Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva on Wednesday said that more peaceful demonstrations following the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis could lead to discussions of altering the ongoing curfew in the region.
“It was like a night and day operation,” Villanueva said of peaceful demonstrations that took place in Hollywood and downtown L.A. Tuesday, comparing them to other days when looting was reported in some areas. “They did it the right way. They occupied public space their voice was heard, and they did not trash their community.”
During an interview with KTLA, Villanueva said that the demonstrations were a “welcome difference” from previous nights, and that officials can start to address altering the curfew.
On Wednesday, Los Angeles County issued a new curfew for the fourth night in a row, but set it to start at a later time at 9 p.m. The Sheriff’s Department will begin to enforce the curfew starting at 10 p.m.
Villanueva had said on KTLA previously that curfews would continue until “protests are gone,” though the American Civil Liberties Union says the curfew is not constitutional to begin with.
“The people have a right to protest,” ACLU Southern California tweeted Tuesday, addressing the L.A. County Board of Supervisors and its chair, Kathryn Barger, directly in a letter: “Rescind the curfews now.”
“The Order in its present form is neither authorized by state statutory law nor consistent with the United States Constitution,” the ACLU letter reads. “…including the Constitution’s prohibition on restrictions of speech and assembly, its protection for the freedom of movement, and its most basic notice requirements.”
Villanueva did not address the ACLU letter during Wednesday’s interview. Instead he said that the curfew will be assessed “day by day.”
“We’ll still use the same mechanisms for enforcement, but we will want to definitely reward the good behavior of the community, so they have the chance to start opening up businesses and resuming normal life situation,” Villanueva said.
He highlighted that two deputies were injured during recent protests: One suffered a broken jaw after allegedly being punched by a protester, while another was hit by a vehicle driven by an alleged looter.
The sheriff also addressed the use of rubber bullets by deputies during protests after Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti directed the LAPD to minimize their use.
Villanueva said rubber bullets will be used when “the need is there.”
“Obviously, if you’re taking rocks and bottles in a confrontation … there’s no politically correct way to address the fact that you’re being assaulted with a deadly weapon. I expect the deputies to defend themselves how ever they can do so with less lethal force, which is the whole idea of the rubber bullets,” the sheriff said.
The sheriff’s comments came as video emerged appearing to show deputies shooting protesters in the back with pepper balls as they run away in Hollywood.
Although he didn’t refer to the incident directly, Villanueva said in a tweet that he is aware of two videos involving deputies and that they will be “thoroughly investigated.”