By Najee Ali
Controversy continues to circle Black Lives Matter Los Angeles. A statement released earlier this week by Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter L.A. in her endorsement of Herb Wesson for the L.A. County Board of Supervisors is the talk of the South L.A. Black activist community. And the talk is not good.
Abdullah stated: “I’m deeply disappointed by the attacks on Herb Wesson. I had hoped that this race for supervisor in the district in which I live would remain grounded in truth and commitment to the people.
“Let me be clear, no elected official in the county has been more courageous in the fight for a transformed system of public safety — one that values Black life, and by extension all humanity — than Herb Wesson. Herb has fought arm-in-arm with organizers on the ground to build towards policies that keep us safe by investing in resources for our people rather than over policing,” the statement continued.
“It is not often that we have an opportunity to elect someone who places his duty as a Black man, a father, a grandfather, a community member and a man of the people ahead of a political calculus. I have never been more inspired by the vision, honesty, authenticity, loyalty to the community and courage of a political leader than I am by Herb’s.
“I am humbled to call him a dear friend and a deeply valued partner in this work. Rarely do I offer political endorsements. However, it is imperative in this movement moment that we elect leaders who will not simply say “Black Lives Matter,” but make Black Lives Matter central to their policy work and leadership. I offer my wholehearted, enthusiastic endorsement of Herb Wesson as Supervisor of Los Angeles County’s Second District.
The problem Black activists are having with Abdullah’s endorsement are numerous. Abdullah has a long history of raising campaign money and endorsing local and out-of-state political candidates that include former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, former L.A. mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel and Newark, New Jersey Mayor Ras Baraka, just to name a few.
So her endorsement of Wesson is not special or unique. Abdullah’s endorsement would have been more authentic had she just been truthful with the community, especially when you have a long-documented history of endorsing and raising money for political candidates.
Abdullah’s endorsement of Wesson is based on a personal relationship with him. She was at one point involved with Wesson’s son, Herb Wesson lll. Many observers thought at the time the relationship could lead to marriage.
Abdullah has a right to endorse whoever she chooses but Wesson was almost her father-in-law. That is why she is so close to him. Her endorsement is one of a personal nature. It is not based on public policy that Black Lives Matter has supported since the group began working on police reform in Los Angeles.
Every activist who keeps up with police reform knows Wesson is aligned with the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents rank-and-file L.A. police officers. The league has been one of Wesson’s major campaign contributors over the years and has endorsed his campaign for supervisor as well.
How does the leadership of Black Lives Matter endorse a candidate backed by the Police Protective League? The police union has supported every LAPD officer who has killed Black and brown people in the history of Los Angeles.
In 2017, Wesson was a major champion in support of Charter Amendment C, which passed with 57.1% of the vote. That ballot measure significantly changed the way the Los Angeles Police Department handles serious officer misconduct despite warnings from a large segment of community organizations that included Black Lives Matter, the Community Coalition and the ACLU that it would result in more lenient treatment for problem cops.
Wesson, who was then L.A. City Council president, helped provide a major victory to the Police Protective League, which championed the measure. The Police Protective League has been a staunch critic of Black Lives Matter and now they are in bed together. The league hasn’t donated money to Wesson just to give it away. They expect to keep him in their back pocket as their advocate
Wesson also is one of the first Black political leaders to have endorsed L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey in her re-election bid. Lacey’s record as D.A. has been marked with cowardice and failure.
For the last three years, Black Lives Matter has held a weekly protest outside Lacey’s downtown office calling for her resignation as well as protests outside her home. How can Abdullah praise Wesson as being courageous with a straight face when Wesson is a major supporter of Lacey, who Black activists have said for years is the tool of white supremacy?
Lacey’s opponent, George Gascon, along with Gov. Gavin Newsom and several other Black leaders have endorsed Wesson’s opponent, state Senator Holly Mitchell for the Board of Supervisors. Those endorsements are based not on friendship but on who is best to serve and fight for the interests of Black people in Los Angeles County.
That is why several Black Lives Matter members and activists around South L.A. are outraged at Abdullah for the Wesson endorsement.
The Police Protective League is not a friend to Black people. Any Black elected official who does its bidding and accepts its endorsement is suspect.
Abdullah has every right to endorse the candidate of her choosing, but to tie in Black Lives Matter with an endorsement of Wesson shows the movement and your fellow activists who you really are. It sends mixed signals that Black Lives Matter leadership can be co-opted by politicians at their whim.
It is all a game to them to raise money and profit off the movement. If nothing else, Abdullah should remove any mention of Black Lives Matter from her endorsement of Wesson.
For news tips email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter @najeeali.