LOS ANGELES — The local chapter of Black Lives Matter (BLM) is now in its third week of protests across the street from City Hall, refusing to leave until Mayor Eric Garcetti fires LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.
“LAPD is one of the most murderous police forces,” said BLM organizer Christina Griffin. “Last year they killed 21 of the people they’re supposed to protect.”
About a dozen protestors had gathered by 9:30 a.m. July 26. A food buffet was laid out and signs posted with slogans like “Honk 4 Black Lives,” and “Day 15: We’re sleepless but not tired.”
The group took a walk around City Hall, chanting “Fire Charlie Beck” as they walked.
In addition to wanting the chief fired, the group has made four other demands for the mayor, including working with the City Council to form a reparations policy to provide financial, mental health and other resources to those who have suffered trauma at the hands of the police and to the victims’ families.
They would also like to see Police Commission meetings that are more accessible to the community, instead of taking place during work hours.
Activists also are calling for the mayor to appoint “real community advocates to key commission seats, rather than to campaign donors and political supporters.”
The group expressed disappointment over the 2015 appointment of Matt Johnson over Aqeela Sherrills, “a globally recognized expert on public safety,” Griffin said who was supported by members of Black Lives Matter and other residents of black L.A.
A number of protestors have attended Police Commission meetings, which organizer Michael Williams, 23, termed “a demonstration of the lack of respect the government has for its people.”
“I’ve seen commissioners looking at their phones, watching soccer games, people getting kicked out or arrested for speaking a second over the [allotted] time, commissioners defending those who have made racist comments and laughing when people talk about how their family members have died,” Williams said. He said he has attended between 20 and 50 meetings in the last year.
The Black Lives Matter occupation started after the Police Commission ruled July 12 that an LAPD officer did not violate policy after he shot and killed Redel Jones, a 30-year-old black woman who was a suspect in a pharmacy robbery near Baldwin Hills.
The incident began when police received a call about a robbery from pharmacy employees on Aug. 12, 2015. They described the robber as a woman carrying a large knife. She allegedly handed a note to the cashier, demanding money, and left with an envelope stuffed with cash.
Officers searched the area and found a woman matching the description. According to an LAPD report, Jones began running toward the officers, wielding the knife, but another witness told the Los Angeles Times that Jones was actually running away from them when they shot her.
The police report stated that money and the robbery demand note were found near her clothing, and the knife was near her body.
Though the ruling on Jones may have served as the tipping point for the protestors, tensions were running high after the fatal shootings by police of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota the week before.
Black Lives Matter protesters also cited the shooting death of Keith Bursey, 31, of South Los Angeles, who was shot and killed by LAPD officers in June.
That incident is still under investigation, but family members and others question what prompted officers to approach Bursey’s vehicle on June 10 and shoot. Beck has claimed Bursey was a gang member and court records show he was convicted of carrying a loaded gun and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
“We come for those who can’t, and we’re standing so their name and story won’t be forgotten,” Williams said.
So far, Mayor Garcetti has only offered to meet with a delegation from Black Lives Matter rather than the whole group, an outreach effort, Griffin said, that is unacceptable.
“We elected him,” she said. “We want him to come to the place where we’ve been sleeping and talk to us all.”
Last on the list of demands is that the mayor adheres to a quarterly town hall meeting structure, established with the black community in July, to ensure that communication stays open.
Garcetti was unavailable for comment this week while attending the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
He is expected to return to City Hall Aug. 1. The members of Black Lives Matter say they will be waiting for him across the street.