Sha Dixon, organizer for Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, is arrested by Los Angeles police Jan. 5. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
For seven days, organizers with the regional Black Lives Matter movement camped peacefully outside Los Angeles police headquarters downtown, calling their protest “Occupy LAPD.”
They had a set of demands centered on Ezell Ford and wanted an audience with Police Chief Charlie Beck. But Monday morning, they were forced to pack up tents, blankets, pots and pans and get off the sidewalk.
Then two women in the group were arrested as they tried to take a letter to Beck.
The group had been camped outside LAPD headquarters on 1st Street since Tuesday after the release of the autopsy report on Ford, the South Los Angeles man shot and killed in August during a confrontation with police. For the most part, the camp-in was peaceful despite some heckling from passersby and what protesters called police intimidation.
After loading their belongings into cars Monday, organizers began a planned news conference to go over their demands — the firing of the two LAPD officers involved in Ford’s death and a request that the district attorney file murder charges against the pair.
But the scene turned chaotic as two of the movement’s most vocal proponents were arrested.
The women — Melina Abdullah and Sha Dixon — had tried to pass barricades outside police headquarters to deliver letters with their list of demands to Beck, but they were blocked by officers. They then tried another entrance and were arrested on suspicion of trespassing.
“We are not a threat to anyone’s safety,” Abdullah told reporters as she gripped a large manila envelope and prepared to face the first barricade by police. “We are two women who are armed with letters.”
Protesters said actions Monday by police were due in part to the attention the group was getting from the media.
Organizers said police had previously been tolerant of their overnight sidewalk stays. They said they had even received unsolicited support from people who donated tents, a generator and food.
“All it is, is intimidation,” said Damon Turner as he gathered sleeping bags and blankets.
But police said the protesters had become a nuisance, blocking a public right-of-way.
LAPD Sgt. Barry Montgomery said the protesters was blocking the sidewalk and refusing to leave as a worker tried to steam-clean the area, where there were colorful chalk markings on the sidewalk.
Capt. Donald Graham said police would be looking at the markings, which an officer photographed, to see if they carried any specific threats against police.
“Your 1st Amendment rights are absolutely guaranteed,” Graham said. “We have done our best to facilitate that since the Ferguson decision. However, time, place and manner is the purview of the regulatory agency.”
Anya Slaughter, mother of Kendrec McDade, was among the protesters. McDade, 19, was unarmed when he was killed by Pasadena police in 2012. Slaughter said police were “killing our kids.”
She called on Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey to reopen the investigation into McDade’s death: “I want to know what happened to my baby.”
One of the group’s youngest protesters, 11-year-old Thandiwe Abdullah of Los Angeles, said she feared for her own future given the recent police killings.
“I have a target on my back everywhere I go to,” she said. “There is nothing I can do about it and age doesn’t matter anymore. I can be killed at 11.”