"Because of the focus created by the peaceful protesters, we have a rare opportunity to change hearts, minds, and institutions. We cannot squander this moment.
It can no longer be 'us against them.' We cannot continue to talk at each other. We must really listen to one another.
Thousands of peaceful protesters whose only offense was a curfew violation, failure to disperse, failure to follow a lawful order or similar violation were arrested. We have yet to receive referrals from LAPD on these cases. But given the anxiety those arrested for these violations now feel, and the emphasis we, as a community, need to place on moving our City forward toward a more equitable and just future, I decided last weekend to issue a statement reflecting my values and those of my Office, and offering a general perspective on how these matters should be handled.
Rather than default to traditional prosecution, I see this as a moment to further focus on the deeply-rooted, deeply-felt issues at the core of the protests—to begin to find the common ground necessary for us to make progress, together, to renew our relationships and our institutions.
Earlier this week I elaborated further, stating that our office will convene a series of events designed to bring together protesters, law enforcement and other community stakeholders, in a candid exchange. These conversations, in various formats, will focus on policing and the relationship between law enforcement and the community it serves, but will also go beyond that, to issues of bias and injustice throughout our society. I hope these conversations will advance mutual empathy, understanding and respect. I also hope they will yield tangible ideas for specific actions that all the participants, including my office, can take to create a better, more just, more equitable Los Angeles.
Today I want to expand on those previous announcements.
Robust, diverse participation in this dialogue is crucial if it is to be meaningful. I strongly encourage protesters who were arrested to participate. But they will not be required to do so. I also strongly encourage protesters who were not arrested to join with us. And our office will continue to reach out to leaders of the protests as we formulate our approach, so we can hear their suggestions on how to make our efforts most impactful.
We evaluated a number of factors in deciding whether to make attendance at these events voluntary or mandatory for protesters who were arrested for these violations. On the one hand, for example, although I very much hope there is never a future need for another curfew in Los Angeles, if one is ever imposed, in whatever circumstances, it will be important that our residents take it seriously and comply with it.
In the end, however, the factors weighing in favor of voluntary participation in our program were more compelling, particularly given how unprecedented—indeed, absolutely extraordinary—the events of the last two weeks have been.
Our overarching goal is that these discussions be meaningful and identify tangible steps that can foster meaningful change. These exchanges will be infinitely more productive if participants attend because they want to be there. If those arrested were required to attend as a necessary precondition to our office not filing a case, but then chose not to participate, they would be subject to prosecution. Those prosecutions could result in peaceful protesters having a criminal record, which is not an outcome I support--especially here, given the rights they were exercising at this crucial time. Prosecutions in these circumstances would also dissipate scarce resources in my office that are better devoted to making our City safer.
By stark contrast, those who committed acts of violence, looting and vandalism must be held accountable. In many cases the victims of those alleged crimes were businesses barely hanging on during the COVID-19 pandemic. My Office already is prosecuting multiple such cases, with more in the pipeline.
Los Angeles is at a significant crossroads, confronting multiple simultaneous crises that test each of us. We can rise to those challenges, but only if we are committed to not merely returning to 'normal,' but returning to a City that is much better because it is more equitable, more sustainable and more just. Becoming that City will require that we join together in much deeper understanding. My Office is committed to helping achieve that goal."