Several African American clergy gathered at Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Los Angeles to request an apology from the Black Lives Matter Los Angeles Chapter leaders for disrupting a town hall meeting with Mayor Eric Garcetti, held last week in the sanctuary of Holman United Methodist Church.
While Garcetti was speaking last week at Holman United Methodist Church, members of the group stood and turned their backs on the mayor. Some then began shouting during the meeting and walked to the church’s altar, where the speakers were assembled, prompting the meeting to be cut short.
Holman Pastor Kelvin Sauls, Rev. Xavier Thompson of Southern Missionary Baptist Church and president of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Los Angeles and Southern California, and the Rev. K.W. Tulloss, pastor of Weller Street Missionary Baptist Church and president of the L.A. chapter of the National Action Network, joined with other ministers and community leaders at a press conference on October 26 to denounce the behavior of Black Lives Matter activists.
During the town hall meeting some media reported profanity and insults directed to Sauls by members of Black Lives Matter and Garcetti had to be escorted out of the church by security.
“We’re asking that Black Lives Matter Los Angeles apologize publicly for what took place publicly. To disrespect a prominent pastor, one that loves the people of the community and loves his church and to disrespect a historical church in the community that’s been right there for us for many years is not acceptable,” said Tulloss.
“We are calling the Black Lives Matter leaders into accountability. Come let us reason together. Let’s talk, let’s air out whatever differences, whether it be our message or our methods. We certainly hope that Black Lives will reach out and do the right thing,” said Thompson.
However, Melina Abdullah, Black Lives Matter Los Angeles spokesperson, feels differently and believes that responsibility for the incident falls on Garcetti.
“I think that the one who needs to apologize is the mayor. [He] attempted to use and exploit the Black community and …create tension within the Black community where none previously existed,” she said.
Abdullah argues that the real problem is Garcetti’s lack of involvement in community issues that impact South L.A.
“We are calling for unity. We should continue to work together and we should not allow a mayor who has been absent from South Los Angeles and unwilling to get to the real issues in our community to create a wedge within the community. We need to remember who is ultimately responsible for this and we say Mayor Eric Garcetti,” Abdullah insisted.
Several outlets reported that members of Black Lives Matter said they were upset that Garcetti did not notify them of the town hall meeting, despite having earlier promised to meet with the group to discuss concerns.
In response, both Tulloss and Sauls noted the group not only knew about the town hall, but also participated in planning the event. Sauls noted that 17 groups were part of the coalition, including Black Lives Matter.
“Our plan was to meet with the mayor and his department heads and begin to develop strategies in various areas that would help our community, utilizing those who have been at the forefront of the struggle. That was the outcome we were seeking,” Sauls said. “Unfortunately, it became clear to us that Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and their allies were more interested in objecting than the outcomes.”
Abdullah disputed that account as well, countering that Black Lives Matter Los Angeles was not part of the original planning team even though the group had negotiated a series of town halls with Garcetti last July. She said Black Lives Matter learned about the town hall from an L.A. Times reporter a week before the meeting.
“By the time we were brought in, the speakers had been confirmed, the agenda had been set, flyers gone to the community, so we tried to repair it, … create something that was more of a community-driven process,” said Abdullah.
Despite the incident, both Abdullah and the ministers agreed that they would continue to seek a united front among all groups as well as communicate with city officials and department managers to improve the quality of life throughout South Los Angeles neighborhoods.
”We have, in the past, worked together for a long time and so we can’t allow someone else who is not of our community determine what our relationships will be within the community,” she said.
Sauls observed that the concerns of South L.A. residents encompass a multitude of issues.
“In the end, this is not just about Holman and Black Lives Matter. This is about the pain that’s going on in our community, the marginalization, discrimination, and destruction in our community,” he said.
“We are committed, undeterred, determined to get back on track, refine our agenda and move forward around social justice, around economic development, around ending state-sanctioned violence and around ending the violence in our community.”