[Marxism] ACLU files suit against Costa Mesa
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Fri Mar 3 01:57:29 MST 2006
>From The Daily Pilot (Costa Mesa)
Published March 3, 2006
Modified March 2, 2006
ACLU files suit against Costa Mesa
Lawsuit says man arrested at January council meeting
was assaulted by police, denied free speech.
By Alicia Robinson, Daily Pilot
The ACLU on Thursday filed a lawsuit against the city
of Costa Mesa over the treatment of a protester who
was arrested at a Jan. 3 City Council meeting.
The suit was filed by the ACLU of Southern California
on behalf of Benito Acosta, a 24-year-old Costa Mesa
resident and Orange Coast College student who also
uses the name Coyotl Tezcatlipoca. It claims city
officials violated Acosta's rights to free speech,
equal protection and due process by silencing him and
by using force to restrain him, eject him from the
council meeting, and arrest him.
Acosta was at the Jan. 3 meeting to speak against
several recent council decisions, particularly a
proposal the council approved in December to train
city police for immigration enforcement. He was
ordered to stop speaking and was then removed from the
meeting by Costa Mesa police after he urged those who
agreed with him to stand up.
According to the suit, Acosta was cut off before his
allotted three minutes was up, and when he protested,
he was surrounded by police who grabbed, struck,
pushed and kicked him while dragging him outside the
During the five hours Acosta was in custody, he was
taken to the hospital for injuries caused by police,
said Belinda Escobosa Helzer, a staff attorney for the
American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.
"He opposed the city's efforts, he criticized, and
because of that criticism he was silenced and he was
assaulted," Helzer said. "It's clear from looking at
the videotapes [of the meeting] that he was targeted
because of the content of his speech."
The lawsuit also says an earlier speaker -- Minuteman
Project founder and anti-illegal-immigration activist
Jim Gilchrist -- who supported the council's decisions
was given more than three minutes to speak and was
allowed to ask supporters to stand.
The suit names as defendants the city, Mayor Allan
Mansoor, Police Chief John Hensley and 10 unnamed
people, some of whom may be police officers.
The Costa Mesa Police Department referred questions
about the lawsuit to the city attorney's office. Costa
Mesa City Atty. Kimberly Hall Barlow said she could
not comment because she hasn't seen the suit.
"I don't have any comment at this time," Mayor Allan
Helzer said the ACLU filed the suit to ensure that
residents can speak out about city issues without fear
of being arrested and beaten.
"It is important that I speak up about what happened
so that it does not become more common," Acosta said
in a news release. "It's painful to talk about what
happened to me, but I don't want this rough unfair
treatment to scare people into not speaking out about
this proposal or anything else."
The ACLU filed the lawsuit with the U.S. District
Court for the Central District of California.
The Tonantzin Collective, an activist group to which
Acosta belongs, asked Barlow in January to investigate
Mansoor's conduct at the council meeting. The
complaint was referred to the city prosecutor, but
Barlow said Thursday that no decision has been reached
on whether to pursue it.
* ALICIA ROBINSON covers government and politics. She
may be reached at (714) 966-4626 or at
alicia.robinson at latimes.com.
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