Civil rights lawyers are accusing LAPD officers of brutalizing trans advocates and journalists at Wi Spa protests

The exterior of a tagged window of the Wi Spa in Koreatown district in Los Angeles
This July 4, 2021, photo, shows the exterior of a tagged window of the Wi Spa in Koreatown district in Los Angeles. Police declared an unlawful assembly and fired non-lethal projectiles to disperse an unruly crowd on Saturday, July 17, after a dueling protest over transgender rights at the Los Angeles spa turned violent. AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes
  • Several protests erupted after a trans woman used the same room as cisgendered women at an LA spa.
  • The first protest happened Saturday, July 3, when demonstrators clashed outside Wi Spa in Koreatown.
  • Civil rights lawyers are suing the LAPD on behalf of at least 10 people, attorney Christian Contreras said.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

LGBTQ advocates and journalists who attended a counterprotest outside of Wi Spa in Los Angeles are accusing Los Angeles Police Department officers and right-wing protesters of injuring them during the July 17 demonstration.

Vishal Singh, an independent journalist and filmmaker, said he was documenting the dueling protests outside of the Koreatown establishment when an officer singled him out of a group.

“In that moment, that first officer that I had an altercation with, he stepped forward past everything towards me. And with both hands like a baseball bat, he batoned my camera hand as hard as he could. I immediately felt splitting pain,” Singh told Insider.

Singh kept documenting the protest after recovering his phone and receiving treatment from medics on the scene. He went to an urgent-care facility later that day where he was told the bones in his right hand were broken, requiring him to see a specialist, according to a series of tweets Singh posted about his encounter with police.

“You’re not dispersing anyone by shooting us in the face or stomach directly in front of you.”

Marie, an LGBTQ activist who requested anonymity but whose identity is known to Insider, also showed up to Wi Spa hoping to document the protest and interview attendees for her YouTube channel. But she told Insider that other protestors sprayed bear mace in her face and took her phone.

Marie said that medics from the LGBTQ advocacy counterprotest gave her first aid and rinsed her face, but she spent most of the day in the shower trying to relieve the burning caused by the mace. Marie, who said she did not seek medical attention because she doesn’t have health insurance, said it was ironic that the protesters who had attacked her came to Wi Spa to advocate for women’s rights and protection.

“Next time, I’ll take huge precautions. I’ll have an entire face mask. I’ll have a helmet and all that, but showing up is extremely important,” Marie said.

Several people sustained injuries when LAPD issued a dispersal order and after being arrested, according to The Intercept. Jessica, another activist who also asked Insider not to use her last name, was part of a group of protesters being pushed back by cops when she was shot with a projectile, kettled, and arrested.

“If they were trying to truly disperse us, they would have shot some tear gas. I will never understand the purpose is of them shooting us the way that they do,” Jessica said, referring to the various projectiles police were filmed using. “You’re not dispersing anyone by shooting us in the face or stomach directly in front of you.”

When Jessica was in custody, she said she noticed Sunflower Anglin, another individual who had been detained, begin having a seizure. Jessica said she attempted to help Anglin but was stopped by an officer and threatened with additional charges.

Anglin told Insider the heat and positioning of their handcuffs triggered their epilepsy. They said they asked to be handcuffed in front of their torso instead of behind their back, but officers repeatedly denied the request, Anglin said.

Anglin and Jessica both described to Insider what happened when Anglin began to experience a series of seizures in the back of a police van. According to Jessica, no officers rendered medical aid. Anglin said they saw other protesters in flex cuffs get brutalized for trying to help them, which Jessica also confirmed.

“They let one person who was also in the van with me hold my head while I was seizing,” Anglin told Insider.

Ten lawsuits will be filed against the LAPD

Lawyers Christian Contreras and Humberto Guizar announced at a press conference Tuesday afternoon outside LAPD headquarters that they will be filing lawsuits against the police department on behalf of 10 claimants who were injured during the demonstrations, including Singh and an activist who attorneys said was stabbed at the first Wi Spa protest.

Contreras and Guizar are members of Justice X, an alliance of more than 100 lawyers from different legal fields, dedicated pro bono attorneys, and other legal professionals offering free legal assistance to protesters, according to its website.

“They’re supposed to serve and protect. Instead, they’re beating and maiming their own community,” Guizar said of LAPD.

The Los Angeles Police Department responded with a video

LAPD headquarters shared a video briefing on July 21 about its response to both Wi Spa protests on social media. Deputy Chief Alfred Labrada said the investigation into the protests and officers’ use of force is ongoing, and said no protesters or officers reported injuries the day of the protest.

In response to a viral video recorded at the protest that appears to show an officer shooting a woman at close range with a nonlethal round, Labrada said the officer, who he did not identify, attempted to fire a round at another individual in the crowd who was throwing frozen water bottles at officers.

Additionally, Labrada addressed another social media post where officers are seen running after protesters and firing less lethal rounds. He said protesters were in the area “throwing bottles at counterprotesters and officers.”

“Officers moved in that direction to try and cut the group off,” Labrada said.

Neither Labrada nor the LAPD public information office provided comment about the pending complaints.