Multi-Ethnic Immigrant Workers v. City of Los Angeles, California
On May 1, 2007, thousands of nonviolent protestors gathered in many cities around the United States, including Los Angeles, to march in support of comprehensive immigration reform. At the march in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) used excessive force against a group of peaceful protestors in MacArthur Park. The LAPD declared the entire gathering an “unlawful assembly” and, speaking only in English, ordered all of the participants to disperse. The majority of the participants either did not hear or did not understand the orders to disperse because they spoke only Spanish. Riot-gear clad officers moved into the park on foot and shoved the group of peaceful protestors with batons. They also indiscriminately shot foam bullets and other munitions at persons in the park, including the elderly and young children. Hundreds of people, including peaceful protesters, journalists, and innocent bystanders, were injured as a result of the LAPD’s actions. Many people sustained major injuries that required medical treatment or hospitalization, and many others suffered emotional trauma as a result of the melee.
On May 9, 2007, MALDEF and a coalition of private attorneys who are members of the National Lawyers Guild filed a class action lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles and the LAPD on behalf of organizational plaintiffs, as well as several individual named plaintiffs who were injured in the May Day incident. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles.
The Complaint alleges that the LAPD violated the plaintiffs’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of free speech and freedom of association, their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection under the law, their Fourteenth Amendment right to due process under the law, and their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to be free from use of excessive force by the government.
On May 1, 2008, MALDEF observed the one-year anniversary of the police assaults with a press conference calling for accountability for the officers involved in the riot and compensation for those individuals who were injured. In July 2008, the LAPD brought disciplinary charges against 17 police officers and two police sergeants for their actions in the melee, which the LAPD condemned in a 2007 report.
In February 2009, the settlement agreement negotiated by both sides was approved unanimously by the Los Angeles City Council. The settlement included 200 plaintiffs in the MIWON case, as well as another 100 plaintiffs in eight related cases in federal court. The settlement is awaiting final approval.