City of Pomona Sued after Citing, Fining Non-Profit for Wall Art Critical of Abusive Police 

PC: Gente Organizada

By Vanguard Staff

LOS ANGELES, CA – The city of Pomona is being sued after it cited and fined a community group for displaying on public-facing exterior walls pieces of art that say “end institutional violence” and “defund Pomona police.”

Gente Organizada, a community-led non-profit, was fined under the city’s zoning ordinance that is “clearly unconstitutional” and violated the group’s First Amendment right to free speech, according to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU Foundation of Southern California and Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP.

“The art and messaging they are trying to erase was a youth-led collaborative effort by Black, Indigenous, and Latinx organizers and artists,” said Jesús Sanchez, co-founder and economic justice director of Gente Organizada.

“The City of Pomona is attempting to block our right to free speech, they have threatened our youth center, and have weaponized city code so we cannot exercise our right to artistic expression,” Sanchez added.

PC: Gente Organizada

According to a statement issued by Gente Organizada, it displays three pieces of art on its youth center that convey political messages, including an image that imitates a roll of film that includes photographs of protests against biased policing; an image of a group of individuals marching with a sign that reads “defund Pomona police”; and an image of some of the group’s community partners alongside the message “end institutional violence.” 

The building also displays a painted sign that includes the group’s name and its role as: “A home for: community organizing, youth & parent leadership, wellness, education & arts programs.”

“Free speech is the bedrock of our Constitution and includes the right to display public art that calls for the reallocation of city resources away from police departments,” said Alyssa Morones, legal fellow at the ACLU SoCal.

Morones added, “Pomona’s actions constitute an obvious violation of fundamental constitutional rights and the effect in this case is to silence members of the public who wish to communicate messages with which city officials disagree.”

PC: Gente Organizada

“We’re proud to work with the ACLU and Gente Organizada on this important case defending the Constitutional right to free speech and free expression,” said Andrea Feathers, associate at Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP

The suit challenges the city’s sign ordinance and demands the court dismiss the citation against Gente Organizada and require the city to repay the group for “unconstitutionally administered fines.”

The complaint:

See the following links for images of the art: Image 1, Image 2, Image 3.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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