What the Hell: So Jaywalking tickets are fine as long as they go to poor, predominantly Black, people in Downtown Los Angeles.

I’m taking this opportunity to call foul! The recent “firestorm” about jaywalking tickets http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-jaywalking-20131218,0,6633088.story#axzz2nyPUszgU in downtown would be laughable if not for the obvious…poor and homeless people of color have been targeted for the same offense (allegedly stepping off the curb after the light starts blinking); handcuffed and detained for inordinate periods of time; and ticketed over and over again on the same streets, for nearly eight years.

Since the launch of the Safer Cities Initiative in 2006 the LAPD has written as many as 1,000 tickets (mostly jaywalking) per month in Downtown Los Angeles. The majority of those tickets have been given to poor, homeless and disabled residents living within the rapidly gentrified boundaries of the city’s center. To put it in perspective that is 1,000 tickets, per month, given to a population of 12,000 – 15,000 people.

Ironically, this is not a new situation. There have been numerous studies and reports done; residents have lobbied the LAPD, the Police Commission, Mayor Villaraigosa, Department of Justice and numerous other duty-bearers; there have been numerous public actions and protests to decry the discriminatory actions  but the complaints fell on deaf ears.

The jaywalking tickets reached such outlandish proportions that it led to the development of the LA CAN Citation Defense Clinic. Week in and week out lawyers from the Los Angeles Legal Aid Foundation and large downtown law firms provided legal representation for residents in downtown to fight against a system that was clearly tantamount to the creation of a debtors prison. But it wasn’t just large firms that responded to this obvious targeting of poor people. Carol Sobel, Gary Blasi, John Raphling and many other lawyers and students brought their resources to bear to stop the ticketing. Research was done; numerous meetings with the City Attorney’s Office happened; meetings with judges in charge of Metropolitan Court happened and plenty of press releases went out…but never the type of FIRESTORM (editorials and such) that we are being bombarded with today.

So, why is that?

The only thing different  is the socio-economic status and race of those (few people) whose privilege is suddenly challenged.

Could it simply be implicit bias? Or, is it institutional and structural racism on full display before our eyes. Is it really the media’s way of saying that poor and homeless people should only be spoken of during holiday dinners served by celebrities? Or, in the case of Downtown poorest residents, Black and Brown residents, are you saying that their humanity simply doesn’t matter?

Rest assure, the FEW tickets given to privileged newcomers in Downtown Los Angeles pale in comparison to the 10’s of thousands DOCUMENTED tickets given to poor Downtowner’s. And, if this outcry is truly about injustice you would feel  duty-bound to lift the injustice in its entirety. You would say, “what’s bad for the goose is bad for the gander!”

There is plenty of EMPIRICAL data, if you so choose to search. You can start right on our blog and that will lead to the United Nations (yes, they had something to say about this) and numerous reports and publications. We look forward to reading fair and balanced coverage of an issue that has crippled many in our community; oftentimes leaving them without Driver’s Licenses; with outstanding arrest warrants because they can’t afford to pay multiple tickets; and, short circuiting their ability to take a step forward.

 

 

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