A California State University professor who also leads the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter might be headed to jail after being charged with eight criminal counts related to her anti-police activism, including battery on an LAPD officer.
“This is about so much more than me,” wrote Dr. Melina Abdullah, who could spend more than a year in jail if convicted. “It’s an attempt to criminalize Black protest. We ain’t having that!”
The charges stem from Abdullah’s behavior at LAPD Commission meetings, which have become notorious for being disrupted and shut down by police abolitionists affiliated with Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles (BLM-LA). She has justified her conduct by claiming to advocate on behalf of families who have lost loved ones to police brutality and officer-involved shootings.
Abdullah, 46, is receiving pro bono legal counsel from an assortment of progressive lawyers led by Carl E. Douglas, a protégé of the late Johnnie Cochran, who became nationally known decades ago as a member of O.J. Simpson’s "Dream Team" of defense attorneys. Douglas has referred to Abdullah as “One Badd (sic) Sister!!!”
“He volunteered to represent me,” Abdullah said. “This is the way that he contributes to our movement.”
The National Lawyers Guild and ACLU are also part of Abdullah’s legal squad.
Prosecutors from the L.A. City Attorney’s Office affirm that 17 police officers are prepared to testify that Abdullah’s tactics have gone far beyond free speech and peaceful protest, crossing a boundary to “obstructing and intimidating” LAPD commissioners.
Following a pretrial hearing last week, Abdullah and Douglas addressed activists and other supporters who had packed the courtroom as a sign of solidarity.
“They are killing our people, and then they are criminalizing us for having the audacity to push back,” Abdullah told allies over a megaphone. “What kind of backward world do they think we live in? We’re not the criminals. They are.”
Abdullah then called on the crowd to march to LAPD headquarters nearby, where a police commission meeting was underway.
“Fill up that room,” Abdullah said.
“Scare the shit out of them.”
Activists went on to disrupt the meeting, which was ultimately adjourned and moved into a closed session after an attendee appeared to threaten LAPD Commission President Steve Soboroff. Soboroff’s son, Jacob, is a reporter with NBC News.
My News LA reports that Abdullah is charged with eight misdemeanor counts involving crimes that allegedly occurred during three separate meetings that date back to 2017. The charges include one count each of battery on a public officer, resisting arrest, refusing to disperse and interfering or obstructing a public business establishment; three counts of unlawfully disturbing and breaking up an assembly and meeting; and two counts of unlawfully and intentionally interfering with the lawful business of the LAPD Commission.
The battery charge originated from a meeting last May when Abdullah was arrested along with Sheila Hines-Brim, a fellow BLM-LA comrade whose niece, Wakiesha Wilson, died in police custody in 2016. At that meeting, Hines-Brim threw what she claimed were Wilson’s cremated remains at then-LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.
As "theLAnd" recently reported:
Detective Jason Curtis … had placed Hines-Brim’s hands behind her back and was escorting her through a crowd to the hallway. Near the rear exit of the room, Curtis told investigators, he felt a tug at his arm, turned around and saw Abdullah standing there. “Get Melina,” witnesses remember hearing an officer say shortly before Abdullah was arrested.
Abdullah told detectives that she did not remember grabbing Curtis’ arm.
Most of the charges against Abdullah focus around confrontations that occurred during two police commission meetings in the summer of 2017. In July of that year, Abdullah refused to leave the podium during public comment after her allotted time to speak had elapsed.
“I don’t give a f**k about getting arrested,” she told police commissioners at the time.
Although Abdullah was not detained, the meeting was moved to a closed session away from the public.
Three weeks later Abdullah disrupted another meeting. She attempted to restructure its agenda, dared officials to have her arrested, then refused to vacate the room after being ordered to leave.
Abdullah’s next court date is next Thursday, February 7, at the Criminal Courts Building in downtown L.A.
“I give you my word that there will be no plea to an assault on a police officer,” Douglas told supporters. “If we cannot reach a resolution that satisfies my client, there will be a trial. And at that trial, we will expose the corruption of the LAPD.”
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @Near_Chaos.