UPDATE at 5:53 p.m., Tuesday, June 30: Black Lives Matter reacts to the mayor's decision, below.
After weeks of confronting Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti about police tactics in African-American neighborhoods, Black Lives Matter Los Angeles is being offered a meeting with the city's leader, his office told L.A. Weekly today.
The organization has been trying to get the mayor to sit down with its leadership for months, and it was successful in getting face-to-face meetings with Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck and District Attorney Jackie Lacey.
The news comes after another acrimonious day in court in which city prosecutors tried unsuccessfully to keep a Black Lives Matter protester away from Beck.
The target was Evan Bunch, who was arrested June 9 for disturbing the peace during a Los Angeles Police Commission meeting on the cop shooting of unarmed African-American man Ezell Ford. Bunch was later charged with suspicion of battery on a peace officer and resisting arrest for an incident during the mayor's kickoff for the annual Summer Night Lights anti-gang program in South L.A. last week.
The commission ultimately found that Los Angeles Police Department policies were violated during that Aug. 11 confrontation with Ford, but that hasn't stopped Black Lives Matter Los Angeles from confronting the mayor at his home, at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel, and at the kickoff for the Summer Night Lights program.
Instead of agreeing to meet with the group, Garcetti engaged in a series of unfortunate optics. Earlier this month, cellphone video captured the mayor exiting the rear of his Getty House residence as Black Lives Matters demonstrators were posted outside.
The episode inspired protesters to dub Garcetti the “backdoor mayor.”
Days later, Black Lives Matter demonstrators confronted the mayor during an event at the Biltmore, only to be arrested on suspicion of trespassing.
Last week the City Attorney's Office asked a judge to prevent Bunch and Luz Maria Flores, 23, from being near Garcetti and Chief Beck. Prosecutors allege Flores used “force and violence” against a peace officer during a mayoral confrontation at the Summer Night Lights event June 24.
The judge said no.
Again today, city prosecutors asked the same judge for an order making it illegal for Bunch to be within 15 yards of Beck. Again the judge said no.
A previous request for comment from the City Attorney's Office went unanswered.
It seems clear, however, that if Garcetti had granted a sit-down with Black Lives Matter leaders weeks ago, some of this bad press could have been avoided. City Hall has been “trying to criminalize black civic engagement,” writes political commentator Jasmyne Cannick.
Cannick, a well-known LAPD critic, is herself fighting a resisting-arrest case stemming from her detention at a Michael Brown protest downtown last year. She says she was acting as an observer when she was cornered and couldn't disperse when ordered to do so.
“I think the motive here is to make [Black Lives Matter] shut up and leave them alone, to have a chilling effect on this type of civil engagement,” says attorney Nana Gyamfi, who represents Bunch and Flores. “It's a tactic.”
Gyamfi says she thinks the city will try to obtain protective orders against demonstrators again. “We'll see if this continues to be a trend,” she said.
UPDATE at 5:53 p.m., Tuesday, June 30: Black Lives Matter issued a statement that says the group looks forward to meeting with the mayor:
While Black Lives Matter Los Angeles feels that they should not have had to engage in the type of civic engagement that involved following Mayor Garcetti to various public events including camping out around the clock for 48 hours in front of his home just to get his attention, we are relieved that he has finally decided to meet with us to discuss police brutality, the killing of Ezell Ford and Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck.
It is unfortunate that before we could get to this point, several members of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles were arrested just for trying to seek a meeting with their mayor. It is even more disheartening that the mayor choose to use City Attorney Mike Feuer to try and obtain protective orders against members of our group who were merely participating in civic engagement — the very thing the mayor encouraged Angelenos to do during his campaign for office.
But in the spirit of moving forward, Black Lives Matter Los Angeles will overlook the mayor sneaking out of the back door of his house and being less than truthful with his reasons for leaving town on the eve of the Board of Police Commissioners' Ezell Ford policy ruling in an effort to come to the table to have a real discussion about solutions to police brutality in Los Angeles.
We look forward to this first conversation with the mayor. We are optimistic that this is the opening of the front door for the mayor to engage in greater and more meaningful dialogue with Black Los Angeles on issues relevant to our community.