LOS ANGELES — Thousands of Los Angeles protesters arrested for violating curfew and other police orders will not be charged with a crime, prosecutors said Monday as hundreds took to the city streets carrying caskets to signify the death of George Floyd and others killed by police.
City Attorney Mike Feuer said his office will develop a court alternative that carries no punishment for those cited for violating curfew or failing to obey orders to leave demonstrations over the death of Floyd, a black man who died two weeks ago after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into his neck for several minutes.
District Attorney Jackie Lacey said she won’t file charges in protest misdemeanour cases from other parts of Los Angeles County.
The city had the largest number of the 10,000 protest arrests in the U.S. tracked by The Associated Press. Demonstrations over police brutality and racial injustice have gripped the nation for nearly two weeks
In the Los Angeles area, police and sheriff’s deputies arrested more than 3,000 people over days of mostly peaceful protests. About 2,500 of those were in the city for violating curfew or dispersal orders, according to figures the Los Angeles Police Department provided June 2. Police didn’t have an updated figure Monday.
The city imposed curfews over five nights, and the county and surrounding cities ordered people to stay home over several nights of protests that had at times devolved into theft and violence. They used the curfew order to round up protesters who wouldn’t leave.
LA ended its curfew after the American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of Black Lives Matter, saying the order suppressed First Amendment guarantees to political protest and freedom of movement.
“There is only one acceptable measure for L.A. prosecutors to take in cases involving people charged with violating the curfew: dismiss the charges.,” Adrienna Wong, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California, said in a statement. She cited “the sweeping and indiscriminate nature of LAPD’s mass arrests.””
Feuer did not provide specifics on how he would handle the cases but said some type of forum would bring protesters together with police and others to “create an environment where participants really listen to each other.”
Chase Bucklew said she was relieved to hear she would not be prosecuted, though she felt she never should have been arrested.
She was among a group of about 300 protesters in downtown LA on June 1 who were told to leave the area 15 minutes before a 6 p.m. curfew. People began to panic and run and she thinks most would have left, but she said officers surrounded them and wouldn’t let them go.
She was handcuffed with zip ties, forced to sit on the street for hours, then loaded on a bus in close quarters with three dozen other women during a pandemic and had to wait to be processed and eventually released. The entire process took more than seven hours from time of arrest.
“I guess the whole thing seemed like such a farce that I think I would be surprised if they did follow through with (charges),” Bucklew said. “Not to mention the sheer numbers of people they arrested this week for curfew violations. I don’t think anyone wants to deal with that. It’s just too many people.”
Prosecutors said they would keep pursuing charges for looting, burglary, vandalism and any violence. Lacey has already charged more than 60 people with felonies related to the protests, the majority for looting.
The decision not to bring charges followed a weekend of peaceful protests that continued Monday.
Hundreds of people marched in Oakland for Erik Salgado, who was shot and killed by California Highway Patrol officers Saturday in a neighbourhood.
Protesters say officers fired dozens of times into a car, killing Salgado and injuring his pregnant girlfriend, who was in the passenger seat.
Oakland police, which are investigating the shooting, have only confirmed that a man was fatally shot and a female passenger is in stable condition at a hospital.
“They could have shot a child, they could have shot anybody, they could have shot into someone’s home and killed someone, but clearly they didn’t care. We want justice for Erik, we want it now,” said Hoku Jeffrey with a civil rights group known as By Any Means Necessary.
In Sacramento, the state Assembly speaker and other key lawmakers on Monday backed making it illegal statewide for police to use a type of neck hold that blocks the flow of blood to the brain and can cause serious injury or death if used for too long.
The proposal appears to go beyond any other state. Major law enforcement groups did not immediately say if they will oppose the move.
As the final public viewing for Floyd was held at a Houston church Monday on the eve of his funeral, Los Angeles rolled out funeral-style car processions that culminated downtown with a memorial service. Hundreds of people chanted “Black Lives Matter” and Floyd’s name.
Kelly Griffin, who wore a shirt saying, “I am black history,” brought her 12-year-old son, Isaiah McClurg, to his first protest to be part of history and someday tell his own kids about it.
“I came because George Floyd was killed,” Isaiah said. “And other people were killed. And I want to say that black lives matter.”
The gathering on a street near courthouses and City Hall felt more like a funeral than a protest with sermons and hymns and symbolic caskets for Floyd and others killed by police.
“It was more emotional” than previous rallies, said Phylisha Stinson, who has been impressed by the daily demonstrations across the nation. “This is the highest level of momentum. We have to keep it going so we can see real change.”
Associated Press journalists John Antczak in Los Angeles, Janie Har in San Francisco and Don Thompson in Sacramento contributed to this report.
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