LOS ANGELES — Mayor Eric Garcetti said July 15 that he continues to support Police Chief Charlie Beck, despite calls for the chief’s ouster by activists upset over a decision upholding the actions of an officer who fatally shot a black woman in the Crenshaw district.
A group of Black Lives Matter protesters has been staging a sit-in at the main entrance of City Hall since July 12, when the Police Commission ruled that the Aug. 12, 2015, shooting of 30-year-old Redel Jones by an LAPD officer was within department policy.
Jones allegedly lunged at officers with a knife as police hunted for a suspect who robbed a pharmacy in the 3700 block of Santa Rosalia Drive.
Protesters have pointed to a differing account by a witness who said police shot Jones while she was running away.
More than 30 demonstrators were at City Hall July 15, holding signs and marching across the street.
Demonstrators said police officers warned them that they need to take down protest signs that were affixed to the City Hall building. An officer also came out at midday to give the demonstrators information about city codes barring them from camping permanently on sidewalks less than 10 feet from an entranceway, which could make it potentially impossible for the protesters to remain where they are. The demonstrators have the option to move to a “free speech” area across the street, according to police.
Melina Abdullah, one of the leaders of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, said the protesters will remain where they are “until Beck is fired.”
“We’re asking everyone to come join us,” Abdullah said. “If you can’t join us physically, then you can call the mayor and demand that he fire Chief Beck.”
Abdullah said the group does not plan to move the protest across the street.
“That’s not something that we’re willing to do,” she said. “We’re going to stay here as long as we can until Chief Beck is fired. If they violently remove us, then we’ll be removed, but we are committed to staying here.”
She told reporters that the police chief has done too little to protect black Angelenos.
“[The LAPD] are killing black people with regularity and repressing those of us who dare to say we won’t allow our communities to be under siege anymore,” Abdullah said. “They’re engaging us with violent repression.”
She said the LAPD needs to engage in more “community solutions” and that instead of spending money on “violent policing,” the city should be putting more funds behind “those services and resources that actually make the community safe,” such as intervention work, affordable housing, a livable wage and mental health services.
Garcetti has held fast to his support for Beck, saying on the “McIntyre in the Morning” program on KABC-AM radio that “I believe in Charlie Beck’s leadership.”
“I think it was something reflected when the White House called a few police chiefs from around the country,” he said. “[Beck] was one of the ones they reached out to. … He’s not perfect. I’m not perfect. The city’s not perfect. But he’s somebody I strongly support as someone who has continued to push forward with constitutional policing as a foundation for how we win trust.”
Garcetti and Beck took part in a meeting in Washington, D.C., July 13 with President Barack Obama, mayors, police chiefs, activists and administration officials to discuss frayed relations between the public and law enforcement in the aftermath of recent fatal officer-involved shootings, and the sniper killings of five police officers in Dallas and three in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Activists have been demanding a meeting with the mayor. Garcetti said he has offered to meet inside City Hall with a small delegation from the group, while suggesting that he does not want to be met with shouting.
Garcetti issued a statement saying he believes the concerns of Black Lives Matter protesters are “serious and valid,” and that “throughout this week I’ve offered to meet with a delegation from Black Lives Matter — in addition to the other meetings I have convened, and conversations I have had, with civil rights, community, law enforcement and religious leaders.”
Abdullah said the group has refused the offers because the demonstrators “are not interested in having closed-door meetings with a few people.”
“We believe in democracy even if the mayor doesn’t, and that means coming down to the people, not being afraid of the people he’s supposed to represent,” she said. “We’re open to meeting with him here, publicly.”
She said the mayor’s office earlier this week offered to hold a meeting with a group of 10 activists, but then reduced that number down to a five-member delegation.
The sit-in began July 12 after activists who packed the Police Commission meeting demanded that the officer who shot Jones be disciplined, saying a witness claimed Jones was running away from police when she was shot.
Beck’s report to the commission, however, cited witnesses who said Jones was moving toward police with a knife.
After the commission upheld the officer’s actions, protesters marched to City Hall and began the sit-in on the Main Street steps of City Hall.