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Class Action Lawsuit Filed For May Day Rally

by NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD Friday, May. 11, 2007 at 2:03 PM

The National Lawyers Guild, along with attorneys from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), filed a class action lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles yesterday on behalf of the community groups who organized a May Day immigrants rights rally at MacArthur Park in the city’s heavily Latino immigrant community.

Class Action Lawsuit Filed For May Day Rally

Friday, 11 May 2007, 10:45 am
Press Release: US National Lawyers Guild


Class Action Lawsuit Filed For May Day Rally

The National Lawyers Guild, along with attorneys from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), filed a class action lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles yesterday on behalf of the community groups who organized a May Day immigrants rights rally at MacArthur Park in the city’s heavily Latino immigrant community.

The event was disrupted by the Los Angeles Police Department when riot-gear clad officers swept through the park without warning and ordered everyone leave the park. The suit seeks changes in how the Los Angeles Police Department responds to demonstrations, as well as damages for all of the peaceful participants in the rally who were beaten and shot by the police and chased from the park on May 1, 2007.

According to the lawsuit, the police broke up the demonstration without justification. A dispersal order was given from a helicopter hovering several blocks away from the park. The announcement was largely drowned out by the noise of the helicopter and was given only in English, despite the fact that the MacArthur Park community is largely Spanish-speaking immigrants.

The declaration of an unlawful assembly was not made before the police began shooting people with less lethal munitions and beating anyone in their path with batons and there was no warning and an opportunity to leave before people were shot. Many individuals were shot in the back as they attempted to flee the police.

"This was nothing short of a police riot," said Carol Sobel, President of the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild and one of the attorneys on the class action. "The police shot munitions at anyone in the park. It was sheer luck that more people were not injured and that no child was seriously harmed by the lawless action of the LAPD on May 1."

The original police estimates, provided in the days immediately following May 1, were that 10 people were injured and 50 to 100 "agitators" prompted the police response. Since then, the number of injured reported by the police has risen to 24 and the number of "agitators" dropped to approximately 30. Lawyers for the class action estimate that they have received reports from dozens of individuals injured that day as they were chased from the park, including reports of broken bones, concussions, and other contusions.

Several individuals suffered injuries from head strikes with batons, a serious categorically lethal use of force according to the LAPD's own training. To date, videos of the rally and police action have failed to substantiate the police claims of provocation for the massive and brutal police response.

Since the early 1990s, the City has paid out over $9,000,000 in damages for police abuse at demonstrations, including approximately $5,000,000 for the police actions at the Democratic National Convention in 2000.

Organizational Plaintiffs

MIWON - Multi-Ethnic Immigrant Workers Organizing Network
CHIRLA - Coalition for Humane Immigrants Rights Los Angeles
KIWA - Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance
IDEPSCA - Institute of Popular Education of Southern California
GWC - Garment Workers Center
PWC - Philipino Workers Center

Individual plaintiffs include:

Kevin Breslin, who was present at the May Day rally as a legal observer on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild. He was struck at least 5 times on his legs by at least two officers and then hit in the chest.

Luis Galvez tried to help people escape from the park and, as he did so, was hit on the head, neck and back multiple times, and knocked unconscious by a baton strike from behind.

Jorge Lopez was with friends eating snacks when he heard yelling and shouting and saw people running. He was shot with a rubber bullet in the chest. When he tried to retrieve the ball that hit him, he was shot two more times in the leg.

Leopoldo Ortiz is a 76-year-old veteran who was walking in the park when the police attack began. One officer hit him multiple times in the stomach, knocking the wind out of him. He fell to the ground and was kicked two times in the backside.

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