LOS ANGELES – A co-founder of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles who also is a Cal State Los Angeles professor is suing the school, alleging she was wrongfully removed with force by campus police from a mayoral debate and that some of the candidates merely watched even as she called out some of their names.
Melinah Abdullah’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges battery, assault and false imprisonment. She seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
“Dr. Abdullah does not take lightly to being a victim of unlawful and dehumanizing conduct endorsed by the institution that she serves, especially as a Black Muslim woman,” the suit brought Monday states.
A CSULA representative said the university has no comment on the complaint.
Abdullah is a co-founder, core member and chief spokeswoman for Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles and Black Lives Matter Grassroots, where she is also the director. She has been a professor in the Department of Pan-African Studies at CSULA for more than 20 years.
A mayoral debate was held at the university on May 1, 2022.
Abdullah did not have a ticket, but entered the Student Union Theater with a companion before the event started and there were many seats available, the suit states.
They sat in the rear of the auditorium and prior to the debate’s start, Raphael Sonenshein, the executive director of the university’s Edmund G. Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, approached Abdullah and said, “This is a ticketed event,” the suit states.
Abdullah removed her coronavirus mask, smiled and said, “Hi, Raphe, it’s me,” according to the suit, which further states that the two were colleagues and friends for more than two decades.
Sonenshein allegedly called the campus police to have Abdullah removed and at least four officers “forcibly and aggressively carried her away, with an officer pulling at each of her limbs,” the suit states.
“No event organizer or mayoral candidate on the stage — a few of whom Abdullah called by name — responded to assist,” according to the suit.
Onlookers outside the first floor of the building could see through the glass what was happening, but campus police allegedly locked the front door, preventing anyone from entering, the suit states.
The officers told Abdullah they were going to arrest her, but instead she was released because the crowd had gathered at the back door, the suit states.
Abdullah suffered physical injury, humiliation and emotional distress from the alleged forced removal, the suit states.