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NAACP Requests Temporary Restraining Order To Prevent Police From Declaring Unlawful Assemblies

Community organizers and clergymembers speak at a rally in El Cajon Civic Center, Oct. 23, 2016.
Claire Trageser
Community organizers and clergymembers speak at a rally in El Cajon Civic Center, Oct. 23, 2016.

Editor's note: This story's headline previously misstated that a restraining order was issued A federal judge on Wednesday took under submission a request by the NAACP and others to issue a temporary restraining order preventing police from declaring unlawful assemblies and arresting peaceful demonstrators in the wake of the fatal police shooting of Alfred Olango in El Cajon.

Bryan Pease, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino that by declaring unlawful assemblies, police and sheriff's deputies are trying to suspend people's First Amendment rights.

"Aren't you asking me to issue the TRO to order police to follow the law?" the judge asked Pease.

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Attorney Steven Boehmer, representing the city of El Cajon, said the plaintiffs were asking the judge to rewrite a statute requiring police to follow the law.

RELATED: NAACP Suit Alleges El Cajon Police Violated Protesters’ Freedom Of Speech

Chief Deputy County Counsel George Brewster told the judge that most of the people arrested in the days after Olango's killing on Sept. 27 were taken into custody for failure to disperse after an unlawful assembly had been declared.

Brewster said officers could be heard pleading with protesters to "please go" after the gathering had been declared unlawful.

Pease countered that police cannot preemptively declare an unlawful assembly before it happens.

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On one occasion, police declared an unlawful assembly at a second location after an intersection at a different location was blocked.

After the hearing, Pease stood with three minors listed as plaintiffs because they watched their mother detained during a protest.

Pease said people were also being kept from peacefully assembling in the parking lot where Olango was shot because it is private property.

Police said that before the fatal encounter, Olango was uncooperative, repeatedly refused to remove his hand from his pocket, assumed "what appeared to be a shooting stance" and pointed an object at an officer that turned out to be an electronic smoking device that resembled the barrel of a gun.

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