Judge Issues Injunction Outlining Terms for Caruso Critics’ Protests

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A judge has granted a preliminary injunction ordering companies owned by Rick Caruso to allow those who oppose his candidacy to express their views under certain guidelines at the Grove in the days before the Nov. 8 general election in the mayoral race between the businessman and Rep. Karen Bass, but a Caruso company representative said the ruling will be appealed.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Teresa A. Beaudet issued the ruling Wednesday in a lawsuit case filed by local activists, who say they had unsuccessfully sought permission from management at the Caruso-owned mall to express criticism of the Caruso campaign on what they said were terms equal to previous expression at the mall by those promoting the billionaire’s mayoral run.

Caruso, a real estate developer, has his campaign headquartered at the Fairfax District shopping center, which has also been the site of numerous public events promoting his candidacy, according to the suit brought Aug. 16 against Caruso Management Co. Ltd. and GFM LLC, alleging violations of the state Constitution.

The lawsuit’s plaintiffs — former mayoral candidate Gina Viola as well as Sim Bilal of the organization Youth Climate Strike Los Angeles — were denied permission by Grove management to hold small-scale marches through the Fairfax district center’s public access ways in August, according to the suit.

The judge’s order prohibits the Caruso companies from suppressing political expression by Caruso’s critics with what they say will be quiet displays of signs no larger than those distributed previously by Caruso supporters. One demonstration by up to 30 people between now and the election also is allowed under the order.

A Caruso company spokeswoman issued a response Thursday regarding the ruling.

” We are disappointed and respectfully disagree with the Superior Court’s ruling, which we are appealing,” the statement read.

The Grove is” proud of its long track record of and is committed to creating a welcoming, respectful and safe environment for our community members, regardless of their viewpoints,” the statement read.

The Grove’s rules are written so there would be a fair and equitable process to address the type of requests made by the plaintiffs, but their application was rejected because it fell well outside the rules that everyone must follow, including all candidates for office, the statement further read.

“Although we always prefer to resolve any such differences amicably and would have continued to work with these applicants to do so, they chose to sue us instead and to fault the Grove’s legitimate commercial dealings with the Caruso campaign,” according to the statement.

The plaintiffs’ lead lawyer had a different view of the issues.

“Caruso said he wanted The Grove to be Main Street for a city that doesn’t have one,” said Matthew Strugar, an attorney representing the plaintiffs. “Well, Main Streets have protests and they have to allow all viewpoints.”

The attorneys noted that the judge said during arguments that she did not believe one’s wealth should determine who can express their free speech at the Grove, which Beaudet said she has visited in the past.

“Just because you’re rich enough to control important public spaces doesn’t mean you can use those spaces to suppress the public’s criticism of your political agenda,” said Shakeer Rahman, an attorney with the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition who also represented the plaintiffs. “The court saw right through Caruso’s claim that everyone’s free speech rights depend on whether we pay Caruso enough rent.”

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