South Coast Plaza Sued by Animal Activists

The Animal Protection and Rescue League (APRL) contends in a lawsuit that tony South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa violates constitutionally protected free speech.

The San Diego nonprofit's suit filed in Orange County Superior Court accuses California's largest mall of violating the First Amendment by restricting the size of protest signs, prohibiting cameras at protests on mall property, forbidding protests during Christmas shopping days and requiring activists to speak “only in polite conversational tones.”

Named defendants in the complaint are South Coast Plaza, South Coast Plaza Security and C.J. Segerstrom & Sons LLC, the Costa Mesa company that owns the shopping destination and much of the land around it.

SCP Security routinely demands that plaintiff and other persons and
groups seeking to engage in expressive activity at or in the mall comply
with the rules, including various unconstitutional provisions therein,” alleges the suit, which specifies more than 40 alleged unconstitutional practices.

The complaint alleges that during a June 22 protest at South Coast Plaza, security manager George Sanchez repeatedly
demanded that APRL activists only carry signs that adhere to the mall's rules, and that when that order was ignored, the Costa Mesa Police Department was called.

The APRL accuses mall security of
“intimidation and coercion,” saying some members no longer attend protests there due to heavy police presence and threats of arrests, according to the suit.

The grass-roots group, through its San Diego attorney Bryan Pease, seeks an end to unconstitutional practices at South Coast Plaza and unspecified legal costs. Mall officials could not immediately be reached for a response, but this post will be updated should they come through.

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Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.

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