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Judge: BLM Leader’s Lawsuit Against LAPD Can Proceed

By City News Service

A federal judge has ruled that a civil rights lawsuit may proceed against the Los Angeles Police Department and several officers in a case brought by the founder of Black Lives Matter South Pasadena, who alleges excessive force was used against her at a George Floyd protest three years ago, according to court papers obtained Dec. 8.
Fahren James alleges she was badly injured when she was shot by officers multiple times with so-called “less-lethal” projectiles on May 30, 2020, outside CBS Studios, when citizens were protesting the killing of Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police five days earlier, according to the complaint filed in Los Angeles federal court.
Attorneys representing the defendants had asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit James filed in 2021, arguing that the protest was unlawful and the officers’ actions were not intended to stifle free speech. They also argued that they did not use excessive force on James, and that the doctrine of qualified immunity shielded the officers from civil action, among other claims.
U.S. District Judge Consuelo Marshall reviewed officers’ body-worn camera footage, and evidence and arguments presented by the plaintiff’s attorney before issuing her decision Tuesday.
The judge determined that a reasonable jury could find James’ act of protesting was a substantial motivating factor in the officers’ conduct.
“Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to (James), a reasonable jury could conclude that (her) act of protesting at an anti-police rally was a substantial factor that motivated the defendant officers’ conduct,” Marshall wrote.
The lawsuit alleges First and Fourth Amendment violations made by LAPD, including excessive force and retaliation against peaceful protesters.
“This decision, allowing Ms. James’ case to proceed, is a beacon of hope for the protection of free speech and against police brutality,” James’ attorney V. James DeSimone said in a statement.
“The court recognized the gravity of the allegations and the importance of allowing a jury to hear Ms. James’ story. This is a step forward in our relentless pursuit of justice and ensuring the constitutional rights of peaceful protesters is respected.”

First published in the December 14 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

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