Protests Continue in Downtown L.A.

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D.A.’s office says curfew violations won’t be prosecuted.

Black Lives Matter demonstrators gather on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall on Saturday to protest police brutality. (MARIO GERSHOM REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

RAFU STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

Tens of thousands of Angelenos took to the streets over the weekend to denounce racism and police brutality, with more than a dozen countywide demonstrations tied to the deaths of George Floyd, killed by police on a Minneapolis street, and Breonna Taylor, in her Louisville apartment.

Two groups of peaceful protestors marched through Little Tokyo. One group was a car caravan that traveled up First Street from Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights. A second group proceeded up Central Avenue from Compton, as part of the Compton Peace Walk.

The National Guard, which had been deployed throughout downtown Los Angeles, including Little Tokyo, began leaving on Sunday night. The soldiers had been using Toriumi Plaza on First and San Pedro/Judge John Aiso Street as a staging area.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said a small number of units “will be stationed nearby until June 10 to provide emergency support” if needed. The troops were deployed to the Los Angeles in the early days of the marches to help control violence and looting.

“We thank the members of the Guard for their willingness to serve to ensure the safety of demonstrators, businesses, residents and everyone in our city,” Garcetti said.

Thousands of people who were arrested for curfew violations in Los Angeles during the past week of protests against police brutality won’t be facing criminal prosecution, with the City Attorney’s Office announcing plans for a more education-based resolution of cases.

“Peaceful protest is profoundly important, and these protests have rekindled a long-overdue effort to change hearts, minds and institutions. We can’t let this moment pass as we have too many times before,” City Attorney Mike Feuer said in a statement. “As we move forward, our restorative approach to these cases will bring protesters, law enforcement and other voices from our community together to foster the mutual empathy, understanding and respect that are essential to building a better version of our city.

“We want to go beyond the all-too-common dynamic of people talking at each other. We want to create an environment where participants really listen to each other. Ideally we’ll develop a model on which jurisdictions across the nation can build at this crucial moment.”

Specific details of the diversionary programs were still being developed, but according to Feuer’s office, there will be a “menu of programs employing different formats,” including discussions of steps that can be taken by the community “to address issues relevant to these protests.”

“Our hope is that this restorative justice approach will be an ingredient in deepening the mutual empathy, understanding and respect that our city needs — perhaps serving as a model for other jurisdictions as well,” according to Feuer’s office.

Speaker addresses a gathering at L.A. City Hall during one of more than a dozen protests held in L.A. County on Saturday. (MARIO GERSHOM REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

An ACLU attorney said Feuer’s decision to seek an alternative to prosecution for curfew violators does not resolve all the concerns outlined in the lawsuit, saying all charges against them should simply be dropped.

“Given what we have seen this week with respect to how LAPD enforced the curfew — the many videos and news reports of excessive force and ambush tactics — any move by the city attorney to force people to defend themselves against curfew charges would be tantamount to sanctioning police repression,”
Adrienna Wong, senior staff attorney at the ACLU, told **The Los Angeles Times.**

That sentiment was echoed in a joint statement issued Monday by Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Community Action Network, National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles, and Los Angeles County Public Defender Union.

“While we welcome this first step, we demand that the Los Angeles city attorney decline to file any charges against anyone protesting police violence and standing in solidarity with the black community – without conditions,” according to the groups.

They called on Feuer’s office and all prosecuting agencies to “honor our community, respect our civil rights and reject the criminalization of black lives.”

LAPD Chief Michel Moore said he supports the effort to resolve the curfew cases outside court.

“Resolving these violations through alternative methods is a productive and appropriate way to address these offenses, and will have lasting positive effects on our community,” he said in a statement. “I fully support this approach to criminal justice reform, and will work closely with the City Attorney’s Office to ensure it is successful.”

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, whose office would handle curfew violations in parts of the county without their own local prosecutor’s office, said her office will not pursue charges for people arrested on curfew violations or failure to disperse.

“I believe whole-heartedly in free speech and support the right or protesters to demonstrate peacefully against historic racial injustice in our criminal justice system and throughout our nation,” Lacey said in a statement.

“I want to encourage the exchange of ideas and work to establish dialogue between law enforcement and protesters so that we may implement enduring systemic change.”

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