Los Angeles police response to California’s anti-abortion protests makes case for police reform

Despite promises of reform following the city’s poor response to Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020, video footage of police violence at recent pro-abortion protests in Los Angeles shows that LAPD has yet to change its practices .

After abortion activists took to the streets across the US to protest the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade In late June, videos circulated on social media showing Los Angeles police treating protesters as enemy combatants.

Armed with riot gear and brandishing rubber-bullet guns, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) mobilized quickly in response to pro-abortion protests near the city’s federal courthouse June 24-27. Activists and journalists say excessive use of physical force is widespread, with police using batons against peaceful protesters.

Los Angeles police say they did not use force against peaceful protesters. “The majority of those involved [in pro-abortion protests] were peaceful and law abiding, but a much smaller group of people took to the streets with the intention of creating chaos and destruction,” LAPD said in a June 27 statement. “The Los Angeles Police Department excels in facilitating First Amendment rights for all Angelenos. Likewise, the Department will enforce the law when individuals engage in violence,” the statement continued.

Although the protests were attended by participants in the violence, including one man who attacked police with a torch, videos shared online appear to show police using force against nonviolent protesters, including those trying to de-escalate the situation. In one clip that has gained particular attention on social media, Los Angeles police officers appear to be shoving Full house actress Jodie Sweetin on the sidewalk as she tried to defuse a confrontation between police and protesters on a Los Angeles freeway.

In another video, Los Angeles police officers appear to prevent bystanders from providing water to a protester whose head and arm were repeatedly slammed to the ground by police.

Police also reportedly attacked journalists even when they presented their credentials and specifically identified themselves. One clip appears to show police officers punching reporter Tina Desiree Berg and pushing her to the ground, even after she showed her press badge:

Back in May, when Politics published an expired draft Supreme Court opinion that it overruled Roe v. Wadeprotestors were too decisions with violence by LAPD officers.

The Los Angeles Police Department’s response to the June 2020 Black Lives Matter protests was also criticized for poor planning, disorganization and several instances of excessive force. An investigative report commissioned by the Los Angeles City Council found that “curfew arrestees were detained and handcuffed for hours, without water or bathroom breaks, before being transported to the jail for booking.”

City officials promised reform following the protests in the summer of 2020. In response to public outcry, the Los Angeles Police Department updated many of her crowd management policies and respect for protesters and journalists. Police reform also remains an important issue in the Los Angeles election, with both of the main candidates for Los Angeles mayor, businessman and former Los Angeles Police Commission president Rick Caruso and U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D–Calif.), promising to implement further changes in LAPD practices without “redefining” the department. The Bass campaign includes police reform as a core principle of its public safety policy.

For activists and local observers, the police department’s approach to these recent protests shows the failure of reform efforts. “It’s been a little less than two years [the LAPD] changed its policy on how it treats non-city-accredited media after being roughed up [reporter Lexis Olivier-Rey] in 2020, tweeted James Qualley, crime reporter for th Los Angeles Times. “It’s clear from this video that they’re not following him.”

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