Gregory Akili, a prominent, long-time civil and human rights activist, has filed a $4 million dollar federal lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Police Department, and Police Commission Executive Director Richard Tefank for false arrest.
Akili, a member of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles’ (BLM-LA) Action Committee, and his attorney Dermot Givens, announced the suit during a press conference in front of LAPD Headquarters on May 9.
LAPD officers “De La Torres” and “Hernandez” are also defendants in the lawsuit, which stems from Akili’s participation in a Black Lives Matter protest at the L.A. Police Commission meeting on Feb. 9, 2016.
Akili, 68, is also suing for unlawful detention, excessive force, and false imprisonment.
He was arrested and tried on one count of battery on a police officer. The court dismissed the charge after a jury, comprised of no Blacks, deadlocked.
“They were seeking to put him in jail based on trumped up charges,” Givens said. “We went through a two-week trial, and the jury said, Mr. Akili, we believe you and not the lying LAPD officers, who came to this trial,” he continued.
Since the trial, the District Attorney and the City Attorney have been comfortably silent, as has been Mayor Eric Garcetti, the City Council, and Police Commission, Givens told reporters.
“They’ve done nothing to discipline the lying LAPD personnel, who were put on the stand by the City Attorney at Akili’s trial,” he said.
He added, “They told four bald-faced, absolute lies when they took the stand to swear to tell the truth.”
According to Givens, Ofc. Gebro lied when she said Akili grabbed her, going for her gun. “Then, she changed her story, after the City Attorney figured out that the jury didn’t look like they were buying that story, and she came back and said he grabbed her breast,” Givens said.
Givens said the other lies were that Akili left a red bruise on Gebro’s side; that Ofc. Russell said he saw Akili push Gebro; and that Tefank said he saw Akili “BEAR HUG” Gebro.
The jury disbelieved them, and now his client is seeking $1million for each of the four lies that the LAPD has told against him, Givens said.
“We filed this lawsuit, seeking to make the city uncomfortable in accepting the lies of the LAPD … We’re calling on this city to stand together, to stand for justice, and recognize that Black Lives Matter,” Givens said.
“This was a political trial,” Akili told the Sentinel. City Attorney Mike Feuer could have dropped the charges, he said.
Akili said he has the distinction of being the only Black man in L.A., who was in the grasp of the LAPD, walked to the door, and then let go.
“Then, they arrested me! They lied on the stand, repeatedly. They accused me of doing stuff that no reasonable person would do in a room full of police officers. And, the worst part of it was, because my hands were occupied – I had a hat in one hand and a notebook in the other – I couldn’t do anything to anybody,” Akili stated.
“They didn’t prove their case, because they didn’t have a case. They were doing this in an effort to silence Black Lives Matter,” he added Akili.
“I feel much better now. I gotta tell you, those two days, which wound up being 10 days, were full of anxiety for me. It was nerve-wracking to sit there and be characterized as a loud, Black, angry man, who wouldn’t wait his turn, and who, in a room full of police chose to batter another police,” Akili said.
Neither of the arresting officers testified during trial, Givens said.
The complaint alleged, “While plaintiff was being escorted out of the meeting, Tefank, who was seated on the dais next to LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, told Chief Beck that plaintiff should be arrested.”
Akili had been escorted out of the auditorium and was walking away, when Tefank, who is not a peace officer, exited the meeting room and ordered De La Torres and Hernandez to arrest him, according to the complaint.
“No comment on any pending litigation,” wrote Tefank, in response to the Sentinel’s request for a phone interview or statement via email.
Akili thanked his attorney for being his legal guide, and about a dozen activists and others who attended his 10-day trial, which he called an anxiety-filled process. It was supposed to last only two days, and without their support, it would have been much more difficult, he acknowledged.
For years, Black Lives Matter, along with other organizations, have attended Police Commission meetings, seeking to hold the LAPD accountable for shootings, among other things, said Dr. Melina Abdullah, an organizer with BLM-LA.
She said Akili has been among them, lifting up his community, but the LAPD and the system have been criminalizing their actions.
Akili’s arrest wasn’t the first arrest, and it won’t be the last, but the activists/organizations will continue to respond with repercussions in the form of lawsuits, said Abdullah, who is also chair of the Pan African Studies Department and a member of the Black Community, Clergy and Labor Alliance’s (BCCLA) Steering Committee.
“We are demanding Tefank’s immediate termination, and we are also saying that we are going to hold our systems accountable in whatever way we must,” Abdullah said.
“Black Lives We Matter Here,” Akili, Abdullah, and activists chanted several times throughout the press conference.
“I think he was railroaded,” said Larry Aubry, co-chair of the BCCLA, who also stood with Akili (also a BCCLA member) at the press conference.
“The jury deadlocked … I think the police officers lied on the stand. I really do believe that. There’s no real indication … I think really it’s one of these things that should never have been filed, and I think he’s perfectly right in trying to go to court and clear his name behind this travesty,” Aubry stated.