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Reporters sue Los Angeles police over arrests during protest

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A lawsuit filed Monday by two independent journalists alleges the Los Angeles Police Department violated their civil rights when the pair was arrested last year while reporting on a confrontation over the removal of a large homeless encampment at a city park.

Jon Peltz and Kate Gallagher, reporters for the nonprofit local news website KnockLA, were among more than 180 protesters and several members of the news media detained March 25, 2021, during demonstrations at LA’s Echo Park Lake.

All charges were eventually dropped. But Peltz and Gallagher allege their arrests for failure to disperse violated their First Amendment rights and a California law protecting journalists, according to the complaint filed in Los Angeles federal court.

Police department officials didn’t immediately respond to requests seeking comment on the lawsuit.

Additionally, Peltz claims in the filing that he experienced swelling and numbness from being handcuffed and required treatment at an urgent care center.

Shaleen Shanbhag, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, estimates that more than 200 journalists have been arrested nationwide over the past two years, with “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,” Shanbhag said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.

The two-day demonstration last year came when the city moved to fence off the park for repairs while trying to move people living in a large encampment to alternative housing.

The LAPD said at the time that a declaration of unlawful assembly was announced at least five times during the protest and members of the media were asked to remove themselves from the crowd.

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