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Black Lives Matter defends this week's protest of L.A. Mayor Garcetti

Black Lives Matter defends this week's protest of L.A. Mayor Garcetti
Black Lives Matter protesters swarm Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's car after disrupting a town hall meeting at a church in South L.A. (Peter Jamison / Los Angeles Times)

Days after a tense confrontation with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, members of the local chapter of Black Lives Matter accused the mayor of breaking a promise to work with them to hold a forum to find solutions to problems that plague residents in South L.A.

The group's members spoke Friday in response to criticism over their disruption of a forum that the mayor held earlier this week at Holman United Methodist Church.

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Patrisse Cullors, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter, said Garcetti never told members of her group about Monday's event despite previously agreeing to work with them to host a two-hour discussion. She said the mayor met with members of the group and made the promise in July.

"What happened afterward is that Mayor Garcetti had a meeting without consulting us," Cullors said at a news conference at a memorial site near the spot where LAPD officers last year fatally shot Ezell Ford, a mentally ill black man.

Cullors and others said that members of Black Lives Matter learned about Garcetti's first South L.A. forum only days before the event.

About 50 protesters from various organizations, including Black Lives Matter, disrupted the meeting. Demonstrators turned their backs to Garcetti as he addressed the packed sanctuary. While Garcetti attempted to leave the hourlong session, he was swarmed by a crowd of chanting activists.

Garcetti, speaking to reporters Tuesday, pointedly declined to criticize the protesters' conduct the night before.

"As mayor, that's part of the job. Sometimes people scream. Sometimes people shout," he said. "Any person who talks about their frustrations … you know, those are real problems with jobs, with housing, with policing. But I just keep doing the work."

However, some who attended the event denounced the group's action.

"To the members of BLM-LA and allies who cussed at me in the sanctuary ... your disrespect and verbal violence will not be a weapon of mass distraction to our resolve in pressing on to seek solutions for the challenges and opportunities in our community," the Rev. Kelvin Sauls, who heads the church, wrote in a Facebook post Thursday.

Pete White, of Los Angeles Community Action Network, said at Friday's Black Lives Matter news conference that Garcetti has divided black residents and aligned himself with people who won't criticize him for failing to follow through on promises.

"We are going to be loud about that and we are going to engage in tactics that are meant to save our lives," he said.

The group has outlined a series of demands to Garcetti and the city's police commissioners, most prominently that they fire LAPD Chief Charlie Beck for his handling of the department and recent police shootings. They've also called for a series of mayoral town hall meetings with more public give and take, as well as increased input from South L.A. residents on appointments to city commissions.

The Aug. 11, 2014, shooting of Ford became a local touchstone in the heated national conversation about police officers and how they use force, particularly against black men. Ford, 25, died two days after an officer shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

Attending Friday's news conference was Ford's mother, Tritobia.

Afterward, she said she believed the mayor did not keep a promise to her to ensure fairness, transparency and accountability in the city's review of her son's killing.

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Beck concluded the officers who shot Ford were justified, finding that Ford was struggling over an officer's holstered handgun when the shooting took place. The police commission ruled that one officer's handling of the encounter was so flawed that that it led to the fatal confrontation.

Tritobia Ford said on Friday that she doesn't always agree with the tactics of Black Lives Matter members but supports the cause.

"I share the frustration and compassion and anger too," she said.

For more California breaking news, follow @AngelJennings. She can also be reached at angel.jennings@latimes.com.

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