Two are assaulted and injured; One is incarcerated
On Thursday April 10, 2008 at approximately 9:30 PM, community organizers responding to a report of police abuse in downtown Los Angeles find themselves victims of police brutality and illegal arrest.
LA CAN community organizers received a call Thursday evening reporting that an unidentified African-American woman was handcuffed and being searched on 5th and Los Angeles streets. LA CAN operates a CommunityWatch program that monitors police abuse and compliance with court injunctions against LAPD in downtown Los Angeles. Joe Thomas and Steve Richardson took cameras to the scene and Herman Jones arrived in his vehicle. The woman was released and she explained that LAPD had just jacked her up for nothing, saying they were looking for drugs.
Thomas, Richardson and Jones then left the scene by car to investigate and monitor police activities because historically poor, Black residents have been mistreated by police in an attempt to keep them away from Downtown’s trendy ArtWalk, which was happening that evening. LAPD officers followed them and conducted a "felony stop" while the car was simply stopped at a red light - meaning guns were drawn and all three were cuffed and searched, although no crime had been committed. After the three were handcuffed, Thomas was dragged down the street and hit by officers and Richardson was brutally choked and held down by multiple officers. When witnesses with cameras arrived on the scene, the officers stopped the illegal behavior and uncuffed Jones and Thomas, instructing them that they were free to go. Richardson was arrested on the charge of "resisting arrest" and was incarcerated. The arresting officer stated that he grabbed two fingers of one of the officers while he was being held down in handcuffs and that was the basis of their charge. Both Richardson and Thomas sustained injuries to their fingers, wrists and necks and received medical treatment for these injuries.
There were 10 to 15 officers on the scene when additional witnesses arrived, the majority in plain clothes without badge identification. Officers were asked for their names, badge and serial numbers, which they are obligated to provide pursuant to Federal Consent Decree, on multiple occasions and all but two officers refused to give witnesses their information. The ranking officer was asked to provide information for identification purposes later at Central Division Headquarters and he again refused. This refusal was recorded via camera phone.
This incident underscores an alarming and ongoing trend of police officers illegally arresting LA CAN organizers performing perfectly legal police monitoring duties. Just two months ago, Pete White of LA CAN was also arrested by Central Division officers while documenting a raid in a Skid Row residential hotel. The charges against him were later dismissed in the "interest of justice" and a federal civil rights lawsuit was subsequently filed. Community organizers have not been exempt from the widespread abuses under the Mayor’s Safer City Initiative, but the impacts reach much further to the thousands of poor and mostly Black residents targeted by the Initiative. The Inspector General has assigned a special team of investigators to monitor the large number of complaints.
we are asking you to send emails to the Mayor’s office and the Police Commission this week to express your opposition to the targeting of LA CAN during police monitoring, your opposition to the aggressive and often illegal tactics of LAPD under the Safer Cities Initiative, and your demand for a response to the community to stop these abuses. The emails can be very short and direct – we know you are all very busy. We just want them to hear from a wide range of people again. The contact info is below.
Police Commissioners: V8834@lapd.lacity.org
Anthony Pacheco, John Mack, Andrea Ordin, Robert Saltzman, and Alan Skobin