Ac­tivist sues city over ar­rest at park

Paul Cook says he was ap­pre­hended be­cause he twice booed a Baldwin Park of­fi­cial.

Los Angeles Times - - LOS ANGELES - By Ruben Vives ruben.vives@la­times.com

Es­sen­tially, Paul Cook says, he was taken away by a Baldwin Park cop for boo­ing at a city of­fi­cial.

When he re­turned to the city’s Mor­gan Park to ex­er­cise his right to protest, the lawyer and ac­tivist said, he was ar­rested.

On Wed­nes­day, Cook filed a civil rights law­suit at the fed­eral court­house in Los An­ge­les against Baldwin Park and a po­lice of­fi­cer, al­leg­ing his con­sti­tu­tional rights were vi­o­lated, ac­cord­ing to court records.

The com­plaint al­leges that Cook’s rights un­der both the 1st and 4th amend­ments were vi­o­lated July 24 when Baldwin Park po­lice ar­rested and jailed him. The suit claims he was also sub­jected to a strip search.

“The of­fi­cers ar­rested Mr. Cook solely be­cause he was en­gaged in quin­tes­sen­tial 1st Amend­ment ac­tiv­ity: ex­press­ing his views on a city gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial at an event open to the public held in a public park,” the law­suit reads in part.

Baldwin Park City Atty. Robert Tafoya said the law­suit had no merit and the city plans to de­fend it­self vig­or­ously.

“Baldwin Park looks for­ward to its day in court in or­der to prove that the Baldwin Park Po­lice Depart­ment, and its of­fi­cers, per­formed their law­ful du­ties with the ut­most pro­fes­sion­al­ism when Mr. Cook was ar­rested for dis­rupt­ing a public event,” Tafoya said.

Ac­cord­ing to the law­suit, Cook was at the park, where a city-spon­sored event was be­ing held for res­i­dents. Cook was dis­tribut­ing f liers “on a public mat­ter” re­lated to Manuel Car­rillo Jr., the direc­tor of recre­ation and com­mu­nity ser­vices.

At least 300 peo­ple were at the event, which in­cluded booths from busi­nesses and restau­rants, speeches by public of­fi­cials and per­for­mances at the Ce­sar E. Chavez Am­phithe­ater.

At one point, Car­rillo took the stage to as­sist the mayor and was booed twice by Cook, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit.

“Im­me­di­ately af­ter plain­tiff booed, sev­eral of­fi­cers ap­proached him and told him that he could not speak,” the suit stated. “Mr. Cook as­serted his 1st Amend­ment right to ex­press his views about a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial at a public event in a public park.”

Cook be­gan to walk away when a po­lice of­fi­cer, iden­ti­fied in the court doc­u­ment only as Lt. Har­vey, grabbed his arm and es­corted him to a street ad­join­ing the park. The suit al­leges that Har­vey, who was act­ing as a po­lice su­per­vi­sor that day, told Cook he would ar­rest him if he re­turned to the park. Cook ob­jected, and when he reen­tered the park he was ar­rested.

“Af­ter his ar­rest, Mr. Cook was taken to the city jail. Upon ar­rival he was or­dered to strip down to his un­der­wear and then sub­jected to a tac­tile search by a fe­male of­fi­cer,” the law­suit read. “Af­ter be­ing strip searched, Mr. Cook was placed in a cell by him­self. He was held un­til the event at the park had ended.”

The con­flict stemmed from a pair of public records re­quests re­lated to Baldwin Park’s fi­nances and the city’s boxing club pro­gram.

For months, Cook had been at­tend­ing coun­cil meet­ings to pres­sure of­fi­cials to re­spond to his in­quiries. He also filed two law­suits against the city when it failed to pro­vide the records.

Four days af­ter his ar­rest, un­der the ad­vice of the city at­tor­ney, Mayor Manuel Lozano filed a tem­po­rary re­strain­ing or­der against Cook. A Los An­ge­les County Su­pe­rior Court judge de­nied the re­quest.

Cook re­sponded by su­ing Lozano in small claims court for puni­tive dam­ages re­lated to the re­strain­ing or­der, but he did not pre­vail.

“Our coun­try was born be­cause rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies leaf leted through the streets,” Cook said. “It’s in our Amer­i­can tra­di­tion to talk back.”

Brian van der Brug Los An­ge­les Times

PAUL COOK, an at­tor­ney and ac­tivist, says his rights un­der both the 1st and 4th amend­ments were vi­o­lated when Baldwin Park po­lice ar­rested and jailed him.

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