FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: May 9, 2022
Re: Journalists Sue LAPD for Illegal Arrests at Echo Park Lake
Case No. 2:22-cv-03106
MEDIA CONTACT: Shaleen Shanbhag - (626) 585-9600; firstname.lastname@example.org
Knock LA Journalists Sue LAPD for Illegally Arresting Them For Doing Their Job: Reporting About Violent Police Evictions at Echo Park Lake
“Journalism Is Not a Crime”
The complaint may be viewed here:
Featured article by Knock LA Surprise! We’re Suing the LAPD.
Two journalists from the independent news website Knock LA sued the Los Angeles Police Department today for arresting the pair in violation of their First Amendment right to report about public protests and violent police evictions of unhoused people from Echo Park Lake. The Plaintiffs are represented by the Law Offices of Hadsell Stormer Renick & Dai and the University of California, Irvine Law School Press Freedom Law Clinic.
Jon Peltz and Kate Gallagher, who were both arrested on March 21, 2021 for alleged failure to disperse but were never charged, sued the LAPD and Police Chief Michele Moore in federal court, alleging that their arrests violated their constitutional rights and a California law protecting journalists. At least 13 journalists, and likely more, were arrested or detained in Los Angeles, California, while documenting demonstrations near Echo Park Lake on March 25, 2021, as reported to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, on social media and in other news outlets.
“Journalism is not a crime,” said UC Irvine law school Professor Susan E. Seager. “The LAPD treated Jon and Kate like criminals because Knock LA is not part of the establishment press. But the First Amendment – and the LAPD’s own policy – do not require reporters to work for the mainstream media or carry official LAPD press passes.”
Mr. Peltz said officers were hostile to the press at the scene. “It was clear that we were arrested because the LAPD did not want anyone - especially the media - to observe their egregious and unlawful conduct at Echo Park Lake. The department behaved with brazen lawlessness to silence voices critical of the department,” Mr. Peltz said.
“Unlawful arrests and police brutality against journalists are both a local and a national problem,” Shaleen Shanbhag, a partner at Hadsell Stormer and Co-Counsel with Prof Seager, said. “Since 2020, police have assaulted journalists across the country more than 600 times and made more than 200 arrests of journalists- most of the arrests in 2021 and 2022 coming during coverage of police evicting unhoused people from their encampments. This horrific behavior must stop, and we intend to have a jury hold the LAPD accountable.”
"A free press is crucial for holding public agencies like the LAPD accountable. The police should not be allowed to arrest journalists for reporting on a protest against their department’s own conduct," said Plaintiff Kate Gallagher.
On the night of March 25, 2021, most reporters – including Mr. Peltz and Ms. Gallagher – ignored the LAPD’s directive to move to a designated media viewing area because it provided no view of the protesters or officers preparing to evict dozens of people living in tents around Echo Park Lake, the lawsuit said. Officers issued a dispersal order to protesters and reporters standing on Lemoyne Street about 150 feet from the lake, but then immediately trapped and arrested protesters and the two Knock LA reporters, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit alleges that the LAPD has “a longstanding policy, custom and practice of obstructing, targeting, and retaliating against members of the press for exercising their First Amendment rights to gather news regarding police officer activity in public places, particularly during protests against police brutality.”
Knock LA is a non-profit, independent news website focusing on local law enforcement misconduct and government corruption since 2017. The website published last year a 15- part series about the history of violent gangs of deputies within the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and both the LAPD and Sheriff’s Department have released documents showing that the departments keep track of Knock LA’s reporting about their agencies.