Some Cities Decline to Prosecute Arrested Protesters

A protester is arrested in Los Angeles.

A protester is arrested in Los Angeles. Shutterstock

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Prosecutors in large and small cities alike are saying they won’t press charges against peaceful protesters arrested for nonviolent offenses.

As protests continue across the United States over police brutality and the killing of George Floyd, many local prosecutors say that they won’t move forward with charges against protesters arrested for nonviolent offenses, such as curfew violations. 

On Monday, the state attorney for Hillsborough County in Florida, which includes Tampa, announced that he would drop the charges brought against 67 people who were arrested for unlawful assembly at a protest on June 2 after he concluded that none of them engaged in violence.

“I’ve said many times that criminal justice reform involves looking at each case as a problem to solve, not just a person to be punished,” Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren said at a press conference. “In these unlawful assembly cases, there is no value in filing charges. Prosecuting people for exercising their First Amendment rights creates problems rather than solving them. It can weaken the bonds between law enforcement and the community, while undermining faith in our system.”

The news of expungement was met with relief from protesters and community organizations involved with organizing the protests, who called it “a huge victory.” Demonstrators had been marching outside the Hillsborough County courthouse for nearly two weeks, in part calling for charges to be dropped.

Protesters in Hillsborough County are not alone. Warren’s sentiments mirror those of many prosecutors across the country who have decided not to press charges against peaceful protesters. Last week, the district attorneys in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx in New York City said that they would not prosecute those arrested on charges of unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct “in the interest of justice.” 

A few days later, prosecutors announced similar decisions in several major cities in California, including San Diego, Santa Monica, Sacramento. In Los Angeles, where police arrested thousands of protesters after the city’s curfew went into effect, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey and Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer also declined to prosecute those arrested for violating curfew or failing to disperse.

“I believe whole-heartedly in free speech and support the right of protesters to demonstrate peacefully against historic racial injustice in our criminal justice system and throughout our nation,” Lacey said in a statement. “I want to encourage the exchange of ideas and work to establish dialogue between law enforcement and protesters so that we may implement enduring systemic change.”

Attorneys with the National Lawyers Guild and the Los Angeles County Public Defenders Union say they want Lacey and Feuer to go a step further and destroy all arrest records. “Not just because arrestees are entitled to this relief by law, but because it would serve the interest of justice,” the attorneys said in a statement. “As we all know, arrest records can cause significant collateral consequences in the areas of housing, employment and immigration.”

The police response to the dropped charges has been mixed. In New York City, the decisions might have caused tensions with the city’s police department, as the agency pulled officers assigned to DA offices hours after the announcements about not prosecuting protesters. Police Commissioner Dermot Shea denied that decision was related, saying more officers were simply needed to help cover protests. 

Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said in a statement that he supports people’s right to protest, but emphasized that those arrested by his officers had broken the law. “Although I understand the difficulty in prosecuting those arrested, they were given two warnings after blocking streets,” he said. “Although taking over intersections can be peaceful, it is still illegal.”

But in Los Angeles, Chief Michel Moore endorsed the decision to drop charges against those arrested for violating curfew or failing to disperse, calling it “productive and appropriate” and likely to create “lasting positive effects on our community.”

In other places, prosecutors say that they won’t do mass dismissals, but they won’t do mass prosecutions either. The Milwaukee city attorney said he will review each arrest for curfew violations on a case-by-case basis. If the charges are dismissed, protesters will be off the hook for the nearly $700 fine that would accompany a conviction. One county supervisor, who was tackled by a police officer before he was arrested and cited for a curfew violation, said that dismissing the charges is just the first step. 

“That should not be the end of the fight,” Supervisor Ryan Clancy told local news station WTMJ. Clancy claimed that the Milwaukee Police Department was unnecessarily violent in their enforcement of the curfew and said he will be filing a lawsuit, something he is also encouraging other protesters to do. “The end goal here is not to have the ticket thrown out, it’s to make sure that we don’t have the misconduct … for the enforcement of that,” Clancy said.

Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.

FEATURED CASE STUDIES
Powered By The Atlas
Town meets changing LCR compliance by prioritizing communication, resident education, and equity
Wellington, CO 80549, USA
St. Louis Uses Interactive Kiosks as a Critical COVID-19 Communications Platform
St. Louis, MO, USA
Asheville Parks & Rec Strategic Plan Boosts Staff Participation & Deepens Community Relationships
Asheville, NC, USA

NEXT STORY: Trump Signs Police Reform Executive Order to Encourage More Training, Other Changes

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.