Occupy Los Angeles demonstrators are suing the city for what they said was an unlawful “shock and awe” attack on their civil rights when 1,400 police officers swept nearly 300 demonstrators from City Hall grounds more than a year ago.
The Nov. 30, 2011 arrests at Los Angeles City Hall came after an eight-week encampment aligned with the Occupy Wall Street movement calling attention to “bailouts for Wall Street and foreclosures for Main Street.”
Five people are suing in a class action lawsuit that represents 292 people detained by officers in the raid. Court documents said those arrested were denied food and water for hours while being detained at the Metropolitan Detention Center downtown, at a jail in Van Nuys or on a bus en route to the lockup.
Some were forced to urinate on themselves after being denied access to restrooms, court documents allege.
Three of the five people suing are members of or participants in the Occupy Los Angeles movement. One person was a videographer not associated with the Occupy protests but who was videotaping the officers during the incident. He claims he was arrested even after he said he complied with officers’ orders to disperse.
The fifth person is a reporter for the left-wing radio station KPFK who was detained when he decided to stay with the protesters during the arrests, court records said.
One of the women suing claimed in court papers that an officer pinched her nipple and inner thigh as part of a “pain compliance” technique during the arrests and she suffered bruises to her body.
The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Los Angeles on Thursday, said arrestees were forced to urinate and defecate on themselves while handcuffed while en route on a bus to the lockup.
The lawsuit names the city and county of LA, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.
The Mayor’s Office did not return a message on Saturday. An LAPD spokeswoman said the department doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
The case stems from the sweep on Nov. 30 of City Hall by some 1,400 police officers, that the protesters said in court documents was dubbed by Beck “shock and awe,” a reference made famous by former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The protesters said they were ejected from City Hall lawn in an “unprecedented show of force by the LAPD.”
“The only weapon plaintiffs had in this instance was the First Amendment,” wrote Carol Sobel, in the lawsuit. She was part of a law firm that won a nearly $13 million settlement against LA for a police response to an immigrants' rights march on May Day 2007 at MacArthur Park.
The Occupy demonstrators were swept off the City Hall lawn after a two-month encampment and growing fears by city officials of crime and public health threats. Villaraigosa made references during a press conference days before the raid to the presence of children at the protest site as a reason to sweep the demonstrators out.
As many as 500 men, women and children were estimated to have camped out on the City Hall lawn, some in tents and other makeshift homes, city officials said.