Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced Monday she will not be filing charges against any protester arrested for a curfew violation or failure to disperse.
Thousands of people have been arrested over the past week as crowds took to the streets to speak out against police brutality and decry the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after being pinned beneath a Minneapolis police officer’s knee for more than eight minutes.
L.A. Police Department Chief Michel Moore has said that the vast majority of those taken into custody amid the protests in the city were arrested for either a failure to disperse or for violating curfew orders. That number last stood at 2,700 arrested as of last Tuesday.
The city had the largest number of protest arrests in the U.S., according to an Associated Press tally.
The largely peaceful protests were at times accompanied by groups who swept in and started vandalizing storefronts and looting, leading officials to enact curfews that continued for five nights in L.A. and other cities. A countywide curfew was in place for four days.
The mass arrests over curfew violations sparked backlash among residents while criticism mounted over how the LAPD has responded to the largely peaceful protests.
By Thursday last week, all the curfews were lifted after the American Civil Liberties Union called the curfew unconstitutional and filed a lawsuit on behalf of Black Lives Matter’s Los Angeles chapter and others, calling the orders “draconian”.
A BLM-L.A. cofounder said the curfews were an attempt to suppress people’s right to protest.
Lacey said she supported the right of protesters to demonstrate.
“I believe whole-heartedly in free speech and support the right of protesters to demonstrate peacefully against historic racial injustice in our criminal justice system and throughout our nation,” she said in a written statement. “I want to encourage the exchange of ideas and work to establish dialogue between law enforcement and protesters so that we may implement enduring systemic change.”
The DA’s office is responsible for most of the county’s cities and unincorporated areas.
For those arrested in the city of L.A., City Attorney Mike Feuer announced that his office is taking a “non-punitive approach, outside of the Court system, to handle all violations arising from the recent protests that do not involve violence, looting or vandalism.”
He didn’t provide further detail on how the cases would be handled, but said the office’s approach will “incorporate principles of restorative justice” and create a space to facilitate dialogue.
LAPD’s police chief and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti both voiced support for the city attorney’s decision.
“Resolving these violations through alternative methods is a productive and appropriate way to address these offenses, and will have lasting positive effects on our community,” Moore said in a written statement Monday. “I fully support this approach to criminal justice reform, and will work closely with the City Attorney’s Office to ensure it is successful.”
Garcetti said he supports Feuer’s decision not to prosecute or seek any punishment for those who broke curfew or failed to disperse during the recent protests, unless they were involved in violence, vandalism or looting.
“Powerful, peaceful, passionate protest is inseparable from the American identity. And I am proud of the thousands of Angelenos who have filled our streets to call for justice, cry out for change, and demand racial equality for Black Angelenos and all communities of color,” the mayor said in a written statement.