Saturday, February 12, 2011

Egyptians Gain Freedoms As We Lose Ours

Los Angeles gets tough with political protesters

"Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich is throwing the book at dozens of people arrested during recent political demonstrations — a major shift in city policy that has him pressing for jail time in types of cases that previous prosecutors had treated as infractions.

Some of the activists arrested, including eight college students and one military veteran who took part in a Westwood rally last year in support of the DREAM Act, face up to one year in county jail.

Trutanich's aggressive stance is the latest episode in the city's decades-long legal struggle over the rights of protesters. The Los Angeles Police Department's treatment of demonstrators at the 2000 Democratic National Convention and at a 2007 May Day rally at MacArthur Park led to lawsuits against the city.

Trutanich said in an interview that recent demonstrations, conducted without permits, had cost the city thousands of dollars for police response and disrupted traffic. Organizers of illegal protests should face consequences, he said.

"My whole deal is predictability," he said. "In order for us to have a civilized society, there has to be a predictable result when you break the law. I want to make sure that they don't do it again."

The new policy, he added, was designed with an eye on what he called "professional" protesters who demonstrate repeatedly — sometimes for pay, he said — and never seem to be punished for their illegal activities.

"There's a right way and a wrong way" to protest, Trutanich said. "When you break the law, it's a not a mainstream 1st Amendment activity. You have the right to protest; you don't have the right to break the law."


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