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California

L.A. Black Lives Matter leader sues city, ex-LAPD Chief Beck, alleging wrongful arrest

Melina Abdullah
Melina Abdullah addresses a Police Commission meeting at LAPD headquarters. Abdullah, a Cal State Los Angeles professor affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement, was arrested on suspicion of resisting a police officer.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

One of Los Angeles’ most well-known Black Lives Matter activists has filed a federal lawsuit alleging police and the city attorney’s office unfairly targeted her for arrest and prosecution because of her activism, according to documents filed in federal court Monday.

Melina Abdullah, a Cal State L.A. professor and permanent fixture at L.A. Police Commission meetings, accused the city and former Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck of wrongful arrest and malicious prosecution stemming from a fracas at a May 2018 commission meeting in downtown Los Angeles.

Abdullah and Sheila Hines-Brim were arrested during the meeting after Hines-Brim allegedly threw a powdery substance at Beck. Hines-Brim claimed the powder was the ashes of her niece, Wakiesha Wilson, who died in police custody in 2016. The incident prompted a response from a hazmat team, but no injuries were reported.

Both women were arrested on suspicion of battery. Months later, the city attorney’s office filed a litany of additional charges against Abdullah, including four counts of unlawful assembly, one count of disturbing a public meeting and one count of interfering with a public meeting.

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In court filings, city prosecutors said the charges resulted from a review of footage of “all disruptions occurring at the Police Commission meetings” in 2017 and 2018.

The move drew a fierce backlash against City Atty. Mike Feuer. Demonstrators packed courtrooms for several of Abdullah’s appearances and staged a protest outside City Hall last year before delivering a petition with 11,000 signatures demanding Feuer drop the charges.

The city attorney’s office relented in February 2019, dismissing all counts as part of a deal with Abdullah and her attorney, Carl Douglas. Hines-Brim settled her case and entered into a diversionary program, officials said.

In the lawsuit filed Monday, Abdullah alleged Beck and the city targeted her for arrest “because she has been a vocal advocate at Police Commission meetings for the rights of members of the Black and Brown communities, who frequently voices complaints against the Police Commissioners, and members of the LAPD.”

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Abdullah alleges LAPD Det. Jason Curtis falsely accused her of assault, shouting “Get Melina!” shortly after the incident involving Hines-Brim caused a disruption at the May 2018 meeting. She said she never touched Curtis.

Abdullah also claimed the detective reached past another activist — who was physically pushing past officers and had been warned she could be arrested — to get to her.

A spokesman for the city attorney’s office said the filing would be reviewed but declined to comment further.


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