9 Black Lives Matter Activists Charged With Vandalism Over 405 Freeway Protest

Nine activists were arrested yesterday during a Black Lives Matter protest that briefly shut down a portion of the 405 Freeway, and they have now been charged with vandalism, blocking the freeway and conspiracy to commit those acts.

California Highway Patrol officials told KPCC that among those charged were Melina Rachal Abdullah, 43; Miranda D. Sheffield, 30; Dahlia Ferlito, 35; Paul Michael Shirey, 33; Tekoah B. A. Flory, 23; Joseph Michael Williams, 22; Kwazi T. Nkrumah, 61; and two 17-year-olds, whose names have not been released because they are underage.

The protest, which was to bring awareness of police brutality, started just before 1:30 p.m. on the southbound lanes of the 405 Freeway near Century Boulevard and Manchester Avenue by LAX. It lasted about 15 minutes.

There are different accounts of what happened during the protest. BLM organizer Pete White told the L.A. Times that the protesters carried a banner onto the freeway and chalked messages. These messages included names of black victims killed by law enforcement, like Ezell Ford, an unarmed black man with a history of mental illness who was fatally shot by officers last year.

CHP told ABC 7 that the protesters got out of their cars and blocked the freeway, spray-painting messages on the road. CHP Sgt. Paul Peterson of West L.A. told NBC L.A., "They painted names, words and slogans including 'Black Lives Matter' on the surface of all five lanes of pavement."

Nana Gyamfi, an attorney for BLM, told NBC L.A. that it was chalk. "I know the felony vandalism is based upon the writing that...appeared on the freeway that was done in chalk, which literally can be washed away with water."

White told NBC L.A. of the protest and the drivers stuck on the freeway yesterday, "We would hope that in the 30 minutes of that frustration they would also have some seasons greetings and compassion for some of the weight that has been cast upon the black community."

Just prior to the protest, BLM sent out a press release explaining their protest. "On one of the busiest travel days of the year, Black Lives Matter is calling for a halt on Christmas as usual in memorial of all of the loved ones we have lost and continue to lose this year to law enforcement violence without justice or recourse."

BLM organizers called out for a national day of action yesterday, dubbed "Black Xmas." The demonstration was also partly motivated by the county's decision not to charge a CHP officer who repeatedly punched Marlene Pinnock, a black woman with a history of mental illness who was wandering along the 10 freeway. According to ABC 7:

White said the group wants Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck to be fired, the L.A. police commission to meetings to be moved to evenings so more people can attend, and is demanding the L.A. City Council to award reparations for victims of police brutality.