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Black Lives Matter activists hand City Hall a petition calling for LAPD chief's firing

Black Lives Matter activists hand City Hall a petition calling for LAPD chief's firing
Activists affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement deliver a petition with more than 9,000 signatures to Mayor Eric Garcetti's office, asking him to fire Police Chief Charlie Beck. (Christina House / For The Times)

The activists walked through the doors of Los Angeles City Hall, into an elevator and rode up to the mayor's office on the third floor.

They knew Mayor Eric Garcetti wasn't there — he's attending the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and trying to rally support for L.A.'s 2024 bid — but they had something they wanted to drop off: a petition urging Garcetti to fire LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.

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They handed a box of signatures to a deputy mayor, who said he would pass them along to Garcetti. The activists promised they would return.

"We're across the street," one said.

"We'll be there," another chimed in, "until Beck goes."

Activists affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement protest outside L.A. City Hall on Monday.
Activists affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement protest outside L.A. City Hall on Monday. (Christina House / For The Times)

Activists affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement have spent nearly a month camped outside City Hall East, protesting killings by Los Angeles police officers and demanding that Garcetti hold Beck accountable.

"We have a problem here, and Chief Beck is a part of that problem," activist and actor Matt McGorry told reporters Monday at the encampment. "We need to take action."

Garcetti has recently indicated support for Beck, telling KABC-AM last month he would not fire the police chief.

"I believe in Charlie Beck's leadership," Garcetti said during the interview. "He's not perfect. I'm not perfect. The city's not perfect. But he's somebody I strongly support and has continued to push forward with constitutional policing as a foundation for how we win trust."

Carl Marziali, a mayoral spokesman, said Monday that his office had received the petition and would share it with Garcetti.

The latest protest in L.A. comes during a time of heated national debate over how police officers use force, particularly against African Americans. Melina Abdullah, a Cal State L.A. professor and Black Lives Matter organizer, said the protesters gathered outside City Hall had lost "faith in the system."

Abdullah and other activists have rallied support on social media, circulating the online petition calling for Beck's firing. (The petition had almost 8,200 signatures by early Monday afternoon.) They have hosted prayer circles, meetings and other events at the encampment, including a Sunday afternoon spent with relatives of people killed by LAPD officers.

Protesters have also criticized Garcetti, saying the mayor was ignoring issues in L.A. by attending the Democratic National Convention and the Olympics.

The encampment grew out of a protest against the Police Commission's July 12 decision that an LAPD officer did not violate the department's policy for using deadly force last year when he fatally shot a black woman, Redel Jones, in a South L.A. alley.

Jones was killed after police say she moved toward an officer while holding a knife. The LAPD said the 30-year-old matched the description of a woman who robbed a nearby pharmacy about 20 minutes earlier, prompting officers to pursue her into the alley.

Siding with the police chief, the Police Commission determined in a 3-0 vote that the shooting was justified because an officer could reasonably have believed that Jones' actions "presented an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury," according to a written summary of the panel's findings.

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The decision was met with anger and tears from a crowd of peaceful protesters that had gathered at the LAPD's downtown headquarters. The group quickly moved across the street to City Hall, where activists pounded on glass doors as they were blocked from entering.

A smaller group set up camp on the steps of City Hall that night — the start of the demonstration that continues today.

Follow me on Twitter: @katemather

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