A police critics' encampment outside Los Angeles Police Department headquarters was effectively shut down yesterday after officers arrested two of the lead demonstrators and started to clean up items that were part of the so-called occupation. However, the campers were back overnight.
Arrested yesterday were Melina Abdullah and Sha Dixon, leaders of the group Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, people inside the organization said. A spokesman for Black Live Matters told us demonstrators supporting the group would be back tomorrow to spread their message at an L.A. Police Commission meeting, which was expected to be attended by LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.
LAPD Officer Jack Richter said two people were arrested on suspicion of trespassing after they climbed over a headquarters barricade.
The arrests happened following the end of a 9 a.m. press conference organized by demonstrators, Black Lives Matter organizer Mark-Anthony Johnson told us. He said Abdullah and Dixon were released shortly after 4 p.m. yesterday.
The protesters had been camped out next to the headquarters building at First and Main streets for nearly week after launching the action Dec. 30 in response to the Dec. 29 unveiling of the Ezell Ford shooting autopsy report.
Two LAPD gang cops fatally wounded Ford on the night of Aug. 11 in South L.A. Police say the unarmed 25-year-old jumped on one of the officers and grabbed his service weapon, precipitating the shooting.
The report concluded that one of two fatal bullet wounds entered Ford's back. LAPD Chief Beck says that doesn't contradict the officers' story at all, since they insisted that the young man jumped on a cop and was then shot, apparently from two different angles, by the law enforcement duo.
Two official reviews of the case that could decide the fate of the cops are still pending. Demonstrators believe Ford was unjustifiably killed.
The Black Lives Matter movement was born last year following the fatal police shooting of an unarmed African American teenager in Ferguson, Missouri and following the choke-hold death of a black man at the hands of a New York police officer.
In L.A., demonstrators want "the immediate firing of Officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas for the murder of Ezell Ford," according to a Black Lives Matter statement. They want the L.A. County District Attorney to file charges against the pair. And they want a meeting with Beck.
One police official said the demonstrators have been vicious in their anti-cop sentiment and argued that the LAPD has been tolerant "above and beyond" what is legally necessary.
Richter said that after previously coming inside the public building and "being disruptive," Abdullah and Dixon were warned not to come back. Then, he said, this happened:
These two individuals were warned about coming onto the property ... and right in front of officers they climbed over the fence and demanded to be let inside the building, and they were taken into custody.
Johnson of Black Lives Matter said the duo was attempting to deliver a letter to Chief Beck. The document requests a meeting with the chief, he said. After being blocked from entering the building's main entrance, Abdullah and Dixon went around to another entrance and were arrested, he said.
Police yesterday also cleared out the Black Lives Matter encampment.
"Part of the problem was they had so much material on the sidewalk" that it was disrupting the public's right of way, Officer Richter said. "It was removed and they cleaned and power-washed the sidewalk."
Johnson said cops at the scene told demonstrators the items were removed so that police could investigate alleged threats against law enforcement made via chalk art on the sidewalk. "They stated that if we didn't move our stuff, they would arrest us for obstructing their crime scene investigation," he said.
Asked if demonstrators would be back, Johnson said, "We're in the process of figuring out what the next concrete step is."
Then Abdullah tweeted a photo last night of campers who were back on a sidewalk outside LAPD headquarters.
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Meanwhile Johnson said "allies" of Black Lives Matter would be at the Police Commission meeting today.
LAPD Commander Andrew Smith, the department's top spokesman, indicated to us that a meeting between demonstrators and Beck was iffy. But he said that leaders of the group could always come to the Police Commission meetings:
They are welcome to address him at Police Commission every Tuesday at 0930. Also, anyone is welcome to assemble peacefully any time in front of HQ as long as they obey all laws.