A prominent Black Lives Matter leader gave controversial, newly-elected Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón a vote of confidence on Friday, urging her own allies to “stand alongside [Gascon] because his enemies are coming with a vengeance.”
Dr. Melina Abdullah, a founding member of the BLM activist network who leads its L.A. chapter, told her social media followers that Gascón “seems like the real deal to me.”
“I’m posting this because just as we hold electeds accountable when they harm communities, we must also stand with those leaders who advance justice,” she wrote on Facebook, tagging Gascón in the message. “We’re with you George Gascón! Don’t let the a**holes who are dead set on maintaining an unjust system sway you.”
Abdullah published the post on Friday night after Gascón announced he had reinstated the use of some sentencing enhancements for cases involving “the most vulnerable” victims, including hate-motivated crimes, child and elder abuse cases, sex abuse, and human sex trafficking.
Following a heavy public backlash, the D.A. reversed course on a special directive he issued just 11 days earlier, banning prosecutors from filing all sentence enhancements, which act as extra punishments added on to the charge of an underlying offense. There are more than 100 enhancements in California’s penal code.
Contrary to some media reports, neither Abdullah nor Black Lives Matter endorsed Mr. Gascón during the election. However, BLM has often been credited for paving the way for Gascón to win the race.
BLM and allied groups invested years bird-dogging Gascón’s predecessor and opponent, Jackie Lacey, whom they criticized for her unwillingness to charge police officers who fatally shot civilians.
It’s been an honor witnessing and being part of the movement for Black lives with @BLMLA. Each weekly gathering is at once a spiritual and grounding experience that connects the lives taken by state violence with our ongoing collective struggle for justice and true liberation. pic.twitter.com/qTJEbkrr20
— 💜❤️Jane Nguyen (@theglowingstars) November 5, 2020
They staged weekly demonstrations outside of Lacey’s office, vowed to “protest her wherever she goes” on the campaign trail, and organized actions outside of her home on multiple occasions. Lacey’s husband, David, pointed a handgun out the couple’s front door after being awakened by a predawn disruption in March, threatened to shoot the trespassers, and ordered them to leave his property. Abdullah and two other activists involved went on to file a lawsuit against the Laceys, alleging assault, negligence, and infliction of emotional distress.
#BREAKING This morning Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s husband pulled a gun out on Black Lives Matter activists who protested his wife in front of their house. @BLMLA pic.twitter.com/wnCFMMvaWV
— Jasmyne Cannick (@Jasmyne) March 2, 2020
“Although I vehemently opposed Lacey and voted for Gascón, I didn’t endorse him when he ran,” Abdullah wrote on Friday. “Now that he’s in, I am deeply impressed by his commitment to meaningful change, his courage in the face of threats by some powerful adversaries, and his strong collaboration with progressive allies.”
Gascón’s first official meeting as D.A.-elect was with Black Lives Matter members, their comrades, and families of individuals who have been shot and killed by law enforcement.
“What you have done in many ways, you have moved mountains,” Gascón told attendees at the Nov. 9 meeting. “That is why you are the first group that I have come to talk to because I do respect and honor what you have done.”
“We have a long road ahead of us, and the drivers of systemic racism in our system are many and they all need to be addressed.”
“I used to say the system is broken, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s doing exactly what it’s designed to do,” @GeorgeGascon addressing families who lost loved ones to police violence during his first public meeting since winning the election for District Attorney. pic.twitter.com/4IMrqZ6IxU
— Kate Cagle (@KateCagle) November 10, 2020
After taking the oath of office on Dec. 7, Gascón announced an end to cash bail, said he would stop trying juveniles as adults, prohibit prosecutors from seeking the death penalty, and eliminate all sentencing enhancement, an order he revised on Friday.
Gascón did not campaign on eliminating all sentencing enhancements, and his plan to do so, along with other elements of his progressive agenda, was met with immediate resistance. The policy changes sparked a revolt from local law enforcement unions and several deputy district attorneys within Gascón’s office. Victims’ families and career prosecutors connected with media outlets, and their stories helped create a plethora of new critics, many of whom were generally quiet during the election.
On Friday, D.A. Gascón accused “gullible members of the media” of being exploited “into airing vile and sensational claims.”