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LAPD investigates allegations of excessive force at Wi Spa protest

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said on Tuesday officials were investigating allegations of excessive force by officers during dueling protests against transgender rights at a spa in Westlake on Saturday.

At a Civil Police Commission meeting, Moore said 41 arrests had been made – 40 non-dispersal after reporting an illegal gathering and one for possession of illegal or prohibited items during a protest. He said officers recorded projectile fire 10 times and baton beating nine times.

Several demonstrators claimed to have been injured by the police when they posed no threat. While Moore said officials would investigate the misconduct allegations, he pointed out that videos posted to social media only showed certain perspectives and alleged that activists were “essentially buying clips and clips. online that distort the facts.

Saturday morning’s showdown between left-wing and far-right groups, the second this month outside Wilshire Boulevard Wi Spa, was sparked by a viral video in which a spa woman complained about seeing a client with a penis in an area that is reserved for women. The images were quickly amplified by an international network of right-wing activists, experts and the media.

LAPD deputy chief Al Labrada told The Times that people on both sides were armed with weapons, including knives and bats, and officials positioned themselves between the protest groups to prevent the violence. An illegal rally – announced via megaphones and text alerts to area residents – was declared at 11:07 a.m.

Moore said body camera footage of officers running down the street with 40-millimeter projectiles showed they had fired at protesters running towards them with objects to throw at the officers.

He said an officer who shot a woman with a beanbag at close range was targeting another protester behind her who was about to throw a bottle. The chief said police had yet to speak to the woman who was shot, but wanted to as part of their examination of the incident.

Moore said some of the baton strikes came after protesters attempted to grab the batons from officers, and the officers “used those baton strikes to push back and back individuals and release the baton.” .

But many protesters from the left-wing group accused LAPD agents of using excessive force and violating a court order restricting the department’s use of projectiles. Labrada, who oversaw the police response, declined to comment on specific allegations until officials finished examining body camera footage of some 160 police officers at the scene.

The outrage is the latest since the mass protests following the murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police in the spring of 2020. The events, which drew tens of thousands to the streets, led to a wave of lawsuits against the city of LA, including a large class action lawsuit filed by Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and other activists who accused the LAPD of seriously injuring protesters with excessive force, including the use of projectile weapons and batons.

In May, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction in the case that restricts the use of 40-millimeter weapons to trained officers, and said they could only use them on specific targets “when the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a suspect violently resists arrest or poses an immediate threat of violence or physical harm.

He prohibits officers from aiming 40-millimeter projectiles at the head, neck, face, eyes, kidneys, chest, groins or spine, and says they should only be fired at five feet or more “unless an officer or other person is attacked and there is a threat of imminent serious harm.

Carol Sobel, lawyer for Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, said the organization’s legal team had reviewed videos of the weekend’s events and would like the court to expand the injunction to include bean bags, which were used on Saturday.

Sobel said the videos she saw, including of the woman being shot with a beanbag at close range and officers firing 40mm bullets while running down the street, were extremely disturbing and showed “indiscriminate use of these weapons”.

Los Angeles-based attorney Christian Contreras on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the city which names two people as class representatives and alleges officers used excessive force against protesters. He said more than a dozen protesters contacted him.

Following a press conference led by Contreras outside the LAPD headquarters in downtown on Tuesday, Jessica Woodward, one of the plaintiffs, told The Times that she was standing on the sidewalk and trying to get in between. a protester and an officer when she was hit. by a stick.

After standing up, two police officers hit her in the chest again with a baton, said Woodward, 28.

Accustomed to protests against police violence, Woodward said she wore a bulletproof vest on Saturday.

“My main objective in a demonstration is to stand between the police and the BIPOC so that they are not attacked,” she said.

The lawsuit also alleges unlawful force against documentary director Vishal Singh. Singh, 28, told The Times he was standing in the middle of Coronado Street filming the protest when an officer started pushing him back with a baton, repeatedly telling him to get on the sidewalk .

The video shows Singh, wearing a white t-shirt and black helmet, quickly walking backwards and filming. Singh walked behind a parked car and on the sidewalk to film officers who he said were wielding batons at protesters. He said an officer leaned into the back of the parked car and, with “both hands on his bat as if it were a baseball bat,” swung his right arm, fracturing a joint in his hand and two of his fingers.

“It was difficult to see a valid reason for this incident,” Singh said. “I was stepping back. I had my credentials on it. I was filming.

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