Black Lives Matter activist Greg Akili was part of a group of people who were tossed out of a Police Commission meeting on Feb. 9, 2016, for shouting at commissioners. Akili was told to shut up or get out. He didn't quiet down, so two officers escorted him outside. Commission executive director Richard Tefank followed and, according to Akili, ordered his arrest after he had been released.
"That's a false arrest," says the activist, who worked with United Farm Workers under Cesar Chavez. "Then I was charged later with battery on a police officer."
The city's case didn't go well. The jury deadlocked, and the City Attorney's Office moved to dismiss the case. Now Akili is suing the city, the commission and the Los Angeles Police Department in federal court for allegedly violating his civil rights. "We will be reviewing the complaint," a spokesman for they City Attorney's Office said via email. But I "can't comment further at this time," he said.
The suit, filed this week, alleges that Akili was falsely imprisoned, unjustly assaulted (he sustained an injury during his contact with cops), arrested without probable cause and subject to lies "concocted" by police at the highest levels of the department as well as "outrageous conduct" that caused him emotional distress. The filing asks for $4 million in damages, attorney's fees and individual damages from those involved.
Attorney Dermot Givens says police arrested Akili first and came up with a reason afterward — all at the behest of a civilian, Tefank. He argues that the episode is exactly the kind of situation Black Lives Matter decries when it comes to the commission meetings. Officers too often concoct reasons for their arrests and shootings, he says. "They straight up lied," he said.
Police alleged that Akili grabbed an officer, who had briefly detained him, on the way out the door during the meeting. That officer, however, didn't immediately cite or arrest the activist, and Akili was ejected and apparently free to go until Tefank intervened, Givens says.
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During Akili's battery-on-a-cop trial, the officers involved in his arrest did not testify, Givens says. "The jury didn't believe" the city's case, he says. The arrest, one of nearly a dozen involving Black Lives Matter demonstrators at Police Commission meetings in the last year or so, was designed to send a message, Akili argues.
The group, which has its national roots in L.A., wants answers about local police shootings of unarmed black men. And it's concerned about alleged backroom meetings between the mayor and the police union that shaped a ballot measure that will ask voters to change the way cops are disciplined.
"This is an effort to intimidate us," he says. "The Police Commission is hostile, but we continue to show up."