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  1. #1
    Senior Member Brian503a's Avatar
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    May 2005
    California or ground zero of the invasion

    Lompoc chief issues apology to immigration protesters ... news02.txt

    Deal would exonerate student protesters

    By Mark Abramson/Staff Writer
    A First Amendment battle between student protesters and Lompoc police is nearing a settlement that would require a public apology by police and city officials and civil rights training for police officers.

    Thirty students, represented by California Rural Legal Assistance, say their constitutional right to free speech was violated when police quashed their protest of proposed immigration legislation March 31 at Lompoc High School.

    Police, working in conjunction with the Lompoc Unified School District, cited 61 students for violating a city ordinance. Many of them were handcuffed as they walked out of school, some were detained in a school bus or patrol cars and released to their parents at the police department. None of them were allowed to return to class that day.

    Similar protests erupted nationwide late in March. In Santa Maria, hundreds of students marched but police merely monitored the hours-long protest rather than arresting people to shut it down.

    The Lompoc settlement, still unsigned, calls for a formal apology by city and police officials at a public meeting on Aug. 8, and the clearing of students' police records.

    Police must also admit they were wrong, and provide officers training in the meaning of the First Amendment. Chief Bill Brown will represent the police department at the meeting.

    City and police officials are waiting for the students' parents or guardians to sign the agreement before they approve it.

    “Anything that exists that would show there was a detention of these students (by police) will be destroyed,” said Jeannie Barrett, a CRLA attorney. “Each student who got a citation will get a letter from the city indicating that.”

    “The agreement is acceptable to the city because it will result in the dismissal of the lawsuit,” said Assistant City Attorney Matthew Granger said.

    Granger and Brown declined to comment further on the agreement. It will not be final until everyone named in it signs it, including every City Council member, Granger added.

    Barrett said police ignored a clause in the city's ordinance, Section 2103, which pertains to daylight loitering by minors. An exemption in that law allows students to exercise their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and assembly.

    Police said previously that the First Amendment exemption did not apply to the students. Police also said they did not consult the city attorney prior to taking action against the protesters.

    Although police and city officials have agreed to the settlement, Lompoc Unified School District officials rejected it.

    CRLA attorneys contend that the district is at fault because school officials asked for police help in quashing the protest. Police said they met with district officials March 30, the day before the planned march.

    “Essentially, I think the school district believes they didn't do much of anything wrong and that it was all the fault of the police department,” Barrett said.

    “In taking that position, I think they are ignoring things their staff did do. Among other things the school district furnished the bus that the police department used as the holding cell for students. The district asked the police to intervene, district staff got on the bus and harangued the students about how stupid they were being, and they refused to let the students back in class.”

    According to Barrett, the school district's attorneys initially agreed to the proposed settlement, but the district rejected the agreement.

    That action, she said, could subject the district to civil lawsuits by students and their parents. School district officials and their attorney declined to comment.

    “The district said they were acting because they don't think kids should miss school, and they were kept out the whole day,” Barrett said. “It was because of their (the district's) action that it turned into this major event and they (students) missed the whole day. That was essentially a detention without any kind of due process.”

    Mark Abramson can be reached at 737-1057 or
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Brian503a's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2005
    California or ground zero of the invasion
    16,029 ... news03.txt

    Lompoc chief issues apology to protesters
    By Mark Abramson/Staff Writer

    Flanked by a battery of TV news cameras, Lompoc Police Chief Bill Brown and other city officials Tuesday night admitted they mishandled a March 31 student immigration protest and apologized to students and their parents.

    “As the head of this organization, I take full responsibility for what occurred on March 31 and I apologize to you,” Brown said as he sat next to City Administrator Gary Keefe and Deputy City Attorney Matthew Granger in a crowded City Council room at City Hall.

    The public apology and discussion meeting was part of a legal settlement reached between the city, Lompoc Police Department and students, who were cited after they walked out of class to protest. It was brokered by the California Rural Legal Assistance Inc.

    City code allows students to be out of school if they are exercising their free speech rights. Brown said police thought they could avoid violating the code by stopping the protest before it got started.

    “These actions were not taken to suppress free speech or in any way minimize the rights of students of the immigration community,” Brown told the audience. “In hindsight, however, we regret what happened.”

    Apologies by Brown and Keefe met with a mixed reaction in the room.

    Elizabeth Reyes Velazquez, a parent and unofficial spokeswoman for the Hispanic community, said she was satisfied with the apology.

    “This was about an apology,” she said. “They made it clear it was a human error.”

    Cabrillo High student Sofia Pent, 16, who was handcuffed by police, also said she was satisfied by the apology despite the “physically painful” ordeal.

    Guadalupe Rivera, 16, also a Cabrillo student who was detained by police, was less forgiving.

    “I'm not satisfied,” she said, saying that Brown tried to minimize the officers' behavior. “We were treated like criminals.”

    Guillermina Alejandra said through her daughter's interpretation that she believed Brown was being untruthful when he told the audience that the decisions were made by one of his subordinates.

    Brown said that the day before the protest, school district officials asked police to intervene and cite students for violating the city's daylight loitering ordinance.

    Police rounded up, cited and detained 63 students, videotaped and photographed them and took many of them to the police station in a school bus. Students were later released to their parents.

    Keefe apologized for the city's role in the incident.

    The settlement calls for the citations to dismissed and all record of them to be erased. Brown said all evidence in the police department's possession, including photos and video, have been or will be destroyed.

    And a letter was sent Tuesday to the home of every student cited explaining that.

    Brown said he has issued a memorandum to officers to satisfy a requirement that officers be trained in First Amendment rights. He also said that exception 11 in the city code that allows students to exercise their First Amendment rights now will be interpreted to include student actions prior to any actual protest.

    After the formal comments, Brown circulated throughout the room, speaking with media, parents and students.

    He said he was struck by how hurt members of the Hispanic community were by how the situation was handled. “In hindsight, I think we could have not cited the students,” he said.

    The Lompoc Unified School District has declined to settle with the students. As of Tuesday afternoon, 16 students and their families had filed claims against the district, an action that could lead to a classaction lawsuit.

    CRLA Attorney Jeannie Barrett, said she wished the meeting could have been more open and people would be allowed to ask questions during it, rather than afterward. Still, she credited Brown will fulfilling the terms of the settlement.

    “I have a lot of respect for anyone willing to get up and say I made a mistake,” Barrett said.

    Mark Abramson can be reached at 737-1057 or mabramson@

    August 9, 2006
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