LOS ANGELES – One day after being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union over the imposition of curfews, Los Angeles County officials said Thursday there are no plans to enact another one.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said his agency would not enforce any more curfews.
“Based upon current situational awareness and the recent pattern of peaceful actions by protesters, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will no longer enforce a curfew,” Villanueva said in a statement. “Other jurisdictions are free to make their own decisions.”
Los Angeles County officials confirmed via Twitter that “the county does not plan to issue a countywide curfew tonight.”
The ACLU of Southern California issued a statement expressing gratitude that local citizens can now go about their business at night without fearing arrest, while urging other cities to refrain from curfews.
“We are pleased that the county and city of Los Angeles and city of San Bernardino have rescinded their curfews so that the crucial demonstrations to stop police violence and allow black people to live with dignity can continue,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, senior counsel at the ACLU SoCal, in a statement issued Thursday afternoon. “We are also grateful that people throughout L.A. County and San Bernardino can now go outside and live their lives at night without fear of arrest for violating curfew. We hope that other cities and counties in Southern California and around the country will also allow protesters and others to exercise their constitutional rights free from interference in this important moment.”
The announcements, however, did not preclude individual cities from enacting curfews, and two cities initially did.
Santa Clarita officials said the city would enact a curfew at 6 p.m., continuing until 6 a.m. Friday, in response to a protest that began around midday. By mid-afternoon, however, city officials canceled the curfew, citing the “peaceful protests we have seen today in our city.”
Beverly Hills had earlier proclaimed a 6 p.m. curfew, but around midday, the city announced it had been canceled.
The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit late Wednesday against the city and county of Los Angeles, calling the curfews that have been issued over the past several days “draconian” and unconstitutional. The suit was filed on behalf of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, protesters, journalists and others, including Eric Stith, a software engineer who lives near Palmdale.
ACLU claims in the lawsuit that the curfews are a violation of the First Amendment because they suppress all political protest in the evening hours. The suit also contends 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-LA. “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.”
Countywide curfews that included the Antelope Valley were declared Sunday night and every night since then. On Wednesday, county Supervisor Janice Hahn questioned the need for them to continue.
“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,” Arulanantham said before the curfews were lifted. “The curfews must end now.”
After some curfews were lifted, Abdullah reemphasized the right to protest at any time.
“There was no curfew on the murder of George Floyd,” Abdullah said. “No arrests until we decried his merciless death, no statements of support until people flooded the streets around the world demanding justice. We have the right to march, we have the right to speak out, and not just on the government’s timetable.”