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Black Lives Matter members come under fire

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — A group of local ministers planned to gather Oct. 22 to denounce members of Black Lives Matter for disrupting a community town hall meeting at Holman United Methodist Church Oct. 19, forcing Mayor Eric Garcetti to leave the meeting early.

The Rev. K.W. Tulloss, president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Action Network, will lead the group of clergy members denouncing the local activists for disrespecting the Rev. Kelvin Sauls, pastor at Holman United, and his congregation.

Los Angeles police had to clear a path for Garcetti do leave the meeting. Once outside, police had to clear another path for the mayor’s car to pull away from the church.

Najee Ali, a longtime South L.A. activist who was at the Oct. 19 meeting, said “I have never seen such a disrespectful and idiotic display of activism in my life.”

“Hundreds of residents came to hear the mayor speak and have their questions answered. They didn’t come to hear Black Lives Matter. Those activists in that group betrayed and disrespected the black community and church.”

The Rev. Sauls, who said he was threatened by Black Lives Matter members, denounced the group in an email to members of his congregation.

“In light of the violation of the Holman sanctuary and pulpit, and more important, silencing the majority of the community present, I’m committed to move forward only with community partners committed to constructive and productive dialogue with the dignity, decency and civility,” he said in the email.

“While I believe there’s a lot of room for disagreement, I don’t believe there’s any room for disrespect. Until such a covenant is explicitly stated, and because the lives of black people matter, I will continue the struggle for a more just and fair society through other pathways and with other partners.”

The town hall meeting was called by Garcetti to give residents of South L.A. a chance to question him about issues of concern. But a group of less than 50 members of Black Lives Matter dominated the meeting.

At first, they stood with their backs to the mayor facing the back wall of the church’s sanctuary. Then they began to chant and shout and finally they began to walk toward the front of the church and its altar, which is when the mayor and his security team decided to leave the meeting.

Once outside, a member of Black Lives Matter briefly jumped on the trunk of the mayor’s car as it was trying to pull away from the scene.

Garcetti issued a statement the next morning acknowledging the hundreds of residents who attended the meeting.

“I was there last night and will continue to be there to hear those concerns and find solutions to our most pressing problems. We must move forward and I remain committed to our shared concerns,” he said.

Speaking to reporters Oct. 20 at a groundbreaking ceremony for Kaiser Permanente’s Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw medical office building, Garcetti said, “People will shout, and people sometimes will be upset, and oftentimes it will come from a real place. I’m just going to continue doing the work that I was elected to do.

“As mayor that’s part of the job — sometimes people scream, sometimes people shout, but as long as I continue to do good work to improve the quality of life for people, to make this a safer community with more jobs like we’re doing here today, then I feel a great honor to represent the city.”

Melina Abdullah, a Cal State Los Angeles professor and an organizer for Black Lives Matter, defended the group’s actions.

“Our lives are on the line,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “We cannot live in a city that has such disregard for black life.”

She said the group did not attend the Oct. 19 meeting with the intent of shutting it down, but Garcetti began touting his own accomplishments rather than letting members of the public speak.

Black Lives Matter has disrupted several recent meetings of the Los Angeles Police Commission, causing the panel to adjourn early or take lengthy recesses until the disruption ended.