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.
"Defendant 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.
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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.