A civil rights lawyer representing a founding member of Black Lives Matter announced on Friday that the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office dismissed all eight criminal charges against his client.
Dr. Melina Abdullah, a college professor who also leads the L.A. chapter of Black Lives Matter, was charged with infractions stemming from her anti-cop activism at LAPD Commission meetings. Charges included battery on a police officer, and she could have faced more than a year in jail if convicted. City prosecutors made a deal with Abdullah on February 7, agreeing to drop all charges if she adhered to behavior guidelines for six months.
“While the dismissal of all charges against this noble warrior is a great victory, the battle for justice is not over,” attorney Carl E. Douglas, who is representing Abdullah pro bono, told L.A. Progressive.
Douglas, who became nationally known decades ago as a member of O.J. Simpson’s “Dream Team” of defense attorneys, was mentored by the late Johnnie Cochran for 12 years. He claimed that Abdullah “was falsely accused of grabbing an LAPD sergeant,” adding, “she was arrested for that false allegation.”
“We intend to vindicate this violation of her civil rights by filing a federal civil rights lawsuit and exposing a corrupt police officer who wanted to silence this strong voice of change,” Douglas continued.
The incident in question occurred at a police commission meeting on May 8, 2018. LAPD arrested Abdullah along with fellow Black Lives Matter activist Sheila Hines-Brim, whose niece, Wakiesha Wilson, died in police custody in 2016. Hines-Brim had thrown what she claimed were Wilson’s cremated remains at then-LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.
Abdullah was late to the meeting that day. She was standing in the back of the board room looking for a seat when she heard Beck order police to arrest Hines.
Detective Jason Curtis, a supervisor for the LAPD’s Commission Investigation Division, which provides security at the meetings, 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.
Hines-Brim reached a separate agreement with city prosecutors to resolve four misdemeanors that resulted from her conduct on that day.
Abdullah told investigators that she did not remember grabbing the detective’s arm. She called the charges against her “bogus” and “an attempt to criminalize Black protest.”
After the charges were dropped last week, Abdullah posted on social media, “Today was the day that a Black woman judge, Songhai Migueda (sic) Armstead, smiled through her words, ‘Case dismissed. Congratulations.’”
She went on to thank her legal team of seven lawyers who volunteered their time, and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors “for making it a network-wide campaign.”
Cullors told L.A. Progressive, “The City Attorney’s decision to prosecute Black protestors also fits into a much larger picture in which the federal government is attempting to criminalize Black people and even label them as ‘terrorists’ and ‘extremists’ for daring to struggle against police brutality, abuse, and killings.”
Dr. Abdullah is a tenured professor of Pan-African Studies at California State University, L.A. She traveled to Indiana last month to help organize residents against South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination. Both Abdullah and Cullors lead an ongoing, multi-pronged effort to replace L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey with a “reform-minded” prosecutor next year.
L.A. City Atty. Mike Feuer, whose office made the deal with Abdullah earlier this year, is believed to have mayoral aspirations. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti is termed out in 2022.
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @JeffreyCawood.