Lead Story West Edition

Black Lives Matter leader sues over arrest

LOS ANGELES — Although all charges against a prominent Black Lives Matter leader were dismissed in 2019, her attorney filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles federal court Feb. 10, alleging that Melina Abdullah’s arrest at a meeting of the Police Commission in 2018 violated her civil rights.

The suit against the city of Los Angeles, former Police Chief Charlie Beck and Detective Jason Curtis seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

Abdullah, a Black Lives Matter organizer and Cal State Los Angeles professor, alleges that during a meeting of the commission on May 8, 2018, she was “falsely, wrongfully and intentionally detained, imprisoned and arrested.”

Abdullah was accused of grabbing Curtis’ arm during a disorderly Police Commission meeting.

“We are here to cleanse the LAPD one cop at a time,” Abdullah’s attorney, Carl Douglas, said at a downtown Los Angeles news conference Feb. 11. “LAPD unfairly caused her arrest and attempted to silence her. She will not be silenced.

“There will be proof that Dr. Abdullah never grabbed Detective Curtis’ arm as he alleges,” Douglas said. “There will be unmistakable proof that Detective Curtis is lying when he accused Dr. Abdullah of assaulting and battering him.”

Abdullah was arrested at the Police Commission meeting, along with Sheila Brim, who was accused of throwing a powdery substance at Beck.

Brim, whose niece, Wakiesha Wilson died in police custody in 2016, suggested at the meeting that the powder was Wilson’s ashes.

Brim reportedly reached a separate agreement with prosecutors to resolve four misdemeanor charges she was facing due to her actions at the meeting.

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

Abdullah and her supporters say the charges were overblown and Abdullah was targeted for her outspoken criticism of the LAPD’s use of force.

Abdullah faced a year in jail if convicted.  

Last August, all criminal charges were dismissed against her. City prosecutors said they had agreed to drop the case if Abdullah adhered to guidelines aimed at preventing her from disrupting the weekly meetings.

“The city attorneys office became aware of the truth and that is why they decided to dismiss all the charges against her,” said Douglas, who expects the case to go to trial next year.

A spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department said the LAPD does not comment on pending litigation.