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Black Lives Matter Sues City

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By Jorge Casuso

June 30, 2021 -- Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and other protesters who participated in demonstrations in Santa Monica last May filed a lawsuit against the City on Monday.

The lawsuit, which seeks class action status, alleges the City and its police force used excessive force against the demonstrators, arrested them without cause and detained them under inhumane conditions.

The City violated the protesters’ constitutional rights “by preemptively banning peaceful assemblies, kettling the demonstrators, subjecting them to unlawful force, arresting and detaining them tightly handcuffed on buses for hours, without access to bathrooms, water, or food,” the suit alleges.

The lawsuit also names former Police Chief Cynthia Renaud as a defendant and alleges her mishandling of the protests was the main reason she left the department.

Renaud, the suit alleges, “failed to enact necessary policies and to train officers in lawful responses to peaceful protests.”

City officials issued a short statement Wednesday.

"The City of Santa Monica is reviewing the civil complaint related to regional activities in the spring of 2020," the statement reads. "The City of Santa Monica has not yet been formally served with the complaint."

Jones of the Bay

The police's handling of the May 31 riots was the subject of a report issued in May of this year by an outside consultant that found the Santa Monica Police Department was woefully unprepared for the events that unfolded that day.

The department had no action plan or clear leadership and was left to improvise a response to violent protests and looting it should have seen coming, the report found ("Report Harshly Criticizes Police Response to May 31 Riots, Chronicles Department in "Disarray," May 6, 2021).

The consultants describe an increasingly tense standoff between protesters and police near the Pier that "morphed into more of an unambiguous confrontation between the police and individuals who were openly resistant" ("Top Cops Missing As Violence Gripped Santa Monica, Report Finds," May 11, 2021).

More than 400 arrests were made on May 31 and June 1 for looting, violating curfew, burglary and assault.

Damage assessments by the City found that 225 Santa Monica businesses had general damage, such as visible broken windows and doors. There was graffiti damage on 121 buildings and 48 had other "vandalization."

Last June, Santa Monica, along with other cities, announced it would not prosecute demonstrators arrested for violating curfews or refusing to disperse during the protests ("Santa Monica Won't Press Charges Against 'Peaceful Protesters' Arrested During Last Week's Unrest," June 8, 2020).

In February, more than 40 protesters arrested for violating curfews during the civil unrest filed a lawsuit charging that Santa Monica and other local jurisdictions violated their constitutional rights ("Protesters Sue City Over Curfew Arrests During Riots," March 2, 2021).

The lawsuit filed Monday, which includes several protesters' accounts, is similar to a class-action lawsuit filed by Black Lives Matter Los Angeles earlier this month against the Los Angeles Police Department and its chief.

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