LOS ANGELES – Describing the curfews imposed throughout Southern California as “draconian” and unconstitutional, the American Civil Liberties Union is suing Los Angeles County on behalf of Black Lives Matter, protesters, journalists and others.
ACLU claims in the lawsuit filed late Wednesday in federal court that the curfews are a violation of the First Amendment because they suppress all political protest in the evening hours, and restrictions against movement outside of working hours is a violation of the Constitution’s protection of freedom of movement.
“The city and county of Los Angeles are attempting to use these curfews to suppress Black Lives Matter-L.A.’s right to protest,” said Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of BLM-L.A. “They are attempting to suppress our ability to fully mobilize and focus full attention on the true issue of concern in the protests — police violence against black people.”
Defendants include Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, Los Angles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles police Chief Michel Moore, and San Bernardino police Chief Eric McBride.
In Los Angeles County, curfews were declared Sunday night and every night since then. A member of the county board of supervisors, Janice Hahn, has questioned the need for them to have continued.
“I believe the curfews in L.A. County were needed Sunday night and Monday night,” Hahn tweeted Wednesday. “But now it seems like they are being used to arrest peaceful protesters.”
The lawsuit argues the curfews also prohibit journalists from being able to fully report their stories from the scenes of the protests.
“These unconstitutional curfews have suppressed a huge amount of important political protest activity and disrupted the lives of over 10 million people,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, senior counsel of the ACLU SoCal. “The curfews must end now.”
Villanueva has said curfews in the county will remain in effect until the protests end.
The suit was filed on behalf of individual plaintiffs, including:
— Eric Stith, a software engineer who lives near Palmdale — miles from any civil unrest — who simply wishes to go outside at night.
— Kimberly Beltran Villalobos, a student cited for curfew violations in both unincorporated L.A. County, where she lives, and in downtown L.A., where, according to the suit, she was peacefully protesting;
— Tom Dolan of San Bernardino, executive director of Inland Congregations United for Change. He was leading students who the suit said were protesting peacefully and trying to follow the curfew rules, but Dolan says the rules kept changing; and
— Lexis Olivier Ray, housing and justice reporter for L.A. Taco, a local media outlet, who has been covering the protests against police brutality spurred by the May 25 death of George Floyd in police custody. He has observed other journalists being detained and arrested for violating the curfew while covering the protests and fears he will be arrested while reporting on them.