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Black Lives Matter leader may have charges dropped

LOS ANGELES — City prosecutors agreed Feb. 7 to a resolution of criminal charges against a prominent local Black Lives Matter activist, agreeing to drop the case in six months if she adheres to guidelines aimed at preventing her from disrupting Los Angeles Police Commission meetings.

The “negotiated disposition” with Melina Abdullah, a Cal State Los Angeles professor and Black Lives Matter organizer, came in the face of repeated criticism by activists claiming the charges amounted to the criminalization of protests against the LAPD.

Abdullah was arrested at a Police Commission meeting on May 8, 2018, along with another woman — Sheila Brim — who threw a powdery substance at then-LAPD Chief Charlie Beck. Brim’s niece, Wakiesha Wilson, died in police custody in 2016, and Brim suggested at the meeting that the powder was Wilson’s ashes.

Brim reached a separate agreement with prosecutors to resolve four misdemeanor charges stemming from her actions at the meeting.

Abdullah was charged with misdemeanor battery on a police officer stemming from the commission meeting, but was also hit with seven other counts including interfering or obstructing a public business establishment and interfering with the lawful business of the Police Commission. Prosecutors said the alleged crimes occurred in July and August 2017.

Under the agreement reached Feb. 7, Abdullah agreed to abide by behavior guidelines during Police Commission meetings, such as exiting and not returning to the meeting if she is found to be disrupting the proceedings and ordered to leave.

If she violates the agreement over the next six months, the criminal case against her will resume, but if she adheres to the pact, the charges will be dismissed in six months, according to court papers.

On her Instagram page, Abdullah declared victory.

“This morning, we marched into court led by a fearless legal team and supported by hundreds of folks in the courtroom and lobby,” she wrote.

“We said loudly, `No plea deal! We want the charges dropped. We have a right and a duty to fight for our people!’ And WE WON!!!!

“So deeply grateful to the tens of thousands of folks who stood up and demanded an end to the criminalization of black protest,” she wrote.

City Attorney’s Office spokesman Rob Wilcox noted that the disposition agreement does not mean the charges against Abdullah have been dismissed, but will be dropped only if she abides by terms of the pact.

“From the outset, our goal has been to ensure that commission meetings are not disrupted in ways that prevent other members of the public from participating, while protecting individuals’ right to say what they mean,” Wilcox said. “The defendant’s agreement to abide by this disposition strikes that balance.”

Wave Wire Service