A group that puts on an annual Silver Lake street fair for gays and Latinos has announced the filing of a lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles over the arrest of one its leaders and the confiscation of equipment in September, causing a fund-raising concert to close early.
In the Superior Court lawsuit filed Aug. 2, the Sunset Junction Neighborhood Alliance alleges that discrimination and negligence by the Los Angeles Police Department caused the concert to lose money, damaged the group's reputation and left emotional scars on concert organizer John Brown.
Although the lawsuit does not specify an amount, the group's attorney, R. Samuel Paz, said his clients asked for $500,000 in general and punitive damages in a claim filed against the city in November.
Ted Goldstein, spokesman for the Los Angeles city attorney's office, declined Wednesday to comment on the lawsuit that, he said, had not yet come into the office. Police Department spokesman Fred Nixon said the Police Department does not comment on matters in litigation.
In a written statement released at a news conference Monday, Michael McKinley, chairman of the Neighborhood Alliance, said the group went to court "with great reservation" because it has had an excellent relationship with the Northeast and Rampart police divisions during the eight past street fairs on Sunset Boulevard.
"Those relationships are extremely important to us," McKinley said.
However, he said the group proceeded with the lawsuit in the hope that it will prevent any future police problems.
Paz said at Monday's news conference that he hoped to prove "a purposeful conspiracy" on the part of the Hollywood Division of the Police Department "to shut down the music festival."
The concert, held in the parking lot of a Hollywood disco, was scheduled to be a three-day Labor Day weekend event. After receiving complaints from residents of a street near the event, police made several requests for the organizers to turn down the electronic sound system.
Organizers contend that they complied each time. But, near the end of the second day, police confiscated some of the sound equipment and arrested Brown for violation of the city's noise ordinance.
Brown said Monday that the group may have been singled out by Hollywood Division police because it represented gays and Latino gang members.
"I do truly believe that if we had been an organization with a more mainstream cause, that not only would we not have been shut down, but that the co-chairman of that organization wouldn't have been handcuffed and hauled off to jail for doing volunteer work in the community."
The city attorney's office declined to file charges against Brown and a volunteer concert security worker who was arrested with him for interfering with a police officer.
Organizers have estimated that they lost $40,000 on the concert, which was intended to raise money for this year's Memorial Day street fair. In spite of the financial setback, the fair was held as planned.