Activists with the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter this week shut down another community meeting. This time, Mayor Eric Garcetti decided to cut short comments at Holman United Methodist Church in the West Adams district, when a contingent of hostile protesters descended upon the gathering which was intended to be a forum for him to improve his fragile relationship with residents of South Los Angeles.
Several hundred people were at the church Monday evening when the meeting was quickly overtaken by about 50 protesters who stood and turned their backs on the mayor. Near the end of the hour-long session, Garcetti—surrounded by police officers—had to struggle to reach his car as he was swarmed by agitated activists. And they had a lot to say not only about police killings of unarmed Black persons, but sounded off on the rising crime rate in South Los Angeles; they also demanded that Garcetti put forth measures to stem the tide.
“The mayor has neglected, disrespected and abused the Black community for far too long,” said Melina Abdullah, a professor of Pan African Studies at Cal State Los Angeles and a local organizer for Black Lives Matter. “We are here tonight because this is real for us. This is not a political game. This is not about [Garcetti’s] reelection. This is about our lives.”
Others were angered about the usurping of a general-purpose community meeting by a tiny but loud group of protesters. Many persons attending simply left the church when the faction of protesters became more strident in questioning Garcetti. Some attempted a vain effort to quiet the protesters.
“Whatever they’re talking about is not my reality,” said Daryle Shumake of South L.A. He came to the meeting to hear about the prospect of Los Angeles hosting the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. “I’m disappointed that our conversation was cut short when there is so much work for us to do together to make our neighborhood stronger and safer.”
The relationship between the activist group and Garcetti has become increasingly poor. It hit a low point this summer, when Garcetti flew to Washington on the eve of the police commission’s ruling on whether LAPD officers were justified in the fatal shooting of South L.A. resident Ezell Ford, an unarmed, mentally ill man. Garcetti was caught on videotape trying to avoid Black Live Matter activists camped outside the mayoral mansion in Hancock Park by leaving through the back door. The protesters blocked his car and he told them that he was late for a flight to the nation’s capital to secure federal funding for homelessness and community policing initiatives.
On his way out Monday evening, Garcetti told one protester: “Let me say, you’re right … but I hate this back-and-forth we hear nationally, where people say Black lives matter and politicians say all lives matter. Black lives matter in a unique way, and you and I see eye to eye on this.”