LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–For the past 75 years, the courageous fight for civil rights and racial justice has been driven by peaceful protest. All too often, peaceful protesters exercising their most basic constitutional rights are met with brute force. Today, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP announces the filing of a civil rights action to meet that force and finally end it, ensuring that protesters in Los Angeles will be free to exercise their inalienable, constitutional right to protest peacefully and persist in their demand for racial justice.
This new civil rights action provides a stark example of both police brutality and the extraordinary courage of Angeleno protesters. The Plaintiff, Deon Jones, 29, is a Los Angeles-based performance artist, entrepreneur, and Truman Scholar who was shot in the face with a rubber bullet by the Los Angeles Police Department while peacefully protesting on May 30, 2020. Mr. Jones’s lawsuit, filed in federal court, challenges the Department’s use of brutal and indiscriminate force against peaceful protesters exercising their constitutional rights and demands an end to the use of so-called “rubber bullets” or “less lethal” munitions against peaceful protesters, like the “rubber bullet” an LAPD officer fired at Mr. Jones, that was just millimeters away from killing or blinding him.
Orin Snyder, a partner with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP and lead counsel for Mr. Jones, stated: “This case is another powerful reminder that the campaign for racial justice in the United States is far from over and is still being waged on the streets of Los Angeles and in cities around the nation. We are living in 2020, not 1960, and yet police violence against Black Americans continues with virulent force. Gibson Dunn is committed to advancing racial equality and ensuring that peaceful protesters like Mr. Jones can exercise their right to protest without being met with excessive force or violence.”
Katherine Marquart, partner and chair of Gibson Dunn’s pro bono program, stated: “We are proud to represent Mr. Jones in defending the rights of all protesters fighting for racial justice. Their fight is our fight too, and we will continue, as a firm, to take up the cause of those, like Mr. Jones, who heroically lend their voices in protest to call for an end to racism. As we have in lawsuits filed across the country, we will hold the Defendants accountable and ensure that no other protester will be brutalized with rubber bullets merely for exercising their right to protest, as enshrined in the Constitution and in this nation’s history.”
Organizations supporting racial justice and combating excessive violence immediately spoke out in support of the action. Hannah Shearer, Litigation Director at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence said: “Unarmed protesters should never have to run from rubber bullets fired by police officers. They shouldn’t have to risk their lives when advocating for reforms to address systemic racism in America. What happened to Deon Jones is a tragedy and yet, one that keeps happening. It’s time for police departments like the LAPD to understand that excessive force against Americans simply expressing their rights is always wrong.”
Jeffrey Robinson, Director for the ACLU’s Center for Justice and Equality said: “The answer to protests against police brutality cannot be more brutality. Law enforcement agencies across America stress their use of ‘less than lethal force’ against protesters as evidence that their response to demonstrations is reasonable. The truth about police use of violence tells a different story – using ‘less than lethal force’ includes tactics that can seriously and permanently injure a person. Deon Jones knows that all too well. The use of force to protect property during times of unrest has a long and ugly history in America. This kind of police behavior must be rooted out, and the impact munitions that the LAPD used against Deon Jones should not be used to suppress the First Amendment rights of him or others in the future.”
Prominent professors from across the nation are also lending their support to the case, sharing their perspective on its import through the historical lens of protests for racial justice spanning generations. Professor Jody Armour of the University of Southern California Gould School of Law said: “This case, which seeks to protect the constitutional rights of those who wish to peacefully protest for racial justice, could not have come at a more critical time in our nation’s history. Looking back from the civil rights protests in the 1960s, to the protests following the Rodney King beating in 1992, to the more recent uprising following the murder of George Floyd, we see a pervasive pattern of police brutality against those peacefully advocating for change and progress. Real change to combat racism is possible – but not without people of all ages, races, and generations joining together and taking to the streets to make their voices heard. And when they do so, I sincerely hope the outcome of this case will help protect their rights to do so safely, without fear of police violence unlawfully suppressing their calls for justice.”
Professor James Forman, Jr. of Yale Law School and Pulitzer Prize winning author stated: “The time has come to put an end to police practices that violate the fundamental constitutional rights of Americans. The LAPD’s use of rubber bullets against peaceful protesters is brutal and legally indefensible – as Mr. Jones’s case makes clear. Law enforcement can and must do better to protect the communities they are sworn to serve, and I sincerely hope this case ushers in necessary change.”
Gibson Dunn seeks relief that would result in a court order prohibiting the LAPD from shooting rubber bullets at protesters throughout the City, ensuring that protesters continuing the fight for racial justice can do so without fear of police violence. This will protect all protesters, including Mr. Jones, who said: “My intention in filing this action is to eliminate the LAPD’s use of rubber bullets. Full stop. I was about an inch from being blinded in one eye and about an inch from a deadly blow to my temple. This is a dangerous and aggressive practice that has made Americans afraid to peacefully protest, and that is the antithesis of one of the most sacred principles of our democracy. I feel so many of the ancestors’ arms wrapped around this action. Men and women who put on their Sunday best to protest and bent this country closer to its promise. They left us with an eternal flame and call to action that it is possible to do difficult and important things that makes the burden lighter for all humankind.”