On May 1, 2007, thousands of nonviolent protestors gathered in many cities around the United States, including Los Angeles, to march in support of comprehensive immigration reform. At the march in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) used excessive force against a group of peaceful protestors in MacArthur Park. The LAPD declared the entire gathering an “unlawful assembly” and, speaking only in English, ordered all of the participants to disperse. The majority of the participants either did not hear or did not understand the orders to disperse because they spoke only Spanish. Riot-gear clad officers moved into the park on foot and shoved the group of peaceful protestors with batons. They also indiscriminately shot foam bullets and other munitions at persons in the park, including the elderly and young children. Hundreds of people, including peaceful protesters, journalists, and innocent bystanders, were injured as a result of the LAPD’s actions. Many people sustained major injuries that required medical treatment or hospitalization, and many others suffered emotional trauma as a result of the melee.
On May 9, 2007, MALDEF and a coalition of private attorneys who are members of the National Lawyers Guild filed a class action lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles and the LAPD on behalf of organizational plaintiffs, as well as several individual named plaintiffs who were injured in the May Day incident. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles.
The Complaint alleges that the LAPD violated the plaintiffs’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of free speech and freedom of association, their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection under the law, their Fourteenth Amendment right to due process under the law, and their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to be free from use of excessive force by the government.
On May 1, 2008, MALDEF observed the one-year anniversary of the police assaults with a press conference calling for accountability for the officers involved in the riot and compensation for those individuals who were injured. In July 2008, the LAPD brought disciplinary charges against 17 police officers and two police sergeants for their actions in the melee, which the LAPD condemned in a 2007 report.
In February 2009, the settlement agreement negotiated by both sides was approved unanimously by the Los Angeles City Council. The settlement included 200 plaintiffs in the MIWON case, as well as another 100 plaintiffs in eight related cases in federal court. The settlement is awaiting final approval.
Settlement for May Day 2007 Lawsuits Unanimously Approved by Los Angeles City Council
MALDEF pleased that City agrees to settle all pending federal claims arising out of police
February 04, 2009
LOS ANGELES, CA — Today, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a settlement agreement in the litigation between the victims of the MacArthur Park melee and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). MALDEF, along with attorneys from the National Lawyers Guild and the National Police Accountability Project, represent approximately 200 clients in the lead case, Multi-Ethnic Immigrant Worker Organizing Network (MIWON) v. City of Los Angeles, which was filed in United States District Court for the Central District of California on May 9, 2007. It was certified as a class action by federal district court Judge A. Howard Matz in early January 2008.
“We are pleased that the City Council of Los Angeles approved the settlement agreement; however, the families who were indiscriminately attacked by LAPD officers armed with batons and rubber bullets will never be the same. It is incumbent upon all of us to restore trust and confidence in a police department that is supposed to serve and protect all Angelenos,” said Nancy Ramirez, Western Regional Counsel.
The settlement approved by the City Council today includes 200 plaintiffs in the MIWON case, as well as another 100 plaintiffs in eight related cases in federal court. The settlement provides for $12,850,000 to be paid to settle all claims of injury resulting from the police actions that day. The settlement also provides a pool of money for claims by unnamed class members, as well as injunctive relief addressing policy revisions and training by the Los Angeles Police Department on crowd control issues, including how and when an unlawful assembly may be declared and the use of less-lethal munitions on demonstrators.
“This settlement effectively closes a brutal chapter in LAPD’s history. It must never happen again. MALDEF will work with other civil rights organizations and community leaders to safeguard the rights of the Latino community,” John Trasvina, President & General Counsel.
Preliminary approval of the settlement approved today is set to be heard by Judge Matz on February 13, 2009.
Declaracion De La Abogada Gladys Limon De MALDEF, Referente A La Litigacion De Los Eventos Del Primero De Mayo
November 09, 2008
LOS ÁNGELES, CA — El día 1 de Mayo del 2007, miles de personas participaron en una marcha y demostración pacifica para hacer un llamado para una reforma migratoria comprensiva. Estos individuos y familias, mayormente Latinos e inmigrantes, manifestaron su valor, dignidad, y el deseo de continuar participando dentro de nuestra sociedad, ejerciendo algunos de los derechos y libertades mas apreciados, otorgados por nuestra constitución – que es el derecho de asamblea y expresarse libremente. De hecho, son estas libertades las que atrajeron a mucho de los participantes de esta marcha a los Estados Unidos. Algunos de ellos, huyeron de la opresión y terror, buscando libertad, otros escaparon la pobreza inmensa buscando la promesa Americana de poder vivir una vida digna a cambio del trabajo digno.
Ninguno de ellos esperaban que al ejercer sus derechos, serían tratados con violencia y opresión de las mismas personas que supuestamente tenían que proteger y servir a la comunidad. El uso injustificado e ilegal de fuerza, desencadenada por el Departamento de Policía de Los Ángeles resultó en heridas físicas de niños y ancianos, mujeres y hombres, además de danos psicológicos, como angustia, temor, y estrés. La interrupción errónea, el cierre de la asamblea legal de los marchantes, y las violaciones correspondientes resultaron en una profunda desilusión y en un sentido de traición.
Y a pesar de las violaciones cometidas contra ellos, se han negado a mantenerse en silencio. Alrededor de 200 personas se han presentado para denunciar estas violaciones, y para reivindicar sus derechos y buscar la justicia por medio de esta demanda archivado el 9 de Mayo de 2007. Y hoy, archivamos una petición para pedir que la demanda proceda como una demanda colectiva en nombre de las 200 personas y todas las demás personas presentes en el Parque MacArthur en la tarde del Primero de Mayo, y quiénes sin provocación, fueron sometidos a la amenaza y uso real de fuerza o violencia por el Departamento de Policía de Los Ángeles. La demanda colectiva busca un decreto judicial por parte de todas personas quien el pasado y en el futuro deseen participar en demostraciones entre la Ciudad para ejercer sus derechos constitucionales. Además, hemos entablado más de 150 reclamos de agravio.
Estamos orgullosos de apoyar a nuestros clientes quienes continúan demostrando su valentía en presentándose y quienes por medio de su participación en esta demanda, continúan con su confianza y fe en las promesas de nuestra constitución y país. Nosotros esperamos que la cuidad responda responsablemente y que la corte reivindique sus derechos y restaure su fe en nuestro sistema.
May Day Plaintiffs And Attorneys Call For Action At One-Year Anniversary Of Police Assaults
City hires 9 law firms at further expense to the taxpayers
May 01, 2008
LOS ANGELES, CA — Today, attorneys and plaintiffs from the May Day class-action lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) held a press conference to mark the one-year anniversary of the police assaults against peaceful families who marched in support of comprehensive immigration reform last year.
The suit, filed last year in federal court seeks damages for injuries and appropriate disciplinary actions of LAPD officers who violated the First Amendment rights of rally participants on May 1, 2007. Families, including women and young children, suffered severe injuries as a result of the LAPD’s improper actions, such as declaring an unlawful assembly, unlawfully dispersing participants with threats and actual use of force, and giving people vague instructions in English only when clearing MacArthur Park.
Gladys Limon, Staff Attorney of MALDEF, said, “The unwarranted and unlawful use of force unleashed by the LAPD has resulted in deep disappointment and a sense of betrayal in the community. We urge the City to resolve this matter quickly so that the victims can move forward with their lives.”
Since the case has been filed, the City has yet to reach a fair settlement. Just last week, the City Council approved contracting with nine law firms to represent the LAPD in the lawsuit. By hiring so many law firms, the City will incur great costs and potentially delay the settlement outcome.
Carol A. Sobel, Attorney of the Law Office of Carol A. Sobel, said, “It has been a full year. Those officers who acted unlawfully need to be held accountable. The Mayor and the Council need to make good on their promise to compensate the victims of the police assault last year and they need to work to do so quickly instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, to defend the indefensible actions of the police.”
The plaintiffs plan to march together in solidarity during the day’s immigration rallies. Victor Narro, Co-President of the National Lawyers Guild – LA Chapter, said, “Our plaintiffs, including children and elders, women and men, endured physical as well as psychological injuries, such as anguish, fear, and stress. They have displayed great courage and dignity on their part to participate again this year for their rights and of all immigrants.”
MALDEF Denounces LAPD Officers’ Use of Force During May 1st Peaceful Marches at MacArthur Park
Calls on LAPD Chief William Bratton and California Attorney General Jerry Brown to conduct extensive investigations
LOS ANGELES, CA — The widespread outrage at the LAPD’s use of force during the peaceful gatherings at MacArthur Park on May 1, 2007, must be addressed by full and independent local, state and federal investigations. Today, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) released letters sent to LAPD Chief Bratton and California Attorney General Brown calling upon both to promptly and thoroughly investigate the use of force against members of the community and the media.
“A state investigation will have the independence critical to be meaningful and to hopefully heal the damage caused by Tuesday’s action,” stated Annabelle G. Gonzalves, MALDEF Los Angeles Regional Counsel.
“Ensuring that local law enforcement agencies do not violate the constitutional and civil rights of Latinos is one of MALDEF’s core missions. Here, it is particularly important that Latinos’ voices are not silenced in the critical national policy debate surrounding comprehensive immigration reform,” she added.
“While there are many details that remain unclear, it appears unquestioned that the marchers who gathered for a peaceful call for comprehensive immigration reform did not initiate any violence. This is equally true of members of the press and electronic media. The immediate LAPD response, which included pepper spray, rubber bullets, and the extensive use of batons, appears to be excessive and completely uncalled for. As the details unfold, it is important to be in constant communication with community groups to ensure that all persons, including undocumented immigrants, have confidence in the police department, promote public safety and trust, and to encourage the participation and involvement of the entire community in achieving law enforcement’s goals of protecting and serving the people,” Gonzalves added.