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The Black Lives Matter movement in Los Angeles

 A poster by artist Foremost
A poster by artist Foremost
Sharon McNary/KPCC

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It's been a contentious week for L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.

He was confronted by an angry group of protesters Monday evening during a town hall meeting at the Holman United Methodist Church in South Los Angeles. Members of the group Black Lives Matter stood up and turned their backs on the mayor as he spoke to hundreds of attendees.

Activists with the Black Lives Matter movement in Los Angeles say they're doing what it takes to bring attention to the challenges facing the city's communities of color, particularly in South Los Angeles. 

Melina Abdullah is an organizer for the Black Lives Matter movement and the chair of Pan-African Studies at Cal State L.A. She was at Monday's town hall meeting. Abdullah  joined the show to explain what activists wanted from the mayor.

Alex Cohen: I know that there a number of things that you’ve been asking for, but at the top of the list -- as you were having the demonstration there at the church -- what specifically was the message you most wanted Mayor Garcetti to hear?

Melina Abdullah: Well what we began with is that we wanted this to be a true dialogue and engagement with the community, rather than — kind of — a stump speech made to the community, and so that is what we were pushing for there. We negotiated a community-driven town hall back in July, but that’s not what we got on Monday night.

Alex Cohen: Melina, with all due respect, I’ve talked to plenty of people who happen to be black and who share many of your frustrations. They’re not appointees of the mayor, but they have real concerns about the way you’re going about this. Do you have any concerns that -- in trying to mobilize -- that you may be creating riffs and fractures within L.A.’s black population?

Melina Abdullah: Well I think one of the things that you should note — and I definitely invite you to come next time — is that there were no previous risks and fractures. These risks and fractures are being exacerbated by the mayor, who benefits from the black community being divided. More than two-thirds of the audience — and if you look at the raw footage, it can be verified — were actually supportive of what happened, were actually engaged at some point with what happened. And so it’s really important that we understand that.

Alex Cohen: We’ve been talking mostly about the mayor, but as you’ve mentioned, you have very serious concerns about what’s happening with the LAPD, and I agree, there’s a lot of stuff that needs to be worked through, but we should also note that the LAPD has added more foot patrols in the wake of the Ezell Ford shooting, there are a number of community policing efforts underway in places like Watts. Do you see anything positive here? Is LAPD getting anything right?

Melina Abdullah: Well when we think about the police commission’s attempt to drown out and shut out dissenters, I think that it shows that it’s not moving in the right direction. When we think about the recent killing of a 30-year-old mother of two, Redel Jones, who was shot — by witness accounts — in the back, and nothing has even been said about her killing, I don’t think we’re moving in the right direction. When we think about the fact that 18 folks thus far and this year have been killed by LAPD, I don’t think we’re moving in the right direction. And so what we wanna encourage LAPD to do — and for Mayor Garcetti to lead — is a reimagining of public safety … We know what works is intervention, prevention and community resources, and so we’d love for our city to move in that direction.

Press the blue play button above to hear the full interview.

NOTE: During the interview, Alex Cohen stated that Black Lives Matter activists grabbed Mayor Eric Garcetti’s microphone during the Monday town hall meeting. There is a dispute about this detail, and we are awaiting confirmation from  the mayor's office.