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Black Lives Matter LA Leader Melina Abdullah Forcibly Removed From Mayoral Debate

Melina Abdullah stands at a podium with a microphone, her hands stretched out to either side, appearing to speak. She wears a patterned shawl, a beaded necklace and earrings. Several people stand behind her, many of them Black, though they are out of focus.
Black Lives Matter L.A. leader and Cal State L.A. educator Dr. Melina Abdullah speaks at a press conference in 2020.
(Chava Sanchez
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Cal State Los Angeles professor and Black Lives Matter L.A. leader Melina Abdullah was forcibly removed from a mayoral forum on campus Sunday night. She’s claiming that she and others were locked out of an event that should have been public.

Abdullah said she tried to get tickets for herself and some of her students, but the Pat Brown Institute, which hosted the event, never got back to her. She said event staff would not admit them, even though many of the seats were empty.

Abdullah and another colleague entered the University Student Union through a side door. Shortly afterward, the professor was physically carried out.

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"It was really humiliating and dehumanizing," she said. "I started yelling, 'You're hurting me. This is a public university. I teach here,' and yelled out for help from the candidates who were on stage, and not a single person, other than my friend who was with me, did anything — lifted a finger or made a peep — to come to my defense."

Abdullah alleged that Raphael Sonenshein, the Institute’s director and the forum organizer, whom she's known for more than 20 years, called campus police. Sonenshein did not respond to requests for comment.

The auditorium seats between 150 and 200 people, but only about 20 seats were occupied, according to Abdullah. She said another white professor attended with his students, but she and another Black professor were not allowed to observe the debate.

"This has not been a democratic process," she said.

Cal State LA said the event was not a public forum and was never promoted or advertised as such. However, a small number of staff, guests from partnering organizations, candidate guests and university staff and volunteers were invited.

"Professor Abdullah’s race and group affiliation were not factors in this incident. Others who were not on the media or guest lists were not allowed into the theatre," the university said in a statement.

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