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Lawsuit Accuses LA Sheriff’s Deputies Of Abuses During Protests

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Sheriff’s deputies shoot projectiles and pepper balls on June 21 at demonstrators protesting the death of Andres Guardado. (Brian Feinzimer)
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A group of protesters has filed a class action lawsuit against Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva for his department’s handling of police protests earlier this summer. The federal civil rights suit accuses deputies of using unreasonable force against hundreds of protesters in the weeks following the police killing of George Floyd, as well as during a Father's Day protest against the killing of Andres Guardado by a deputy.

Deputies hit demonstrators with batons, rubber bullets and tear gas, often without warning, according to attorney Carolyn Parks. "They are often not making a dispersal order prior to using force or prior to arresting people," she said.

The lawsuit says deputies deprived people of basic human rights, refusing people who were detained access to food or water. It also accuses them of holding detainees for long periods of time in small, poorly ventilated spaces, while not wearing masks.

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Plaintiff Grace Bryant, 21, is a senior at MIT who was visiting when she was arrested at a protest in Compton. "From the moment I was detained, I was asking for access to a bathroom," Bryant told us. After nearly two hours, she finally relieved herself inside a sheriff’s van, Bryant said.

Protesters have filed a similar lawsuit against the LAPD.

"The consistent, frightening, and forceful message that both the LAPD and the LASD have delivered to protesters in recent months is that the constitutional right to peaceably assemble, as enshrined in the First Amendment, will not stop the law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles County from unleashing rough, indiscriminate violence and dangerous, retaliatory abuses of the powers vested in them when they are so inclined," claims the lawsuit against the sheriff.

The sheriff’s department offered no immediate comment on the suit.

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