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Lawsuit filed over police abuse of press at Floyd protests

Photojournalist Nicholas Stern was presenting his press credentials when officers fired on him for the first time.

 LOS ANGELES, CALIF., May 3, 2021 – LAPD officers directly shot rubber bullets, tear gas bombs and pepper spray projectiles at unarmed and peaceful journalists during a George Floyd protest, and targeted journalists, according to a federal lawsuit to be filed Tuesday by a man attacked at the scene despite his press credentials.

Nicholas Stern was reporting as a freelance journalist on the May 30, 2020 Fairfax district protests, spurred by the killing of Floyd in Minneapolis just a week earlier. Stern suddenly realized he was in danger as he looked through his camera’s viewfinder while taking pictures of the scene and saw an LAPD officer directly pointing a projectile weapon in his direction, according to the lawsuit.

With no pretext – and while Stern was pulling out his press credentials – the officer fired the weapon, shooting a rubber bullet that forcefully hit Stern in his upper right thigh. He was later grazed with another rubber bullet near his left knee, fired by an unknown police officer for unknown reasons, according to the lawsuit.

Prior to both shootings, Stern says he was battered aggressively by police batons while attempting to fulfill his civic duty as a reporter. Later, he and a fellow journalist were menaced so forcefully by police that he felt he had to leave the protests early. His attorney says he feared for his safety due to the continued police harassment and use of force.

“For the Los Angeles Police Department to respond so aggressively towards an identifiable member of the press – at a time when police brutality has never been more in the spotlight and at a protest on the very subject – is unacceptable and directly violates the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” said V. James DeSimone, the Marina del Rey, Calif., civil rights attorney representing Stern. “It is completely unnecessary and unreasonable to shoot less lethal projectiles at peaceful protestors and members of the press. The photos taken by Mr. Stern show the story of the LAPD’s deliberate and reckless conduct in targeting people who should have been protected.”

Stern, whose work appears in The Guardian, CNN, The New York Times and other publications, seeks justice and accountability for the LAPD’s unconstitutional actions. Named in the lawsuit are the City of Los Angeles and the involved LAPD officers, whose identities have not been released.

The suit comes in the wake of news last week that the LAPD had lifted a temporary moratorium on the use of projectile use at protests, which had limited officers to only target “persons who pose a threat of serious bodily harm” to police and others, according to an LA Times report, although the LAPD now states it will only shoot less lethal projectiles at the ground. 

 Los Angeles civil rights attorney V. James DeSimone has dedicated his 35-year law career to providing vigorous and ethical representation to achieve justice for those whose civil and constitutional rights are violated.

Press:

– LA Times: Photojournalists sue LAPD, L.A. County sheriff over alleged abuses at protests
– KFI AM 640: Photographer Sues City
– My News LA: Photographer Sues City, LAPD Chief Over Injuries at Street Protest

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