Dr. Melina Abdullah, who leads the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter, has often been described by the media as a professor of Pan-African Studies at Cal State L.A. But don’t make the mistake of marginalizing her as a mere academic. Her street-cred is hardcore, and her familial and ideological roots trace back through generations of Marxist organizers, reaching back a hundred years to the Communist Party of the German Reich.
A founding member of what would become the Black Lives Matter Global Network, Abdullah has grown the L.A. branch to 500 members since its inception almost seven years ago. While many subscribed to a misconception that BLM had lost its relevance in recent years, local chapter leaders had moved on to another stage of an organizing strategy that was less visible than traditional publicity stunts like blocking traffic. By the time video of George Floyd’s tragic death sparked nationwide protests and outrage, mechanisms were already in place to advance BLM-inspired movements like defunding police departments into the mainstream.
— #BlackLivesMatter-LA (@BLMLA) May 31, 2020
Abdullah, 47, believes law enforcement agencies exist to maintain America’s capitalist social order, which in turn is the root cause of police misconduct against black people. She says racially biased policing and capitalism are connected structures of oppression that must be dismantled.
“White capitalism requires racist, violent policing to protect it,” wrote Abdullah. “In order to eliminate police violence, and the killings of our people at their hands, we must also target the economic systems that built it and rely on it.”
The sys of Wt supremacist heteronorm patriarchal capitalism is extremely fragile. Their pwr is false & easily toppled when the ppl rise up.
— Melina Abdullah (@DocMellyMel) August 12, 2015
Abdullah, who uses her ex-husband’s last name, was raised in a family that has been organizing against capitalism for at least 100 years.
For most of her life, she was known as Melina Reimann. As The Daily Wire exclusively reported in 2017, her paternal grandfather was a world-famous Marxist economist named Günter Reimann. He joined Germany’s Communist Party around 1920 and was part of the resistance to Adolf Hitler’s rise to power.
When he died in 2005, an obituary explained, “Reimann’s understanding of capitalism derived from the position of desiring its overthrow.”
Long before Reimann advised governments, central banks, and CEOs from all over the globe, he was a 17-year-old rebel writing for Rosa Luxemburg’s Die Rote Fahne, which translates to The Red Flag. It was a communist newspaper described by the New York Times as “a party organ.”
The Guardian reported at the time of Reimann’s death:
…he worked underground with German social democrats and communist resistance fighters, fully aware that this might prove a terminal decision. Indeed, by 1934 the Gestapo was closing in. Nazi officials raided his house and arrested his student guest, Hu Lan-Xi, who would go on to become the Red Army’s first female general.
Reimann soon left Berlin and went into exile. By 1938, he was living in New York City with political refugee status, then acquired U.S. citizenship in 1944. Two years later, his son, John, was born.
John Reimann, who is white, would relocate to Oakland, California, during the turbulent 1960s, where Melina was born in 1972. Abdullah’s mother, who is black, was an elementary school teacher and volunteered at a breakfast program run by the Black Panther Party. Abdullah told TheLAnd Magazine that she was raised mostly by her mother, and her oldest friends and mentors are former Black Panthers.
Abdullah’s father, John Reimann, is a self-proclaimed Trotskyist – a philosophy that advocates global socialism through continuing revolution. He worked for the Carpenters Union in the Bay Area, retired, and was part of Occupy Oakland at its beginning stages.
In 2012, he wrote “The Politics of Occupy Oakland – A Marxist Viewpoint,” predicting:
Occupy Oakland and the Occupy movement in general is the warning of a far wider movement yet to come. As with Occupy, that wider movement will ultimately rise or fall, it will live or die, based on bold, defiant action and clear ideas. First and foremost must be opposition to capitalism itself.
The following year, the Black Lives Matter movement was born after a neighborhood watch volunteer was acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin on July 13, 2013.
Since then, Abdullah has consistently spoken out against capitalism while building the L.A. chapter, often encouraging supporters to “disrupt white capitalism” at BLM demonstrations organized around officer-involved shootings and alleged police misconduct.
Capitalism makes us…working class folks…believe that we are in competition with one another because viewing each other as adversaries allows capitalism to thrive. We topple capitalist oppression when we work in cooperation. Solidarity.
— Melina Abdullah (@DocMellyMel) August 25, 2018
Under her leadership, BLM-LA has established an action team to guide protests. A policy team engages in local and statewide initiatives “that disrupt practices of state violence.” An education team targets public schools, and a communications team that works with professional media consultants to shape news narratives and amplify BLM’s signal to a wider audience. Abdullah has also forged alliances with several other activist groups, the ACLU, SEIU, the largest teachers union in town, and woke celebrities.
Abdullah has involved her two teenaged daughters in her organizing efforts in L.A. public schools, continuing the family legacy of community organizing going back four generations. The sisters co-founded the BLM Youth Vanguard in 2015, which consists of children and adolescents ages 6 to 18. The student-activist group has focused on abolishing cops from the nation’s second-largest public education system, which has its own police department. Time Magazine honored one of Abdullah’s daughters, then 15, as one of the nation’s most influential teens in 2018.
Abdullah isn’t just a hardcore Marxist ideologically, her tactics follow the radical Marxist playbook. And sometimes, as her rivals in the black L.A. organizing scene say, those tactics cross the line into public acts of intimidation.
Case in point, BLM-LA has constantly bird-dogged the top law enforcement official in the region, L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, who is up for reelection in November. Abdullah and other demonstrators showed up at her home earlier this year, banged on a drum, and rang her doorbell around 5:30 am.
The incident culminated with Lacey’s husband pointing a handgun out the couple’s front door. He then threatened to shoot Abdullah and ordered the trespassers to leave his property. BLM-LA’s communications team ensured partial video of the encounter went viral.
#BREAKING This morning Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s husband pulled a gun out on Black Lives Matter activists who protested his wife in front of their house. @BLMLA pic.twitter.com/wnCFMMvaWV
— Jasmyne Cannick (@Jasmyne) March 2, 2020
“Are you going to shoot me?” Abdullah can be heard asking.
“I will shoot you,” David Lacey responded. “Get off of my porch.”
The California attorney general’s office is currently investigating the case to determine whether Mr. Lacey committed a crime.
Abdullah and other Black Lives Matter members have also made uninvited visits to the homes of an LAPD commissioner, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and organized several protests outside Mayor Eric Garcetti’s house.
While demonstrating against a police shooting in 2016, Abdullah appeared to taunt Garcetti from his front yard. She posted a video to Instagram, saying, “You don’t get to kill our kids and think your kid gets to sleep in peace…we’re bringing the hood to you.” Garcetti’s daughter, Maya, was four years old at the time.
Last summer, the L.A. City Attorney’s Office dismissed eight criminal charges against Abdullah that stemmed from her disruptive antics at LAPD Commission meetings, including alleged battery on a cop. She could have faced more than a year in jail if convicted. Prosecutors had agreed to drop all charges if Abdullah adhered to behavioral guidelines for six months. Her pro-bono legal team is headlined by Carl E. Douglas, best known as a member of O.J. Simpson’s “Dream Team” of defense attorneys and a 12-year protégé of the late Johnnie Cochran.
After the charges were officially dismissed, Abdullah’s counsel filed a federal lawsuit accusing the city attorney’s office of malicious prosecution and the LAPD of wrongful arrest.
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