28 Protesters Arrested in Beverly Hills, Activists Call for Their Release

Beverly Hills Police tweeted early am Saturday:

The unlawful assembly in the area of Rexford Dr & Carmelita Ave has ended with arrests being made. Protesters have now left the City.

Los Angeles Times reports Beverly Hills police arrested 28 people during a peaceful protest overnight, and the demonstrators remained in custody late Saturday afternoon, prompting concern from activists who said they should have been cited and released more quickly.

The protest, which began about 7:30 p.m. and drew about 75 people, was the third demonstration in Beverly Hills organized by the Black Future Project, but the first that resulted in arrests, said organizer Austin Tharpe, 29.

“We’re protesting for Black lives,” he said. “Specifically in Beverly Hills, because of the privilege and the whole makeup of the community, we felt like our voices needed to be heard over there.”

He said that after protesters marched for several hours, police deployed a long-range acoustic device, also known as a sonic cannon, and declared the demonstration an unlawful assembly shortly before midnight.

“We put the signs on the ground,” he said. “We turned around and faced away from the cops with our knees on the ground and our hands behind our head.”

He said that officers continued to yell out orders to disperse, while protesters continued to kneel.

A total of 28 people were taken into custody, most on suspicion of unlawful assembly, though one person faced an attempted arson charge after allegedly trying to set fire to a large American flag that was attached to a building, said Sgt. Thomas West of the Beverly Hills Police Department. That person was associated with the protest but not the Black Future Project, Tharpe said.

“They were given multiple warnings to leave, and as arrests were being made we were continually asking people to leave, so it was just the people who absolutely refused to leave who were placed under arrest,” West said.

Initially, the Police Department planned to hold the protesters under what’s called a misdemeanor non-release, which would have required that they post $5,000 bail to get out, West said.

Later in the day, citing a directive from command staff, the department reversed course and said the protesters would be cited and released on their own recognizance, provided that they did not have outstanding warrants.

That came after the National Lawyers Guild issued a statement decrying the $5,000 bail as “unacceptable” and calling for the protesters to be immediately freed.

“It is outrageous that during a statewide health crisis — and when, as we have been hearing from our local, state, and federal officials, the number of COVID-19 cases in California are continuing to rise — that the Beverly Hills Police Department would hold these peaceful protesters in custody,” the organization said in a statement. “Keeping these men and women in custody will unnecessarily expose them to significant health risk and endanger their lives.”