We’re not against the police. We’re not against the police department, but we are against police who commit misconduct (and those who help cover it up).
One year ago today, Los Angeles joined a collective uproar over the decision by a Ferguson, Missouri grand jury not to indict white police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Black teenager Michael Brown.
All over the country protests and demonstrations took place for days and Los Angeles was no different. For three consecutive days, Angelenos of every hue, age, background, class and social standing took to the streets to condemn police brutality.
I covered the three days of protesting in Los Angeles extensively. Some of that coverage ended up on my blog and some of it on-air for various media agencies—most notably KJLH-FM. This included having acting mayor Los Angeles Council President Herb Wesson on the Front Page with Dominique DiPrima.
Day one and two were quite interesting. From the shutting down of the 110 and 101 freeways in downtown Los Angeles to Angelenos surrounding, commandeering and tagging CHP vehicles—folks were out in force. Many of the protests started in the Crenshaw District of Los Angeles and climaxed in downtown Los Angeles usually near or in front of the headquarters of the Los Angeles Police Department.
On the third night of protesting the LAPD flipped the script on the protesters.
Instead of giving the expected and appropriate notification of an unlawful assembly and dispersal order, the LAPD blocked a group of around 130 protesters, reporters and folks who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time in a cul-de-sac behind the Central Library near 6th and Hope Streets.
Over 100 men and women were arrested and bused off to Van Nuys and 77th Street jails—including your girl. I, along with at least 70 other women brought in Thanksgiving Day in spectacular fashion sitting in the Van Nuys jail.
What made Wednesday, November 26, 2014 different from the preceding two nights of protesting is that no effort was made by the LAPD on 6th and Hope Street to declare an unlawful assembly and give a dispersal order before they moved in and just arrested people. And let’s be clear, they didn’t arrest the thousands of people who were out there protesting, only the ones who were lagging behind the lead group of protesters who didn’t move fast enough before being blocked in by the LAPD behind the library.
Having covered the first two nights, I can say that the CHP and LAPD did declare unlawful assemblies and give dispersal orders. That was always my cue to bounce.
But not on November 26th. Instead, the same people who quite frankly should have been thanking the protesters for all of the overtime and pay they were getting for chasing them up and down the streets of downtown Los Angeles just started arresting anyone they could get their hands on.
From the accounts of the reporters there who were also initially detained to the protesters themselves and even the LAPD, it was clear a dispersal order had not been given and an unlawful assembly had not been declared before the arrests were made.
At the time Los Angeles led the country in arrests of protesters and I believe still does with over 300 arrests.
The good ole’ Los Angeles Times has chosen to focus solely on the cases of those who were arrested and not charged.
To date, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer’s office has spent the past year prosecuting protesters who are for the most part Black—with many cases set to go to trial next month and right after the New Year. Now I’m not sure if the city attorney’s office sat down and went through the paperwork submitted to them by the LAPD and picked Black sounding names to file charges agaisnt but it is what it is.
Charges were dropped against me last week on Thursday. But not before I spent over six months fighting the case and going to pretrial hearings for allegedly resisting arrest and being the leader of the November 26th protest.
Throughout all of my pretrial hearings and requests for discovery not once was the city attorney’s office able to ever find one photograph or video of me allegedly committing the crime I was accused of. Not one. They also were not able to produce one single video of the LAPD declaring an unlawful assembly on 6th and Hope Streets and giving a dispersal order.
After the 2007 May Day incident at MacArthur Park and the lawsuits that followed the LAPD has to document both on paper and via video when they declare an unlawful assembly and give a dispersal order as a CYA measure. Date, time, location, who gave the order, etc.
From the LAPD to the protesters, no one has been able to produce one video showing the LAPD giving that dispersal order on 6th and Hope Streets.
And that is going to the Department and City’s downfall. Everyone knew, including the LAPD from their own notes and logs, that the protest was moving protest. People joined the group of protesters with every block they passed. Dispersal orders given on one block mean nothing five blocks over when hundreds more joined in and weren’t around to hear a dispersal order given before they got there. I mean the LAPD itself even admitted in news reports that an early dispersal order given in a different location might not have been heard by the people on 6th and Hope Streets. So there you have it,
So do not be surprised if in the next couple of days hundreds of claims for damages followed by lawsuits—class action and otherwise are filed on behalf of folks arrested on November 26 to meet the one-year deadline to file such claims.
At this point legally it doesn’t matter if you were charged or not because no one should have been arrested on 6th and Hope Streets. You cannot fail to disperse when you weren’t asked to disperse. People missed spending their Thanksgiving Day holiday with their families. Cars were towed to the impound forcing people to spend hundreds of dollars to get their car back after they were arrested and didn’t make it back to retrieve their cars. Not to mention the treatment faced by everyone rounded up and sent to jail. I’ll tell you, the people at the Van Nuys jail had a field day with us because they assumed we were all protesters who hated the police.
I can’t speak to the guilt or innocence of anyone else except for the people who were arrested on November 26 with me (some of ya’ll know exactly what you were doing out there). Regardless of the protesters opinions of the police the bottom line is that the LAPD broke their own rules and the law when they arrested us without declaring 6th and Hope Streets to be a unlawful assembly and failed to give a dispersal order.
And let me not forget to mention that Chief Charlie Beck and team took it step further in my case when they concocted that lie about me being the leader of the protest and resisting arrest. Not only did they unlawfully arrest me but then spent this past year trying to ruin my reputation and make sure that I never work again by claiming that I resisted a police officer and arrest.
So we shall see, but I am willing bet between Black Lives Matter Los Angeles attorney Nana Gyamfi, the National Lawyer’s Guild and all of the other attorneys who have been tapped to work on these various cases the City is going to get hit hard with a plethora of lawsuits–lawsuits that could have been avoided had the police department’s leadership just followed their own rules.
And for my haters (cause I know you’re out there and you’re reading), before you get to hating on the protesters, hate on the LAPD for paving the way for folks to be able to sue the City. If they’d just followed their own rules Los Angeles wouldn’t be in this situation now would we? #that part