive force against protestors.
  • Kettling and detaining or arresting protestors (including arresting on charges entitling the arrestee to immediate field release on a promise to appear).
  • Engaging in punitive arrests.
  • Holding arrestees on buses without water and bathrooms in tight handcuffs.
  • Failing to release (or not arresting but only citing) people entitled to immediate release on their own recognizance.

The Injunctive Relief Class representatives are Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and CANGRESS (Los Angeles Community Action Network).

Arrest Class: Defined as “[b]eginning May 29, 2020, and continuing through June 2, 2020, all persons present at or during the aftermath of protests regarding the killing of George Floyd in the City of Los Angeles, who were arrested by the LAPD on charges of failure to obey a curfew, failure to disperse, failure to follow a lawful order of a police officer and/or unlawful assembly, and who were held on buses and subjected to prolonged tight handcuffing, denied access to bathrooms, water and food, and held in enclosed spaces without ventilation.”

Attorneys for the plaintiffs estimate the Arrest Class includes approximately 4,000 people.

The Arrest Class representatives are Alicia Barrera-Trujillo, Krystle Hartsfield, Nelson Lopez, Nadia Khan, Devon Young, Linus Shentu, Alexander Stamm, Steven Roe, Maia Kazin, and Jonathan Mayorca.

Infraction Class: Defined as “[b]eginning May 29, 2020, and through June 2, 2020, all persons present at or during the aftermath of protests regarding the killing of George Floyd in the City of Los Angeles, who were arrested and taken into custody, charged with infractions, and not released in the field, as required by Penal Code § 853.5.”

Attorneys for the plaintiffs estimate the Infraction Class includes at least 800 or more people.

The Infraction Class representatives are Jonathan Mayorca, Nadia Khan, Nelson Lopez, Alicia Barrera-Trujillo, Maia Kazin, and Devon Young.

Direct Force Class: Defined as “[b]eginning May 29, 2020, and continuing through June 2, 2020, all persons present at or during the aftermath of protests regarding the killing of George Floyd in the City of Los Angeles, who were struck by either “less-lethal weapons” (including 37mm and 40 mm projectiles, and bean-bag shotguns), batons, or otherwise physically struck by an LAPD officer, and who were neither violently resisting nor posing an immediate threat of violence or physical harm.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs estimate the Direct Force Class includes at least 75 people, likely well more than 100.

The Direct Force Class representatives are David Contreras, Tina Črnko, Abigail Rodas, Christian Stephen Roe, Shannon Lee Moore, Clara Aranovich, and Eva Grenier.

Lawsuit Previously Led to Injunction Prohibiting LAPD From Using “Less Lethal” Munitions

The class action lawsuit previously led to an injunction that restricts the use of hard-foam projectiles for crowd control. In an order issued in April of 2021, Judge Marshall stated that the LAPD:

  • Must give a verbal warning to disperse consistent with the LAPD use of force directive and a reasonable opportunity to comply before deploying a 40mm or 37mm launcher, except when an officer is attacked.
  • The 40mm and 37mm less-lethal launcher may only be used on persons who pose a threat of serious bodily harm to others, including law enforcement.
  • The 40mm launcher must not be used to target the head, neck, face, eyes, or spine of a person.
  • LAPD is restricted from aiming the launchers at the upper bodies of demonstrators and within five feet.

Class Action Attorneys Representing the Plaintiffs in Black Lives Matter et al. v. The City of Los Angeles

BLMLA is represented by the National Lawyers Guild and the following private law firms: McLane, Bednarski & Litt; Law Office of Carol A. Sobel; Schonbrun, Seplow, Harris, Hoffman, & Zeldes; Law Office of Colleen Flynn; Law Office of Matthew Strugar; Jorge Gonzalez Law Offices APC; Orange Law Offices PC; and Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman.

Lead attorneys representing the plaintiffs are Paul Hoffman (Schonbrun, Seplow, Harris, Hoffman, & Zeldes), Carol Sobel (Law Office of Carol A. Sobel), and Barry Litt (McLane, Bednarski & Litt).

The case is captioned Black Lives Matter et al. v. The City of Los Angeles, Case No. 2:20-cv-05027-CBM-(ASx).

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