The Black Lives Matter chapter in Los Angeles set up tents outside of City Hall, and they are not leaving until one of their demands are met.
“We want Mayor Garcetti to fire Police Chief Charlie Beck,” said Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter L.A. “What prompted it was Tuesday (July 12), the killer of Redel Jones, LAPD officer Brett Ramirez, was found to be within policy in that killing.”
Jones, a 30-year-old Black mother of two children, was fatally shot last August by the officer.
“Jones was accused of nothing more than stealing $80, using nothing more that a kitchen knife, from a local pharmacy,” Abdullah said.
Last week, protesters passionately pleaded for the Police Commission to find that the officer violated the LAPD’s deadly force policy. After the weekly meeting, which is held at LAPD’s downtown headquarters, the commission faulted two LAPD officers for their tactics leading up to the killing, but found that the fatal shooting did not violate the department’s deadly force policy.
“Our read of it is that the policy of the LAPD is to kill people who commit very minor crimes,” Abdullah said. “At least kill Black people who commit very minor crimes. And we’re saying that our community can’t take that anymore.”
According to Abdullah, the LAPD is “the most murderous police force in the entire nation. For three years running they’ve killed the most people of any law enforcement unit in the entire country. This year they are on track to do it again. They’ve already killed 10 people, which is more than any other law enforcement unit in the nation.”
There was a Black Lives Matter protest happening outside of the LAPD’s headquarters during the meeting, and it continued well after the Police Commission’s ruling.
“We initially attempted to go to Garcetti’s office to let him know how we felt, but we were met by massive force here, and we were physically assaulted and brutalized by the police,” Abdullah said. “Two of us, one of them being me, were tackled to the ground, and handcuffed and detained by the police for some time. Because Garcetti wouldn’t let us up there, we’re now here and demanding that he comes to meet with the people.”
At that point the group decided to camp out at City Hall until their demands were met. There has not been much dialog between the mayor and Black Lives Matter, and the group also tried to meet with Police Commission president Matthew Johnson before the July 12 meeting. Black Lives Matter partnered with two other community organizations, LA Can and Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, who had been protesting police brutality.
“We had the meeting set, we had people ready, and the day before the meeting he canceled, saying that he refused to meet with a group, and that we could meet with him two by two,” Abdullah said. “That’s not something that we’re interested in doing. We’re not interested in closed-door meetings. We believe that if you’re a public official, you should be willing to meet with the public.”
As of Sunday, there had been no conversations between Garcetti and the protesters. After last week’s meeting, the mayor and Chief Beck met with President Barack Obama at the White House to discuss race, policing, and ways to heal tensions from the recent shootings of Black men by law enforcement and the shootings of police officers.
Black Lives Matter was critical of the mayor and police chief for the Black ‘leaders’ that they have surrounded themselves with, which included rappers Snoop Dogg and The Game.
“The mayor chooses to select and anoint who he believes is Black leadership,” Abdullah said. “So for instance, he surrounds himself almost exclusively with Black men, usually over (age) 50. And he includes people like (community activist) Najee Ali, who have been abusive to Black women particularly. And he (Ali) was very abusive toward the widower of Redel Jones. These are the kinds of Black, ‘leaders’ that the mayor has surrounded himself with. In contrast, he has refused repeatedly to engage with leadership that believes in more of a communal approach to leadership. A more collective approach to leadership, including people from Black Lives Matter.”
While Black Live Matter LA is interested in meeting with Garcetti, because he appoints both the police commission and the chief of police, they are not interested in meeting with the LAPD.
“We don’t believe that they are the best organization to deal with the issues that we want to have dealt with,” Abdullah said. “So at this point they have set up a very adversarial relationship. My entire lifetime, and I was born in the ‘70s, it has been one where police treat Black communities as if they’re an occupying force and we’re enemy combatants. So I’m not interested in talking with them about community solutions. I’m interested in developing indigenous community solutions. Meaning ones that we identify for ourselves.”
At the beginning of the sit-in, Garcetti was willing to meet with 10 Black Lives Matter members, and the family members of the people who were killed by LAPD officers. That offer changed on Friday to only five people.
“We have no interest in closed-door meetings with the mayor,” Abdullah said. “It doesn’t do anything for our ego or our cause. We’re not in it for that. We are in it so that we can actually move things in the city, and we want Chief Beck fired. That means that the mayor needs to come out and we want to have a community conversation with him.
“Our line in the sand is that he needs to come down. This mayor continues to run from the community, and we’re saying that if you’re a leader, you need not be afraid of the community that you’re supposed to represent.”
Garcetti issued a statement on Friday, saying:
“The protesters who have gathered outside of City Hall this week have serious and valid concerns, and throughout this week I’ve offered to meet with a delegation from Black Lives Matter — in addition to the other meetings I have convened, and conversations I have had, with civil rights, community, law enforcement and religious leaders. I believe that it is critical to sit across from each other and speak freely about our common goals of peaceful neighborhoods and just communities free from violence of any kind.”
Besides getting Beck fired, Black Lives Matter wants more funding for community based programs, opposed to more funds going to the LAPD.
“We need resources,” Abdullah said. “We need intervention and prevention workers. You can hire three interventionists if we take the Gang Reduction and Youth Development (GRYD) workers that are hired by the city, if we take their current rate of pay and double it, you can hire three of them for every LAPD officer. We’d like that money to be shifted. We know GRYD workers do a good job. We know interventionists are very effective. We would like to see money go there. We would like to see money go into mental health resources. And that be the thrust of where we put our energy, and focus, and budget as Los Angeles. Rather than funding police to do a job that they are not qualified to do.
“The LAPD is stealing money from the community,” Abdullah continued. “We spend 54 percent of our city budget on LAPD. We need people to walk kids to school. We need people to do the community work, to clean the streets. You don’t need a badge and a gun to do that work. In fact, it makes you less effective. So lets put the money where every study in the world shows that the most effective use of funds is, spending it on resources and livable wage jobs for the people. People commit crimes because they don’t have resources. Let’s get to why people commit crimes. If you don’t have a job, you’re going to have to steal your food. If you don’t have mental health resources, you may behave in ways that seem criminal when you really mental health treatment.”