A petition of solidarity and Support

Dear Attorney Feuer,

Dr. Melina Abdullah, Professor and Chair of Pan-African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles, and mother of three school-aged children, has been dedicated to community organizing for decades. She has been active as a community educator, involved parent, and a “Spirit Mama” to dozens of children in Los Angeles County. Her commitment has been deep and far-reaching, including fights for access and equity in public education and fair land use practices as well as advocating for greater accountability between government agencies and community. As an engaged scholar committed to fighting the injustices experienced by everyday people in Los Angeles, Dr. Abdullah demonstrates the best of us who work at U.S. colleges and universities.

Based on her courageous activism and measures to hold public officials accountable during Los Angeles Police Commission meetings, your office is pursuing charges against Dr. Abdullah with eight separate counts. This “catch-all” approach adopted by your office relies heavily on the jury’s reluctance to dismiss all the counts, whether the City fails to prove them beyond a reasonable doubt. Furthermore, the prosecution has 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. At the root of the City’s pursuit is a concerted effort to criminalize and suppress the protest of Black people, which has been made evident in the City’s decision not to pursue similar charges against White and non-Black allies whom engaged in similar accountability tactics.

Many of the charges lodged against Dr. Abdullah 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. Based on decades of evidence offered by political scientists, sociologists, and legal scholars, such actions serve as hallmarks of democratic engagement and further protected by the First Amendment. Moreover, the evidence also makes clear that such demonstrations drive meaningful changes in policy and practice of democratic government.

Therefore, as concerned students, administrators, and faculty representing various fields and disciplines, and higher education stakeholders affiliated with dozens of U.S. colleges and universities, we are petitioning the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office to demand all charges against Dr. Melina Abdullah be dismissed effective immediately. We further demand your office do the following:

  • Discontinue “catch-all” approaches to prosecution that rely on jury reluctance to fully consider each charge individually;

  • Discontinue criminalizing protest and acts of civil disobedience, especially actions taken by Black organizers, activists, and protestors;

  • Discontinue efforts to suppress broader Black protest through targeting individuals.

Thank you for your serious and immediate consideration.