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Black Lives Matter activists criticize arrests of LAPD critics at Police Commission meetings

Angry over arrests at recent public meetings, a group of Black Lives Matter activists gathered outside the Los Angeles Police Department's downtown headquarters Tuesday morning, saying the arrests would not deter their calls for police reform.

Angry over arrests at recent public meetings, a group of Black Lives Matter activists gathered outside the Los Angeles Police Department's downtown headquarters Tuesday morning, saying the arrests would not deter their calls for police reform.

About two dozen activists — most wearing signs asking, "Are you going to arrest me too?" — blasted the arrests at Police Commission meetings, accusing the board of infringing upon their free-speech rights and unfairly targeting them for criticizing the LAPD.

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"They are setting this city up to be sued," said Nana Gyamfi, an attorney representing local Black Lives Matter organizers. "We ask and we demand that these false arrests stop."

Black Lives Matter members and others offer prayers after a news conference criticizing the city over LAPD arrests of critics.
Black Lives Matter members and others offer prayers after a news conference criticizing the city over LAPD arrests of critics.

Disruptions have become common at the board's weekly meetings, where activists have spent months criticizing how police use force and calling for the firing of Police Chief Charlie Beck. The meetings are frequently interrupted when activists chant the names of people killed by Los Angeles police officers. Some people in the audience have aimed personal attacks at the police commissioners, sometimes using racial slurs.

Last fall, the Police Commission implemented a set of rules for attendees, allowing the removal of people who repeatedly disrupt the meetings. The goal, the rules state, was to "establish an appropriate level of safety and efficiency" at the meetings.

The rules warned that attendees who resisted being removed from the meeting room could be subject to arrest.

A handful of activists was removed from the room during Tuesday's meeting for disrupting the proceedings, but the LAPD said no arrests were made.

At least seven people have been arrested during commission meetings since November, either on suspicion of resisting an officer, battery on an officer or refusing to disperse, according to a review of LAPD records.

Last week, Melina Abdullah — a Cal State Los Angeles professor and prominent member of the local Black Lives Matter movement — was removed from the meeting after speaking past her allocated time. Officers then arrested her on suspicion of resisting a peace officer.

As officers removed Abdullah from the room, dozens of activists stood and chanted at the commission, raising fists and cellphones in the air.

"Black lives, they matter here!" the group shouted.

Beck told reporters at Tuesday's Police Commission meeting that the arrests were "not about speech."

"We allow freedom of speech — as a matter of fact, they were exercising their right to free speech today," the chief said. "It's when they cross the line, become physical with the officers — then they're going to get arrested."

Follow me at @katemather

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UPDATES:

May 18, 8:53 a.m.: This story was updated to add comments from LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.

May 17, 3:55 p.m.: This article was updated to add that no arrests were made at Tuesday's meeting but that a handful of activists were removed from the room.

This post was first published May 17 at 1:24 p.m.

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