BLM Protesters Sue City of South Pasadena Over Police Treatment

The Oct. 18, 2021 lawsuit was filed in the US District Court, Central District of California

FILE PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | News | BLM Organizers/ protesters Fahren James, and Victoria Patterson

Two South Pasadenans who say their rights were violated by South Pasadena police officer have filed a lawsuit against the city and five of its police officers for “fail[ing] to carry out their mandatory duties” during protests and events in South Pasadena following the May 25, 2020 murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

The suit recounts allegations from plaintiffs Fahren James and Victoria Patterson, who participated in Black Lives Matter protests last summer and fall. They recount “attacks” and “hate crimes” carried out against them by two men, including South Pasadena defendant Richard Cheney, that took place during four months of protests last year. The say SPPD officers failed to protect them and other protesters from harm and instead sought “to chill their activities by blaming them for the attacks.” The suit said this was done to James, who is black, “on account of her race.”

“SPPD’s discrimination and retaliation against Ms. James came from the top,” she alleges, arguing that former police chief Joe Ortiz, who is not a named defendant, and his officers “all engaged in, as well as directed and ratified the discrimination against Ms. James,” reflecting “a culture of anti-BLM sentiment, and support for White supremacist groups throughout the force, such that it became its policy and practice.”

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The suit outlines seven claims related to free speech, retaliation for free speech, interference by threat, due process, breach of mandatory duties and equal protection. It seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, declaratory relief and an injunction requiring the defendants to refrain from violating the law or intimidating witnesses. It also wants the court to issue an order to train SPPD officers, city staff and council members on protecting of right to freedom of speech and association, and requiring an audit of all SPPD officers “to identify individuals who have demonstrated bias as defined” by the penal code.

The Oct. 18, 2021 lawsuit was filed in the US District Court, Central District of California, by Laboni A. Hoq and two other attorneys with Schonbrun, Seplow, Harris, Hoffman & Zeldes.

Named defendants besides the city are Matthew Ronnie, Randy Wise, Spencer Louie, Richard Bartl and Chris Perez, all police personnel, as well as Cheney.



Ben Tansey is a journalist and author. He grew up in the South Bay and is a graduate of Evergreen State College. He worked in Washington State as a reporter in a rural timber community and for many years as an editor for a Western electric energy policy publication based in Seattle.