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Black Lives Matter’s Most Prominent Chapter Claims Several 2020 Victories That Shook Up The Nation’s Largest Criminal Justice Jurisdiction
Melina Abdullah from Black Lives Matter addresses the crowd during a demonstration to ask for the removal of District Attorney Jackie Lacey in front of the Hall of Justice, in Los Angeles, California, on June 17, 2020.
Photo by VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images

In her first tweet of the new year, Dr. Melina Abdullah, the lead organizer of Black Lives Matter’s Los Angeles chapter, recapped the activist group’s most significant accomplishments of 2020.

She says BLM-LA deserves credit for the defunding of local law enforcement agencies, convincing voters to approve two countywide ballot measures to reduce the county jail population, and replacing the two-term district attorney with a more reform-minded alternative.

“And many more wins to come in 2021!” BLM-LA assures.

Some of the accomplishments on Abdullah’s list seemed too radical for mainstream America this time last year.

Then, the political landscape changed in late May, after the nation saw a video that captured the final moments of George Floyd’s life, beneath the knee of a white police officer, amid a pandemic-induced recession.

His death sparked what some have described as a racial reckoning, and BLM activists in Los Angeles quickly organized “in the name of George Floyd.” Still, they acknowledged the nationwide uprising demanding systemic change was about much more than one man.

BLM-LA’s demonstrations began to attract a more diverse crowd, but remained focused on accusations that law enforcement in L.A. County is racially-biased, built around themes like “Prosecute Killer Cops,” “Disrupt White Capitalism,” and “(D.A.) Jackie Lacey Must Go.”

Media and Hollywood celebrities amplified BLM-LA’s signal, and organizers channeled that momentum toward successful grassroots efforts to oust D.A. Lacey and accelerate several other ongoing drives that had been years in the making.

Abdullah contends that BLM-LA activism influenced new policies in 2020 to divert money away from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), the Los Angeles School Police Department (LASPD), and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).

She cited People’s Budget L.A., a plan that called on city leaders to defund LAPD and “reimagine public safety,” as a major win. Although the drive was already underway before Floyd’s death, it received a boost in the week that followed, when L.A. City Council agreed to slash the department’s budget by $150 million. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti first announced the idea after BLM-LA led a massive demonstration outside of his residence on June 2.

The L.A. Board of Education quickly followed suit, reducing the L.A. School Police Department’s budget by 35%, which equated to a $25 million cut. BLM-LA had spent more than five years organizing students, parents, and teachers against the district’s police force, which is tasked with protecting more than 600,000 students enrolled in the nation’s second-largest public education system.

BLM-LA leaders went on to push a November ballot proposal called Measure J, which targeted the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department. Also known as “Re-Imagine L.A. County,” voters approved the initiative with 57% support. Its passage requires at least 10% of the county’s general fund be appropriated to community programs and alternatives to incarceration, but Sheriff Alex Villanueva and police unions said it would defund public safety. LASD operates the nation’s largest jail system.

BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors described Measure J as “phase 2” of another BLM-inspired initiative that voters had previously approved on the March primary ballot. Cullors chaired the campaign to pass Measure R, also called the Reform LA Jails Initiative, which won in a landslide. It granted subpoena power to an LASD civilian oversight board and mandates that the body draft a plan to reduce the county jail population. Cullors said it was the result of about ten years of organizing.

Related: LANDSLIDE: Black Lives Matter Leader’s Ballot Measure Wins Big In Los Angeles County

Abdullah also gave BLM-LA credit for blocking Mayor Garcetti from a potential cabinet position. BLM-LA had organized a series of protests outside Garcetti’s home to draw attention to his record, which activists insisted should have disqualified him from consideration for any appointment. Garcetti was a national co-chair of Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.

She also noted a series of Black LA Demands related to the COVID-19 pandemic as another important achievement from 2020, along with the formation of BLM Grassroots, which was established to aid local chapters’ organizational needs.

Lastly, Abdullah recognized BLM-LA’s annual Black Xmas campaign, which asks allies to refrain from spending money with white corporations from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.

BLM-LA was the first chapter of what would become the Black Lives Matter Global Network. It was birthed on July 13, 2013, after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

Related: Black Lives Matter’s Annual ‘Black Xmas’ Protest Against ‘White Capitalism’ Targets Amazon This Year

Related: Black Lives Matter Leader Stands With L.A.’s New Progressive D.A., ‘Don’t Let The A**Holes Sway You’

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