Archive for the human & civil rights Category

West Coast Day of Action!

Posted in Homeless Bill of Rights, human & civil rights, video with tags , , , , , on January 31, 2014 by Cangress

January 18-19 2014–

LA CAN joins organizations across Los Angeles to pursue a Homeless Bill of Human Rights to stop abuses in Los Angeles as well as up and down the entire western region. Mad respect goes out to Hunger Action Los Angeles, Occupy Venice, Occupy LA, Venice Food Not Bombs, A.W.A.R.E., Revolutionary Autonomous Communities, Monday Night Mission, Intercommunal Solidarity Community, Martin Luther King Coalition of Greater Los Angeles, NESRI, and WRAP.

VICE: “AN LA HOUSING PROJECT COULD BE GIVING ITS RESIDENTS LEAD POISONING”

Posted in human & civil rights, press coverage with tags , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2014 by Cangress

via VICE:

By Daniel Ross (@1danross)

Eleazer Acevedo and her children in their home inside the Jordan Downs housing project

It’s not necessarily the patchy linoleum flooring, the egg-white cinder block walls, or the bars against all the windows that gave Eleazer Acevedo’s unit at Jordan Downs in Watts, Los Angeles, its penitential quality—it’s more the sparsely furnished rooms, noticeably bare save a few scant furnishings that look as though they’ve been plucked from a dozen different roadsides and yard sales.

“Sit, sit,” Acevedo insisted, pointing towards two foldaway picnic chairs and a narrow stool in her living room—any more than three visitors and those holding the short straws have to sit on the floor. Acevedo perched on the edge of the stool and leaned forward. With her hands cupped between her knees as though in wide-eyed prayer, she began her story.

Acevedo, 29, and her four children—ages 13, 11, five, and three—lived in Downtown LA for 12 years. After losing her job selling clothes, she was forced to relocate three months ago to a much cheaper unit at Jordan Downs—or what was purported to be a cheaper unit. The $600 that she currently pays was supposed to be $400, and three months in, she’s still trying get her rent reduced to something manageable for an unemployed single mother of four.

Acevedo does get food stamps, but in order to pay for rent, electricity, extra food for her children, clothes, gas for her car, and a spreadsheet’s worth of daily expenses, she turns to her friends for financial support—all her family live in Mexico. There’s no spare cash for furnishings. She’s exhausted with worry; the dark shadows haunting her face betray countless sleepless nights. But Acevedo’s concerns extend beyond the immediate. An even greater worry to her is that she has been forced to relocate somewhere that potentially poses a major health risk to her and her children. “When I came here, they never said anything about the development project or the contamination,” she said. “They kept their mouths closed… and I’m worried for my kids because lead is very dangerous.”

The Jordan Downs urban redevelopment project has been decades in the imagination, years in the works, and months under the glow of a green light—a major landmark for a community long bedeviled by crime, poverty, and unemployment. Last August, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved plans to raze the current 700 units and replace them with approximately 1,800 mixed-income apartments along with chain stores and new streetscapes in order create “a vibrant urban village and model for public housing developments throughout the country,” according to the city’s five-year plan for South Los Angeles. This urban village was going to cost around $1 billion. Current government subsidized tenants have been promised one-for-one rehousing, as long as they remain in good standing with the Housing Authority. The full scope of the project hinges on a $30 million Choice Neighborhood Initiative Grant—a sought-after federal grant likely to be awarded in May.

At the center of Jordan Downs is a 21-acre L-shaped industrial site called the “Factory.” Now vacant, adorned mostly with rubble and weeds, the Factory abuts the residential complex; the two are separated by an eight-foot-high brick wall with holes large enough for a child to crawl through. This is the source of everyone’s fears.

A 2011 Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA) concluded that the site contains elevated levels of lead, arsenic, trichloroethylene (TCE), and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), stating that the “results indicate that lead does pose an unacceptable hazard to children in a residential scenario.” All the contaminants listed pose major health risks, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, including cancer and autoimmune and neurological diseases. A Housing Authority interoffice memo from 2009 said, “Jordan Downs revitalization efforts will include development of other parcels including the parcel on which the 700 units are currently located. It is quite possible that these properties might also suffer from environmental contamination and therefore might require remediation.”

As a result of the HHRA’s findings, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) commissioned a Remedial Action Plan. While HACLA agreed to excavate and move 33,600 cubic yards of soil from the Factory—at a cost of around $8 million—the residential land remains unmentioned. Even after a recent ExxonMobil pipeline groundwater investigation in which the Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) sent a letter to the Housing Authority that concluded that “groundwater sampling conducted as part of the M-145/M-8 Pipeline investigation and remediation by EXXON-Mobil Corporation has indicated that groundwater adjacent to the site has been impacted by petroleum hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds,” the DTSC has recommended further evaluation only on the northeastern edge of the Factory—not beyond the wall. The DTSC has yet to sign off on the Remedial Action Plan.

Lenny Siegel, executive director of the Center for Public Environmental Oversight (CPEO), a nonprofit, said he has advocated for months that testing be extended beyond the Factory’s boundary. He believes that from the limited data produced thus far, further testing for TCE vapor intrusion (a carcinogen) should be conducted in residential areas at least beyond the north and south boundary of the wall.

“It’s strange to me that you would have indications of TCE with so little sampling… and you don’t have a reading that high and contamination stop at the property line [of the Factory],” Siegel told me. “A property boundary does not define the catchment area of groundwater contamination.”

David Pettit, a senior attorney of the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an environmental advocacy group, thinks along similar lines. In fall of last year, the Housing Authority circulated a leaflet among the residents designed to allay fears of contamination-related health risks. The flyer says outright, “There is currently no risk to residents.” The leaflet also states that “collections of soil vapor revealed that Volatile Organic Compounds [an umbrella term under which TCE falls] do not pose a risk for future residents.” Pettit believes that contrary to what the leaflet states, thorough testing on the residential properties needs to be conducted before such assertions can be made.

“The concern, in essence, is that there’s nothing [that’s] been done to investigate soil conditions or soil vapor conditions in the [residential] site,” said Pettit. “The reason I have concerns is, given the neighborhood where this is, I would think you’d want to know whether the people living on the existing units are at risk. And that analysis just hasn’t been done. The thing is, if they build this [development] and people are getting sick because of pollutants that the Housing Authority knows about now, there’s tremendous liability for them down the road.”

Decades of heavy industrialization in and around Jordan Downs means that there are reasons beyond the environmental report’s findings to think that residents are at high risk of contamination, according Pettit. A disused smelting plant from the 1960s sits vacant not far from the housing project. In 2004, 1,250 tons of soil were excavated from the David Starr Jordan High School football field after elevated levels of lead and PCBs were discovered—a result of an explosion at the nearby S&W Atlas Iron and Metal Company recycling facility two years prior. Another lead cleanup operation is currently being conducted at the high school.

Pettit believes that the Remedial Plan falls short of safeguarding residents from lead exposure. “Lead is a neurotoxin that affects brain development. What you see are communities affected by lead that have lower IQs than surrounding communities,” he said. “Once a kid takes it in, the effects are irreversible. Let’s not forget, this is a multi-family project. There’s going to be lots of kids around, and I do know that there is no safe level for lead. I felt the cleanup plan that the DTSC came up with was not health-protective enough.”

In an email, the DTSC stated that using the environmental evaluations conducted following USEPA’s methodology, the highest concentrations of contaminants found in soils onsite would not pose a risk to offsite residents or the school from wind-blown dust. “However, DTSC cannot comment on the impacts of past operations at the site or the surrounding neighborhood, as DTSC did not oversee these processes. It should be noted that testing for contaminants in the surrounding communities will not answer the question as to the source of the contaminants itself. For example, lead-based paint and leaded gasoline were routinely used until the 1970s. Lead-based paint is still part of many of the older buildings. Therefore, finding lead in the surrounding properties would not automatically mean that the site was the source.”

According to Doug Guthrie, the Housing Authority’s president and CEO, officials knew when they acquired the site that a cleanup process would be necessary, and the Housing Authority and developers have complied with all demands made by the DTSC. “We’ve always been very open with all the testing that we’ve done there,” he said. “We entered into a voluntary agreement with the DTSC. We’ve been very cooperative and open when it comes to ensuring that we’re doing the right thing by the residents. At this point in time, we will do whatever the DTSC tells us to do to clean the site.”

Undeterred, community activists have promised to keep pushing for testing beyond the wall’s boundaries. Thelmy Perez, the Housing Collective coordinator at Los Angeles Community Action Network, has worked for months bringing together a collective of residents, advocates, and activists, all of whom she says are concerned for the immediate health of people living at Jordan Downs.

“Where you have a Housing Authority that isn’t being accountable to the residents and is not being transparent about the threat of toxins in the area, it obviously generates a lot of fear in the community,” said Perez. “There are 700 families who live at Jordan Downs and their health is a priority—or it should be a priority.

Bratton’s return as NYCs “Top Cop”: Hold the Press!

Posted in civil rights, human & civil rights, LAPD, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on December 9, 2013 by Cangress

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To say that Chief Bratton’s return to the NYPD is troublesome would be an understatement. His reinstatement highlights the shockingly short institutional memory of politicians eager to use Bratton’s well developed media appeal.  Unfortunately, beyond the headlines and soundbites, Bratton’s true impact comes at the expense of poor communities of color. Upon announcement of his return to the position of NYC’s “top cop” there has been nothing short of an all-out media fawning for the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Oddly, Los Angeles has been used to justify and prop-up why NYCs “top cop” is worthy of returning to his East Coast throne. But missing is the readily available facts that paint the real picture of Bratton’s reign in Los Angeles.

For example, Dennis Hamill of tge Daily News writes a fluff piece (non-critical evaluation of things sputtered by Bratton) that simply allows Bratton to control the narrative. In one especially bothersome and long quote Bratton is allowed to talk about;  1) how he supports and utilized stop and frisk in Los Angeles; and, 2) how it was not focused on “good kids on the way home from school or work.” (See Full Article HERE)

A simple internet search would have led Hamill to the extensive campaign organized by the Labor/Community Strategy Center’s Community Rights Campaign who have led a multi-year effort to stop the ticketing and harassment of these exact “good kids” going to and from school–a policy ushered in by Chief Bratton and is another manifestation of his celebrated stop and frisk strategy. In fact, a staggering 47,000 tickets, from 2004-2009, were issued to predominantly African American and Latino students. Hamill could have also searched the LA Times would have found extensive coverage on the subject matter.   And if that was not enough information, he could have simply picked up the phone and made a few calls to those who were working on the ground in poor communities of color under Bratton’s tenure in LA to ensure journalistic integrity was applied.

But it’s not just Hamill’s article.  There has been a wave of articles since Chief Bratton’s reinstatement and very few of them have been critical of his record in Los Angeles. Instead, we have been bombarded with Bratton quotes and politically connected civil rights advocates assertions that have nothing to do with the realities in our communities. LA CAN will work to set the record straight as the “Bratton media express” rolls out its fabricated versions of Los Angeles policing because the record should be clear and authentic.

Please visit often because until fair and balanced journalism happens we will continue to provide a blow-by blow accounting of Bratton’s racist and brutal policing practices we experienced here in LA, and especially Downtown LA.

Coverage from Last Week’s Right to Share Food/Homeless Bill of Rights March

Posted in human & civil rights, video on December 6, 2013 by Cangress

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LA CAN, Hunger Action Los Angeles, and the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition on Sojourner Truth (Starts at 16:45pm) discussing LaBonge’s Anti-Feeding Ordinance, the Right to Share Food, and the California Homeless Bill of Rights Campaign.

LA CAN on KPFK Evening News (Starts at 24:30)

Telemundo 52 Coverage of the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition Line

 

 

Fighting for a Homeless Bill of Rights: A look From the Front Lines

Posted in human & civil rights with tags , , , on November 4, 2013 by Cangress

Hollywood, CA–

The food and medical services provided for poor people on Sycamore and Romaine Streets has been going on for nearly a quarter. Recently there has been a campaign by Los Angeles Councilmember LaBonge and “neighbors” to shut the services down. Connected to the shutdown is a larger attempt to create policy that would effectively stop charitable services from being provided on public property. We who believe in freedom cannot rest until freedom comes and will not sit by idly while special interests dictate how we take care of one another.

JOIN US at the Homeless Bill of Rights SoCal Launch Event THIS SATURDAY!

Posted in Event, human & civil rights, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on September 30, 2013 by Cangress

1186126_10201139849032034_1743356466_nJoin LA CAN, Hunger Action LA, the LA Human Right to Housing Collective, W.O.R.K.S. and many more THIS SATURDAY for the Southern California Homeless Bill of Rights Campaign Launch Event.

Saturday, October 5 | 10am – 12pm
Young Burlington Apartments | 820 S. Burlington, Los Angeles, CA 90057

For more information or to RSVP please call 213.228.0024.

HBR Campaign Flyer - 19 September 2013

Discriminatory Enforcement on Main Street Hits a New Low — Sitting in Your Own Wheelchair No Longer Allowed??!!

Posted in civil rights, human & civil rights, LAPD, photos, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on September 5, 2013 by Cangress

This morning, LA CAN observed LAPD Officer Janata telling three longtime Skid Row residents who were near the corner of 5th and Main that they could not be on the sidewalk and had to leave.  He told them they were not allowed to sit on the sidewalk between 6 am and 9 pm.  These three men were sitting down – but in their own wheelchairs!  At one point, 2 private security guards and 7 officers were on scene in response to …… no crime at all.  This over-response of law enforcement lasted about 30 minutes – all because 3 low-income Black men defended their rights and were not going to be scared off just because security guards and LAPD wrongfully told them they had to move.  Finally, an LAPD Sergeant arrived who upheld the actual law and informed the men that they could remain on the sidewalk as long as they were not blocking foot traffic or any doors.  However, the Sergeant would not respond to a complaint by an LA CAN member on site that Officer Janata had said the exact opposite.  In fact, Sgt. Ramirez said that technically the men were violating the law by sitting down (LAMC 41.18d), but of course they would “let” them sit in their wheelchairs if they had to.  No matter the amount of security and police, low-income people of color will continue to resist the oppression and enjoy public space in Downtown LA.

At least 7 cops respond to 3 men in wheelchairs who committed no crime

UNACCEPTABLE: Councilmember Huizar creates a Pershing Square Task Force that doesn’t include any low-income residents

Posted in human & civil rights, organizing with tags , , , , , , on August 28, 2013 by Cangress
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LA CAN at Pershing Square promoting the Share the Wealth Platform and making sure that the park remains public and open to EVERYONE.

This week 14th District City Councilmember José Huizar created a Pershing Square Task Force without any representation of low-income Downtown residents, who have utilized Pershing Square for decades. Rather than creating a body that is representative of the broad diversity of Downtown, Huizar chose to create a 21-member Task Force of “stakeholders” that draws nearly exclusively from the business and developer community (and a few others from law enforcement and other city departments).

Huizar had this to say: “We have a huge task ahead of us, but it’s an open one.” It’s hard to believe that the task of creating a long-term plan for the park will be open when those in charge of creating the plan exclude the voice of a significant segment of Downtown – low-income and homeless residents.  LA CAN members had requested directly of Huizar’s staff to be included on this task force, as Pershing Square represents limited open space that has been a resource for both low-income and higher income downtowners.

The composition of this task force is unacceptable. As part of promoting our Share the Wealth Platform, LA CAN has been working for months to ensure that Pershing Square remains open to NOT just the so-called “New Downtowners”, but ALL Downtown residents. Huizar is relatively new to representing all of Downtown, but by now he should know that he is supposed to know that he represents all of the community’s residents – not just developers who are intent on gentrifying the neighborhood.

Members of the task force are:
Kevin Regan, Recreation and Parks.
Mathew Rudnick, Department of Cultural Affairs.
Nick Maricich, Planning Department.
Captain Horace Frank, LAPD.
Mike Arnold, Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority.
Amy Yeager, Pershing Square Advisory Board.
Dawn Eastin, Downtown News.
Blair Besten, Historic Downtown BID.
Sean Krajewski,  Blue Cow Restaurant GM.
Carol Schatz, CCA, Downtown BID.
Peklar Pilavjian, St. Vincent’s Jewelry Center.
Karen Hathaway, LA Athletic Club.
Siobhan Talbot, Brookfield.
Jeffery Fish, Pershing Square Building.
Chris Rising, Rising Realty.
Robert Hanasab, City National Building.
Brian Glodney, Gensler.
Rick Poulos, NBBJ.
Katherine Perez-Estolano, USC.
Melani Smith, Melendrez Design Partners.
Gail Goldberg, ULI.

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Register for the 2013 International Drug Policy Reform Conference

Posted in human & civil rights with tags , , on August 21, 2013 by Cangress

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The International Drug Policy Reform Conference will be held in Denver, Colorado on October 23-26, 2013 and brings together more than 1,000 people who believe that the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. You will be among a broad range of drug policy stakeholders – academics, health care and drug treatment professionals, law enforcement, veterans, formerly incarcerated people, elected officials, students, and many others from around the country and across the world! Deepen your connections with the movement for drug policies grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights, and register now!

This year attendees will have the opportunity to spend three days interacting with people committed to finding alternatives to the war on drugs while participating in sessions given by leading experts from around the world. For 2013, there will be over 50 sessions over the course of three days, including several plenary sessions. Don’t miss the opportunity to be a part of this event!

Website and Registration: http://www.reformconference.org/

Like The Reform Conference Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/ReformConference

Follow @ReformConf on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ReformConf

August 21 Webinar: A People’s Budget Based on Human Rights

Posted in human & civil rights with tags , , on August 14, 2013 by Cangress

People's Budget webinar flyerOn August 21 (3pm EST) the good folks at NESRI (National Economic & Social Rights Initiative) will be hosting a webinar: “A People’s budget Based on Human Rights.”

For more info and to sign up: http://bit.ly/14LSZIR.

What do our federal, state and city budgets have to do with the disturbing increase in inequality and poverty in the United States? Faced with repeated budget cuts, we desperately seek to protect food stamps, housing programs, education funding and other important public services that ensure our basic human rights. Yet that also means essential programs get pitted against each other, and we lose sight of what should be obvious: the purpose of our local, state and federal budgets is to meet people’s needs.

We need an entirely different approach to making budgets! Join our webinar on August 21 and check out NESRI’s short animated video that shows how we can change the budget process to ensure that spending and tax policy is responsive to people’s voices, needs and rights.

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