Vegan Gets Day in Court Against LAPD

      LOS ANGELES (CN) — A vegan leafleting at a farmers market in Los Angeles may go to trial on his claim that he was falsely arrested for violating a trespassing notice, a federal judge ruled.
     Brian Han was leafleting at the Gilmore Farmers Market outside of Trader Joe’s on Dec. 8, 2013, when security guards told him he had to leave the property. Han refused, citing his constitutional right to engage in expressive activity. His pamphlets supported a vegan lifestyle and animals’ rights.
     Later that day, Han moved leafleted at a different part of the market, where security guards confronted him again. Both times, guards called Los Angeles police, who refused to arrest Han.
     The security guards then made a “ban notice” about Han, saying he was permanently banned from the property for all purposes.
     One guard, nonparty Troy Boyd, said Han was banned because he made Boyd fear for his safety by saying: “You are not the fucking police, you are violating my 1st Amendment[] rights,” and, “I’m going to fuck you up, come on to the public property, so that I could kick your asses.” (Empty brackets in judge’s order.)
     Despite the ban, Han returned to the farmers’ market several more times to continue leafleting. Boyd attempted to perform a citizen’s arrest on Han, but LAPD officers refused to accept the arrest, according to U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson’s May 12 order.
     On Jan. 19, 2014, Han returned to the market again. He says handed out pamphlets for more than an hour without incident then went to eat at the Veggie Grill, at the market.
     While waiting in line, Han was approached by Boyd, another security guard, and LAPD Det. Ronald Cade.
     “According to plaintiff, Boyd said, ‘Brian, you know you’re banned.’ Plaintiff responded, ‘You have no legal right to ban me.’ Boyd then looked at Detective Cade, who said, ‘Cuff him,'” according to Pregerson’s summary.
     Boyd performed a citizen’s arrest on Han and took him to the market’s security office before handing him over to the LAPD, which took Han to a police station on a charge of trespassing.
     Han accused Los Angeles and several LAPD officers of civil rights violations, including false arrest and chilling free speech.
     The city says the officers had probable cause to accept Han’s arrest because the farmers market had a ban notice in place that barred him from the property. Han refused to leave after being asked and was criminally trespassing, the city says.
     Han says the ban notice was illegitimate, and he could not be arrested on alleged misdemeanor threats against the security officers that occurred more than a month before his citizen’s arrest.
     He says he was in line at the Veggie Grill when he was arrested, at which point he could not have been interfering with or obstructing any of the businesses at the farmers market.
     The city says Han’s mere presence constituted a trespass due to the ban, whether he was at the Veggie Grill waiting for food or leafleting in front of other businesses.
     Pregerson on Thursday refused to grant Han summary judgment on his false arrest claim, finding contested issues of fact as to whether the officers had probable cause to arrest him.
     Pregerson also found that neither side is entitled to summary judgment on Han’s claim that the officers violated his First Amendment right to engage in expressive conduct.
     Although the city claims the arrest was based on a violation of the ban notice, not on expressive conduct, the evidence shows the officers never adequately investigated the legitimacy or purpose of the ban, Pregerson said.
     “(A)s with the false arrest claim, there are some disputed facts, including those underlying the officers’ knowledge and the basis of the ban notice,” Pregerson wrote in the 23-page ruling. “Further, it seems problematic that the LAPD can rely on a private ban notice of quasi-public spaces like a mall (or the Farmers Market) of a person who has not been convicted of (or even charged with) a crime on that property, and that ban could operate just to bar expressive conduct rather than protect public safety or some other acceptable purpose.”
     If the arrest were based on a ban notice that was itself based on expressive conduct, there would be a potential link between the arrest and the First Amendment conduct, Pregerson said.
     “If a private security officer could issue ban notices to all individuals who protested or leafleted on their property and have the LAPD enforce the ban by arresting trespassers, then it would make the First Amendment rights of those protesters and leafleters almost nonexistent,” Pregerson added.
     Han’s attorney Bryan Pease was pleased with the ruling.
     “It put the city on notice they will need to show some basis for believing Han was interfering with a business when he was arrested, which they can’t do,” Han said.
     Spokesmen for the city could not be reached for comment over the weekend.

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