A Black Lives Matter activist who was arrested during a meeting of the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners last year filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the city.
Greg Akili, 68, was arrested during the commission’s meeting on Feb. 9, 2016, after being removed by officers at the direction of Commission President Matt Johnson for speaking out of turn.
Akili, a longtime community activist in Southern California and co-founder of the United Domestic Workers union, was convicted of a misdemeanor count of resisting arrest in January.
But the jury deadlocked on a second charge of battery on a peace officer and a mistrial was declared on that count, according to Akili’s lawyer, Dermot Givins, who said the charge was subsequently dropped.
“We filed this lawsuit seeking to make the city uncomfortable in accepting the lies of the LAPD,” Givins said at a news conference held in front of the downtown Los Angeles Police Administration Building.
Givens said the $4 million lawsuit names the city, the LAPD, the Police Commission and its executive director, Richard Tefank, and the two officers who arrested his client.
Givens said those officers are identified in the suit only by the last names of De La Torres and Hernandez because they were not called to testify and thus the attorney has been unable to confirm their first names.
“I’ve done criminal trials a lot. I’ve never seen where the arresting officers are not called to trial,” Givens said. “Because the officers just filled out a false report as they were directed to do, and they weren’t even in the room when the incident happened.”
Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, said his office had not yet seen a copy of the lawsuit and could not comment on it.
Tefank said he could not comment on pending litigation.
Video footage shows Akili being led out of the room by a police officer who has his arms wrapped around the activist’s back. Akili does not appear to hit any officers or make any physically threatening moves, although the video does not show every moment when he was being led out, and also does not show what occurred after he was led out of the room.
“The city attorney didn’t coordinate the lies good enough because he thought, `Hey, we got a black man, we’re gonna charge him with battery on a police officer, what jury in the world would not convict him? We don’t even need to do any evidence. Because if you saw the video, there’s nothing on the video,” Givens said.
Angered over what they say is the unjust shooting of black people by LAPD officers, Black Lives Matter activists speaking out during Police Commission meetings has been a regular occurrence over the last several years, and someone being tossed from the meeting for being disruptive has become commonplace.
Akili contends police officers lied on the stand and in the arresting forms, and that the case against him was politically motivated because of his involvement with Black Lives Matter.
“This was about silencing Black Lives Matter. This wasn’t about their order. This was about how do we silence Black Lives Matter,” Akili said. The lawsuit also alleges that Tefank directed the officers to arrest Akili, and that he also lied on the stand when he testified he saw Akili “bear-hug” an officer.
As a civilian, Tefank should not be able to tell officers to arrest someone, but the video is incomplete and does not show what occurred outside the meeting. In the video, as Akili is being led out of the meeting, a male voice near a microphone where the board was seated can be heard saying, “He needs to go to jail,” after which Tefank can be seen exiting the room via the same door Akili had just been ushered through.
— City News Service