LA County Ends Nightly Curfews as Protests Continue

Faith leaders rallied hundreds in downtown Los Angeles for a protest after nearly a week of looting and protests over the death of George Floyd. (Courthouse News photo / Nathan Solis)

LOS ANGELES (CN) — Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and county leaders said Thursday they will drop nightly curfew orders issued in response to protests that have roiled the region, hours after Black Lives Matter and the ACLU sued claiming the orders were unconstitutional.

Protesters across Southern California and the nation have risen up after the killing of George Floyd at the hands of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as the man begged for his life. Chauvin is white and Floyd was black.

Garcetti, who issued curfew orders in LA and called in the National Guard after some of the protests spiraled into looting, said the city would not inhibit protesters’ freedom of expression.

“Angelenos are rallying around powerful and peaceful demonstrations against racial injustice,” Garcetti said in a statement. “We remain committed to protecting the right of all people to make their voices heard and ensuring the safety of protesters, businesses, residents, families, and our entire community.”

LA County officials also announced curfew orders won’t be issued Thursday but made clear cities can still implement their own measures.

County Supervisor Janice Hahn said on Twitter she supports the policy change.

“I agree with this decision, it gives the peaceful protesters more time to speak out on our streets without fear of arrest,” Hahn said in a tweet Thursday. “Keep in mind that cities may impose their own curfews.”

The move comes hours after the American Civil Liberties Union sued the city and county, claiming the curfews unconstitutionally limit protesters’ freedom of expression. 

“The city and county of Los Angeles are attempting to use these curfews to suppress Black Lives Matter-LA’s right to protest,” Melina Abdullah, Black Lives Matter-LA co-founder, said in a statement Wednesday. “They are attempting to suppress our ability to fully mobilize and focus full attention on the true issue of concern in the protests — police violence against black people.”

The lawsuit was filed in the Central District of California on behalf of Black Lives Matter-LA, county residents and LA Taco reporter Lexis Olivier Ray.

A spokesperson for the ACLU and Black Lives Matter-LA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the policy shift from LA city and county officials.

Hahn previously said curfew orders were needed over the weekend but criticized LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s continued enforcement of the orders against peaceful demonstrations. 

“I believe the curfews in LA County were needed Sunday night and Monday night, but now it seems like they are being used to arrest peaceful protesters,” Hahn said on Twitter Wednesday. “I don’t think they are needed anymore.”

Villanueva announced Thursday his department would no longer enforce curfew orders after reevaluating conditions countywide.

“Based upon current situational awareness and the recent pattern of peaceful actions by protesters, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will no longer enforce a curfew,” Villanueva said in a statement. “Other jurisdictions are free to make their own decisions.” 

Garcetti said in a Wednesday evening press conference he would freeze a budget increase for the LA Police Department and require up to $150 million in cuts along with other reforms such as requiring officers to intervene if they witness a police officer engaged in misconduct.

The LA Board of Police Commissioners said Wednesday night it will establish an aggressive reform agenda following days of “transformative” protests across LA County and the nation. 

Proposed reforms include de-escalation training for all LA police by the end of the year and expanding mental health intervention training to 900 officers.

“The demonstrations of the last several days have been transformative for the people of Los Angeles, California, and nation,” the commission said in a statement. “The demands for law enforcement reform are being heard. Angelenos have been crying for a path forward, that doesn’t repeat the mistakes of the past, and the LA Board of Police Commissioners is listening.”

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said in a statement his agency will embrace the reforms and has begun identifying areas where budget cuts can be implemented. 

“The reforms announced tonight are consistent with my commitment to a department that builds trust by recognizing the legacy of historical wrongs and acts to tear down any vestiges of racial injustice,” Moore said. “Regarding the identified budgetary cut, I look forward to better understanding what steps can be taken to meet this ambitious goal.”

Courts in LA County continue to be affected by demonstrations, with LA County Superior Court Presiding Judge Kevin Brazile announcing the closures of courthouses in Long Beach, Hollywood, Inglewood, downtown LA and Pasadena due to “crowds and traffic congestion.”

In Northern California, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday it will lift its curfew orders imposed three days ago after facing criticism from demonstrators and civil rights groups..

The 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew was put in place after several nights in which large groups broke windows and looted stores in multiple Bay Area cities and suburbs. A security guard was also shot dead outside the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building in Oakland Friday night.

The ACLU of Northern California sent letters to six Bay Area cities and counties Wednesday demanding they immediately rescind or scale back the mandatory curfews. The civil liberties group called it a “sweeping general ban” on public assembly and free expression that violates the U.S. and California constitutions.

Thousands of peaceful protestors remained in downtown Oakland after 8 p.m. Wednesday night to protest the county’s curfew. The gathering broke into a spontaneous dance party later that night. No protesters were cited or arrested, according to the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf called it “another peaceful and proud night in Oakland.”

San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced her city would lift its curfew starting Thursday as well. She said protests across the country are “for an important cause and our city will continue to facilitate any and all peaceful demonstrations.”

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