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Black L.A. religious leaders decry L.A. City Council’s voter disenfranchisement


A coalition of prominent Black Los Angeles religious leaders sent a letter to L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez this week, issuing their plea for the immediate restoration of voting authority for the people of the city’s 10th Council District.

The members of the Black L.A. ecumenical coalition additionally raised concerns regarding the near complete lack of propriety and fairness evident in the L.A. City Council’s action to suspend L.A. City Council Member Mark Ridley-Thomas from the exercise of his duly elected duties and deny him his voting responsibility that enable him to address the needs and concerns of his 10th Council District constituents.

“As South Los Angeles faith leaders, we prayerfully write to express our deep concern regarding the treatment of the constituents of the 10th Council District (CD10) and its duly elected representative, Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas,” the African-American pastors wrote.

“Tenth Council District constituents were summarily denied their elected representative on important matters through an arbitrary, hasty, legally questionable, punitive and pernicious decision made at the sole discretion of a City Council majority under your leadership.

“We are concerned that the Council may make a precipitous move to appoint a ‘temporary’ replacement for Councilmember Ridley-Thomas and/or hold a special election. We urge you not to take such an ill-advised and anti-democratic action, which would deprive CD10 of their duly elected representative, pending the outcome of the Councilmember’s trial.”

Pastor K.W. Tulloss, president of the Baptist Ministers Conference, a signatory of the letter, said, “The people of L.A.’s 10th Council District have been disenfranchised and left without a meaningful vote on city matters for the past three months. How much longer are these residents going to be forced to endure this forced political powerlessness?”

Rev. J.M. Lawson, Jr., pastor emeritus of Holman United Methodist Church added, “Council Member Mark Ridley-Thomas was elected by the people of the 10th Council District. He is presumed innocent of any charges subject to any future judgment of the Court in the case to which he faces charges. His presumption of innocence is absolute. We do not say of an innocent person who has been charged with an offense, ‘We believe the person is mostly innocent or possibly a little bit guilty.’ Our system of justice finds an individual to be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law by a judge or jury.”

Pastor J. Edgar Boyd of First AME Church of Los Angeles added, “As far as we know, the charges may very well end up not proven in a court of law; a verdict of innocence sustained. Yet the L.A. City Council voted to approve an unjust suspension. There’s only one way to describe the actions the Council took in its vote to suspend Council Member Ridley-Thomas: a perversion of justice.”

The signatories closed their letter with a request to Martinez for a video conference meeting with them to discuss their concerns. In addition to the signatures of Bishops Charles E. Blake, Sr.; Kenneth C. Ulmer; and Noel Jones, pastors from churches representing 50,000 congregants throughout Los Angeles personally signed the letter delivered to Martinez.