BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — Activists are calling for the release of nearly two dozen protesters who were arrested on charges of unlawful assembly in Beverly Hills, saying holding them until they could each post $5,000 bail was excessive and heightens the risk of getting sick amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Police confirmed 23 protesters were arrested Friday night after they ignored repeated orders to leave a neighborhood.
In addition, one person was arrested on suspicion of arson after a fire was set during the largely peaceful protest, Sgt. Thomas West said. The protesters remained in custody Saturday morning and were being processed, West said. Bail was set at $5,000 — an amount that critics said was excessive.
During protests calling for criminal justice reform in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, protesters who were arrested in and around Los Angeles over unlawful assembly, breaking curfew orders and other minor violations were mostly cited, released and given an order to appear in court.
Austin Tharpe, an organizer with Black Future Project which spearheaded the protest in Beverly Hills, said that was the case when he was twice arrested for violating dispersal orders by police in Los Angeles and Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies in Compton.
The deputies in Compton “took our pictures, fingerprinted us, gave us citations and released us within an hour,” Tharpe said. “No one was held overnight, there was no bail or misdemeanor charge and we have court dates coming up. It was nowhere near what Beverly Hills police are doing.”
Beverly Hills, known for Rodeo Drive and home of the rich and famous, proclaimed a local emergency on May 30 and imposed nighttime curfews after demonstrations spread to the city, which borders Los Angeles and West Hollywood. On June 14, the city issued an order restricting nighttime assemblies after a noisy protest disturbed residents. The order made exceptions for silent assemblies such as candlelight vigils as well as those on private property, and warned that violators can face arrest and be charged with a misdemeanor.
John Glover said he watched police arrest his wife Friday night and anxiously sought to post her bail, but jailers told him Saturday he couldn’t pay it because she hadn’t been processed.
“No one should be detained this long for something like this. I witnessed the protest and it was peaceful at all times,” Glover said.
The National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles urged Beverly Hills police to release the protesters, arguing that keeping them in custody over the weekend could threaten their health.
“These protesters were lawfully exercising the rights we all enjoy under the First Amendment. Their continued detention is punitive and places their health and safety in danger,” the group said in a statement.