ACLU sues to end L.A. curfew, calling it a suppression of political protest

Hannah Fry, Matt Hamilton, Brittny Mejia
People are arrested for violating curfew in Los Angeles after peaceful protests on June 2, 2020, over police brutality and the death of George Floyd.  (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

The nighttime curfews imposed in Los Angeles County due to protests over police brutality and the death of George Floyd are coming under growing scrutiny.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit Wednesday against the cities of Los Angeles and San Bernardino and L.A. county to end the curfews.

“The curfews’ extraordinary suppression of all political protest in the evening hours plainly violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and their blanket restrictions on movement outside working hours violate the Constitution’s protection of freedom of movement,” the ACLU said in a statement.

The suit was filed on behalf on Black Lives Matter and others.

After several nights of scattered looting, there were very few problems Tuesday and Wednesday night even as thousands protested peacefully across the region. The arrests were mainly of protesters who refused to obey the curfew.

Los Angeles County extended its sweeping curfew for a fourth day — this time with reduced hours.

But Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn said that while the curfews may have been warranted on Sunday and Monday nights, “now it seems like they are being used to arrest peaceful protesters.”

“I don’t think they are needed anymore,” she wrote on Twitter.

On Wednesday, county officials opted to begin the curfew at 9 p.m. instead of the usual 6 p.m. The curfew, which does not apply to law enforcement, first responders, people traveling to and from work and unsheltered individuals, will last until 5 a.m. Thursday.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva said early Wednesday that officials had been assessing whether to continue the curfew for another day, noting “big improvements from previous days” related to the protests. Police said the curfew has helped clear the streets at night so they can focus on looters who hit some communities Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Some protesters also questioned the need for curfews if demonstrations are peaceful.

“It’s ridiculous that 1,000 protesters have been arrested," Heaven Bouldin, 25, said Tuesday during the Hollywood protest.

She held a sign that read, "Stop killing black people," and was punctuated by an expletive.

She said that on Monday night, she and her boyfriend held signs up past curfew, protesting peacefully.

“I’m all for doing what’s safe for yourself. In order to make a change we have to stay above six feet, we have to stay alive. They’re setting these curfews so that they can arrest us, so that they can kill us.”

“I encourage everyone else to try and do this as safely as possible.”

At 8th Street and Crenshaw Bouelvard on Tuesday night, police detained dozens of protesters who had converged at the mayor's residence.

The crowd chanted “peaceful protest” intermittently and, for the most part, calmly complied with police as they were cuffed with plastic bands.

Police arrested the crowd methodically and had protesters stand with legs spread against a gate — collecting names and information before escorting each protester to a Los Angeles County sheriff bus.

After each person was arrested, some in the crowd yelled, “We love you,” and clapped.