Black Lives Matter Trial Raises Civil Disobedience Questions

Black Lives Matter Trial Raises Civil Disobedience Questions

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Friends LaVonce Goodlow, 19, and Priscilla Perry, 21, march down Crenshaw Boulevard to Leimert Park as part of an annual Kwanzaa celebration.; Credit: Josie Huang/KPCC

Back in June, two Black Lives Matter activists, Evan Bunch and Luz Maria Flores, disrupted a closed meeting in attempts to get a word with Mayor Eric Garcetti about police violence. This week began opening arguments for their trial. This trial is the first of six trials involving Black Lives Matter activists here in Los Angeles. Bunch and Flores face eight misdemeanor charges, including trespassing, resisting arrest, and battery on a police officer. The latter charge qualifies as a violent misdemeanor, which can look particularly egregious on one’s record.

“Clearly the city attorney here is characterizing the civil disobedience practiced by the Black Lives Matter activists as a violent form of resistance,” says Jody David Armour, law professor at USC, and author of the book, Negrophobia and Reasonable Racism. Armour suggests the prosecution is trying to paint the BLM activists efforts as, “not just a non-violent form of civil disobedience, but actually violent civil disobedience. ” Armour suggests the choice to criminalize individual’s actions in these cases is subjective.

Armour offers an example, “When the CHP officer was seen on the side of Santa Monica Blvd. beating Marlene Pinnock, Jackie Lacey the L.A. County D.A. did not indict that police officer for any kind of criminal offense. So there is a lot of discretion involved when deciding whether or not to prosecute.”

Sarah Favot, staff writer for the LA Daily News has been covering the case. She says that the city decided to prosecute because one of the activists, Evan Bunch, continued to resist arrest causing an officer to injure his elbow.