Black Lives Matter Los Angeles has filed a complaint against the City of Santa Monica and former Police Chief Cynthia Renaud in response to alleged unconstitutional use of force and arrests during protests last year. 

The complaint was filed on June 28 by plaintiffs BLMLA and three protestors, who seek to turn their suit into a class action case that applies to all protestors who were detained by the police or subjected to excessive force. 

The defendants are the City of Santa Monica and by extension SMPD, Renaud, and Doe defendants who acted under the City’s direction. These include mutual aid responders from local law enforcement agencies and members of the National Guard.

The case alleges that on May 31 and June 1, 2020, the defendants violated plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable seizures and Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process. 

The complaint alleges that “SMPD ended the protests through the use of force (batons and ‘rubber bullets’) and imposed unconstitutional conditions of confinement on arrestees by holding them on buses for many hours, tightly handcuffed with zip ties, without access to bathroom facilities, food, or water.”

The complaint also alleges that the arrests were unconstitutional because, “SMPD had no means to identify the basis of individual arrests, the arresting officer and other basic information required to meet constitutional due process in a criminal proceeding.”

The plaintiffs establish a distinction between the peaceful protestors and those who participated in looting activities. The plaintiffs claim that law enforcement officers trained their attention on peaceful protestors and, as a result, the majority of those arrested were cited for a violation of curfew and not a serious crime. 

Plaintiff BLMLA alleges that the City of Santa Monica tried to prevent the peaceful protests by instituting curfew orders and therefore interfered with BLMLA’s right to assembly and speech. 

The plaintiffs believe the case applies to a class of 300 arrested individuals and estimates that it also applies to a class of more than 300 individuals who were subjected to direct force. 

They are seeking several actions including a permanent injunction preventing defendants from repeating the “unlawful” actions of May 31 and June 1, the expungement of protestors’ arrests from all criminal databases, and compensatory financial relief. 

The complaint includes the experiences of three specific protestors intending to illustrate the alleged unlawful actions taken against the broader class of plaintiffs. 

Plaintiff David Brown is a 40-year resident of Santa Monica who was arrested for violating curfew while peacefully protesting near Third Street Promenade. The complaint alleges that he provided no resistance, but was struck with batons during the arrest process. 

The complaint further alleges that after being detained for several hours and released in the City of Los Angeles, “the officers threatened that, if he returned to Santa Monica, he would be arrested. When Brown responded that he lived in Santa Monica, the officers repeated the threat.”

Plaintiff David Clennon claims that he was peacefully walking home from a protest when he was picked out of a group of people and detained by the police.

Plaintiff Kerry Hogan claims she was struck by a projectile while peacefully kneeling, which caused her bruising and pain. She alleges that the officers did not warn of their intention to launch projectiles and were outside of the allowable range for the use of the target specific instrument that was fired. 

“The City of Santa Monica is reviewing the civil complaint related to regional activities in the spring of 2020,” said Public Information Officer Constance Farrell. “The City of Santa Monica has not yet been formally served with the complaint.”

A similar complaint was filed by BLMLA against the City of LA regarding their treatment of protestors last summer.