Helen Jones shows a photo of her son John Thomas Horton III who died in 2009 while in jail. (Photo courtesy of Dahlia Ferlito)

The Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter (BLMLA) has vowed to stand outside of District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s office protesting every week until she makes good on a promise to schedule a community meeting with the families of those killed by the police and those who have died while in-custody. This comes after the group was refused entrance into the Hall of Justice recently to deliver over 10,000 petitions calling on the district attorney to prosecute officers who are involved in fatal shootings. 

On Oct. 25, Special Assistant Cheryl Gaines failed to make good on a public promise to call and schedule a community meeting. Gaines, in front of dozens of protesters and grieving family members and in an effort to dismiss the group that surrounded the front door to the Hall of Justice in downtown Los Angeles promised to call Black Lives Matter Los Angeles organizer Dr. Melina Abdullah that she would call to set up the meeting. 

“Cheryl Gaines promised the families and the community that she would call me to set up a community meeting to address the petition,” said Abdullah. “We were explicit in saying that we wanted her to meet with the families and community to address the specific demands of the petition.” 

“Cheryl Gaines is playing games,” Abdullah continued. “She called me and said, ‘I’m a woman of my word. I said I’d call.’ I waited for more, but she said nothing. Then I said, ‘Okay. Do you have any information for us? You said you’d call to confirm a date when Jackie Lacey will meet with the families and community to talk about the petition demand.’ She said ‘I said I’d call’ and then hung up the phone on me.” 

Helen Jones, the mother of John Thomas Horton III who died at Men’s Central Jail in 2009, spoke passionately to Special Assistant Gaines. 

On Oct. 25, Black Lives Matter Los Angeles tries to deliver over 10,000 signatures to L.A. District Attorney Jackie Lacey calling on her to prosecute officers involved in fatal shootings. (Photo courtesy of Dahlia Ferlito)

Showing an emotionless Gaines pictures of her son’s battered, bruised and bloodied body she decried, “You know this isn’t no suicide!  You know this isn’t no suicide! Handcuffed to his wrist to where they done left a mark and his meat is showing.  You know this isn’t suicide.  So when can we have a meeting with Jackie Lacey?  That’s what we want to know as mothers.” 

During the confrontation Gaines tried to single out Jones for meeting but Jones refused saying that she was a part of a larger group of parents and loved ones who wanted to meet with Lacey and refused to accept a private meeting without the rest of the parents or the community there. 

“We’ve called,” Dr. Abdullah explained.  “We’ve sent numerous emails.  We’ve sent letters.  We’ve tried to make an appointment and go about doing things Lacey’s way but we haven’t gotten anywhere.  We’re barred from the building.  Black Lives Matter is barred from entering the Hall of Justice. So basically, unless you’ve got an appoint you can get in and we can’t get an appointment.  We’ve actually been told that we’re not allowed to make an appointment.” 

Dr Abdullah continued, “We’re going keep showing up. We’re going to keep demanding to meet with Jackie Lacey–who is an elected official, who is supposed to represent the People–quite literally.  She is considered the People. We’re going to demand that she represent the People and that she prosecutes the police who kill our People.  She can’t pick and choose who criminals are.  When police behave criminally, they must be charged.” 

“She’s a liar,” said Tritobia Ford whose son Ezell Ford was killed in 2014 in South Los Angeles by officers from the Los Angeles Police Department. “She told me that the way I conducted myself with her and the way that I handled myself that it made her decide to change the way she dealt with families. She promised me that she would make it her business to meet with all of the mothers in the future.  So now I see that she’s not doing that.  She’s not a woman of her word. She told me to my face that I had made such an impact that she was going to change the way she was going to deal with future families in my same situation. She’s a liar.” 

Black Lives Matter vows to return to Lacey’s office once a week in protest until she meets with the community regarding their petition. 

Since Lacey’s election in 2012, over 300 residents of Los Angeles County have been killed by the police or died while in-custody. The district attorney’s office has not filed charges against any officer in an on-duty shooting in more than 15 years.  Lacey hasn’t held a community meeting in South Los Angeles in all of 2017.  The last community meeting she held in October of 2016, Lacey walked out of the meeting after things got heated between her and community members from various groups and people whose loved ones were shot and killed by police after they voiced their anger and frustration with her. 

Lacey is the first woman, and first African-American, to serve as L.A. District Attorney since the office was created in 1850.