A public interest law firm has filed suit against the California city of Baldwin Park, its mayor, some council members and a pro-illegal immigration publication for their alleged role in harming a senior citizen who was protesting what she viewed as an anti-American monument.
The Temecula, Calif., firm of Lively, Ackerman and Cowles, in papers filed in Los Angeles Superior Court Thursday, charged that Laura D. Dalton, of Murrieta, Calif., was injured at the city park when she was struck in the head by a water bottle. The injury, court documents said, required her to be transported to a nearby hospital by ambulance, where she was treated for a “brain injury.”
Dalton and supporters, according to court papers, had come to the park last May 14 for a pre-planned protest of the Danzas Indigenas Monument, or Indigenous Dance, when they were confronted with counter-demonstrators.
Dalton was part of a protest that included members from “Save Our State,” or SOS, a grass-roots group opposed to illegal immigration, and The Minutemen, an organization formed to assist Border Patrol and other law enforcement authorities with curbing illegal immigration.
The groups with which Dalton associated were protesting what they labeled a “racist and xenophobic” monument because it includes phrases like, “It was better before they came,” and, “This land was Mexican once, was Indian always and is, And will be again.”
Shortly after they began, counter-demonstrators arrived and, according to the complaint, were allowed to protest in close proximity to Dalton and her supporters – a development Dalton’s lawyer, Richard D. Ackerman, says was an obvious prescription for violence, and, therefore, should not have been allowed.
Several reports said police were on the scene in advance of Dalton’s demonstration.
Also, court papers said the news organization La Voz De Aztlan News Bulletin allegedly reported that Dalton “faked” her injuries and that the Minuteman Project is stashing assault weapons and planning terrorism. Dalton, Ackerman said, also has sued for defamation of character.
The public interest firm also names Baldwin Mayor Manuel Lozano, who was in attendance, for allegedly “directing, inciting and encouraging the counter-protesters,” court papers said. City council members Marlen Garcia, Bill Van Cleave, Ricardo Pacheco and David J. Olivas also are named.
Court documents also said members of the groups Aztlan Mexica Nation/Harmony Circle, Frente Unida Pueblos de America, Comite Pro-Democracia en Mexico, Mexicanos Unidos, MeCHA, and Brown Berets “were encouraged to engage in violence against” Dalton.
Counter-demonstrators said the Minuteman/SOS rally was akin to bigotry – charges leaders of both groups repeatedly have denied. Reports said Lozano denounced both groups as “un-American” and “perpetuating racism.”
However, Ackerman pointed out, counter-demonstrators showed up with signs bearing racist sentiments, and witnesses reported they also shouted racially tinged epithets at Dalton’s group. One sign intimated Dalton’s protesters were racist pigs, while another read, “F**k the Alamo!”
Ackerman also said his client and her backers were trying to engage in a peaceful, lawful protest against a monument they view as inherently biased against the U.S. in general, and racist towards whites who settled in the southwestern parts of the United States in particular.
“This is a sad state of affairs. We have had to sue twice in as many weeks to protect the rights of those who simply want our borders secure,” Ackerman said, referencing a separate suit against the city of Laguna Beach, Calif., for barring the Minutemen last month from the local Patriots’ Day Parade.
“In this case, we are forced to end violence being leveled at peaceful protesters,” Ackerman said. “In a civilized nation, no person should be deprived of rights or injured simply because they want existing laws enforced. The groups responsible for this conduct are bringing this nation closer to anarchy and unprecedented civil unrest.”
“This divisive monument is funded by our tax dollars and we will not tolerate its anti-American message,” said Joseph Turner, executive director of SaveOurState.org. “This is not art. This is not freedom of expression. This is government-sanctioned sedition. This is our land. This is our fight.”
In the Laguna Beach case, Minuteman founder James Gilchrist said his organization’s application was turned in two days before deadline but rejected by officials just an hour after it was filed. The parade association said it rejected the entry on political grounds, citing a policy of not allowing groups with a religious or political affiliation or message.
The Baldwin monument is located at the park’s Commuter Rail Station, which is part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority system. Built in 1993, the inflammatory inscription was part of a quote by Gloria Anzaldua, an author some have described as a Chicana lesbian-feminist, who died in 2004 from diabetes complications.