This Is What Criminalizing Black Protest Looks Like

Melina Abdullah at a Black Lives Matter rally in Hollywood. (Richard Vogel / AP)

Melina Abdullah is chair of the department of Pan-African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles, and a co-founder of the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter. In 2016, she was charged with eight misdemeanors following a demonstration at a police commission meeting. According to the Los Angeles Times, officers removed Abdullah from the room and detained her for resisting arrest. Now, a petition has been launched calling on Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer to drop the charges against her and end the criminalization of black protest.

“As LA City prosecutor, you have put forward a flawed assertion that freedom struggle must always be polite and follow the rules of the very institutions that are engaging in the abuse,” the petition reads. “Many of the charges you have lodged against Melina relate to so-called “disruptions” of public meetings. These non-violent actions might include speaking off-topic or beyond the allotted time, holding signs, or refusing to take a seat or exit a room. Such engagements are a hallmark of democracy and protected by the First Amendment. Moreover, it is only through such protest that substantial changes have been won, including the right to vote, Civil Rights, workers’ rights, women’s rights, and union rights. When police kill Black people every 28 hours, Black people cannot be muzzled.”

Two months after her arrest, Abdullah sat down with Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer and the Truthdig editorial team to discuss racial injustice, police brutality and the future of the progressive movement. “I think the rage and sorrow that we’re feeling can be used to mobilize people,” she said at the time. “So that’s my intent—to make sure that those emotions are used to mobilize a movement that can transform things for us and empower us.”

Abdullah’s court date is set for Thursday. You can read some of her writing here and watch her Truthdig interview below:

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