Complaints and joined lawsuit were filed by protesters and others arrested over curfews.
Julia Dupuis was handcuffed due to curfew violation. Two Angeles police officers walked her on the side of an empty church to a fence. This was beyond anyone could see and is 15 feet from the next protester. It was getting dark.
“Do you think it’s a female?” she heard one of the male cops say to the other, with a laugh.
Even with an ID identifying that she’s a female, they still acted confused about her gender. They didn’t appear confused, she stated, they’re just keen to mock it.
One of the officers then stepped up to her, jokingly patted down a few of her pockets, and felt one of her breasts, she said. She was paralyzed with fear.
Almost immediately, the officer seemed to realize “he had crossed a line,” Dupuis said. The laughter stopped, the officers retreated, and one of them stated they “shouldn’t be doing” what they were doing, she recalled. Only then was a female officer called over to search her.
The 21-year-old Dupuis realized that the officers’ actions not as an accident but as part of a broader pattern of sexual harassment experienced by women and gender-nonconforming protesters at the hands of LAPD officers during recent protests and curfew arrests.
They are not alone.
Many other protesters filed joint lawsuits and complaints against these types of tactics by the LAPD and other area law enforcement agencies in the heated days of curfews and lockdowns during late May and early June.
These are women who claim they were targeted by male officers and groped, sexually harassed, or inappropriately searched.
At least three complaints of “inappropriate touching during a pat-down” amid curfew arrests are submitted as per LAPD spokesman, Josh Rubenstein.
As of this writing, no LAPD officers have been punished for actions during the protests and the department does not comment on pending litigation.
Devon Young, a 31-year-old mental health therapist, is one of the women who shared their experiences with the attorneys.
Young was arrested in the same area as Dupuis. She said that the officers refused to allow her to pull down her skirt after it had been caught around her waist while they were handcuffing her.
Her underwear and butt were exposed to the crowd hence she asked them to let her pull her skirt down so she wouldn’t be exposed. However, they refused.
On the bus, she heard officers verbally sexually harassing a woman they recognized from Instagram, “talking openly about her body, openly ogling her body,” Young stated.
After this influencer posted about the experience on Instagram, lot more others told their similar experience.
Other lawyers are also fielding complaints, and not just about the LAPD.
Attorney Jorge Gonzalez said he represents a 44-year-old woman — whom he would identify only by her first name, Jessica — who was arrested June 1 in East L.A. by L.A. County Sheriff’s Department deputies after her boyfriend was pulled over while they were picking up fast food after curfew.
The driver, Jessica’s boyfriend, was pulled out of the vehicle. She was only wearing a bathrobe so she disputed whether she should have to exit the vehicle- they forced her out. With no probable cause, they began searching the vehicle, then began searching Jessica, her attorney said.
“They asked her if she was wearing a bra, and she said, ‘No,’ ” Gonzalez said. “And so then a female deputy began to check her and fondle her breasts and stuff and work her way down to her vagina, being very intrusive in the way she was searching.”
Gonzalez said the incident represented a clear violation of his client’s rights. There are no comments from the sheriff’s office.
For such an intrusive search, “there generally has to be some evidence that [the person being searched has] contraband, like drugs, that could have been secreted inside of their body,” he said. “And there was none of that here.”
Jessica was charged with a curfew violation and with resisting arrest. Gonzalez said — even though she says she was told she would be let off if she recorded a statement saying she had not been assaulted.
Jessica still plans to fight the charges. She is even considering civil litigation against the officers, Gonzalez said. She felt violated.
Dupuis posted about her experience on Twitter later joined others who had the same experience. It took days for her to sink in what had happened to her. Then, she felt violated, too.
“That’s when it really hit me that I had been assaulted and I had been targeted because of my gender identity,” she said.
Dupuis claims she was approached by an LAPD commander online about filing a complaint after her tweets garnered attention. However, since she does not trust the agency anymore, she did not respond.
Dupuis, also mentioned she was shot with a police projectile at another protest a few days before her arrest, said the officer touching her breast felt like “another form of violence” from a department intent on stifling protests against police brutality and killings of Black people by doubling down on brutality.
“Whether it’s physical violence or the more insidious sexual violence, all are just forms of control — them exercising their power to silence protesters,” Dupuis stated. “Their ultimate goal was to make us so dejected and so violated and so scared that we didn’t want to come back and protest the next day.
“It just didn’t work,” she said.
If anything, Dupuis said, her experience only solidified her belief that the LAPD must be challenged and called out for its abuses.
“You can’t silence us,” she said. “You can’t break us.”