SAN DIEGO – In response to a video post by a community member at what appears to be a peaceful vigil at the site of the killing of Alfred Olango, the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties sent a letter today requesting information from the El Cajon Police Department (ECPD) concerning the arrests of individuals at the vigil on the evening of Saturday, October 1, 2016.
While no video necessarily tells the complete story, the available information raises serious questions that the arrests were unlawful. One of the factors in declaring an unlawful assembly is whether there is a clear and present danger of imminent violence. The available information does not show the vigil itself presented a clear and present danger of imminent violence. If there was no such danger, the declaration of unlawful assembly was proper only if the participants were committing or intending to commit an unlawful act by “violating some other law in the process” of holding the vigil. It is not evident what law the participants were violating by holding their peaceful vigil.
Given the information that is now available, David Loy, Legal Director at San Diego ACLU, sent the letter requesting an explanation from ECPD about the circumstances surrounding the arrests of individuals at the peaceful vigil, as well as the decision to declare the gathering unlawful. The letter was copied to the San Diego County Sheriff, as sheriff’s deputies apparently participated in the arrests.
Because the First Amendment right to peacefully protest is so crucial, the San Diego ACLU felt it was important to follow up on the arrests that took place this weekend to ensure that law enforcement properly respects the First Amendment rights of individuals peacefully protesting.