Click on the Photo above to read the August/September 2013.
You can also view a high resolution PDF version HERE.
Click on the Photo above to read the August/September 2013.
You can also view a high resolution PDF version HERE.
Yesterday the LA CAN Community Watch Team came upon the Central City East Association (CCEA) Security Guards attempting to use bolt cutters to illegally confiscate the property of a Skid Row resident. The team intervened to prevent them from stealing the private property, which was clearly not abandoned. However, when the team returned an hour later, the property was gone and the lock was cut.
A September 2012 decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an injunction that bars the City of Los Angeles and LAPD from seizing the property of Skid Row residents. However, private Business Improvement District officers continue to illegally steal property from residents. They regularly claim that this property is abandoned, but LA CAN has documented time and time again that this is not the case. More often than not the property belongs to residents who step away for a few minutes to use the restroom, get a meal, or engage in other life sustaining activities.
Yesterday, LA CAN was featured on Voices on the Frontlines with Eric Mann. Listen below to find out more about the coordinated efforts of CCEA, LAPD, and the City Attorney to silence the human rights work of LA CAN.
Deborah Burton, longtime LA CAN member and organizer, has been unjustly charged with three counts of assault for alleged actions during a legal protest in June 2011. She was not charged until August 2012, 14 months later, and public records show that in the interim months LAPD and the Central City East Association actively lobbied the City Attorney to criminally charge LA CAN members involved in a monthly protest of the CCEA’s “Skid Row Walk.” Deborah is just the latest target of the City Attorney’s ongoing campaign to squash protest and political dissent in Los Angeles, including other LA CAN members.
Since 2006, LA CAN has led the charge against LAPD’s Safer Cities Initiative (SCI), which has brought up to 150 additional cops into the Skid Row community and resulted in mass criminalization of homeless and poor, mostly African American, residents. In 2011, LA CAN and partners began protesting the CCEA’s “Skid Row Walk” because it was a tool to promote SCI, perpetuated myths about homeless people, and lacked the voice and participation of community residents.
Immediately after we began our protests, the CCEA, LAPD, and the City Attorney’s office began coordinating and strategizing on ways to stop LA CAN’s opposition to the walk. The quotes below, from emails obtained through Public Records Request, begin to shine light on just how CCEA was trying to use LAPD and the City Attorney to criminalize first amendment rights.
In one email in April 2011, CCEA’s Estela Lopez assures her colleagues that the City Attorney informed her that “they would explore all legal options to protect us and allow us to conduct our walk without interference from LA CAN.” In another email sent on June 1, 2011 — the evening of the purported assault — Estela confirms they were able to complete their walk “as planned” and never mentions being assaulted or injured by Ms. Burton or anyone else from LA CAN. In a July 2011 email from LAPD’s Lieutenant Paulson, she tells the City Attorney that she needs information about the filing and documentation of cases related to the public safety walk because “This is going to be an ongoing problem until it gets too costly for them.”
Stay tuned for more information about the documents obtained.
The targeting of LA CAN members exercising first amendment rights by LAPD, at the demand of business leaders, is clearly unjust. The City Attorney should not prosecute this unsubstantiated case and should not continue his past history of criminalizing protest and first amendment rights.
LA CAN members and supporters will be calling on the City Attorney over the coming weeks to drop these charges and not pursue this trial. Please join us! You can call the City Attorney’s office directly (213-978-8100) and/or stay tuned for other ways to get involved by spreading the word through social media and other public actions.
Much has been made in the media this week about the so-called “outbreak” of Tuberculosis in Skid Row. Despite many rumors and mis-information spread by countless news outlets, the Los Angeles County Department of Health is telling everyone not to panic (Click HERE for an Info Sheet the Department just released). Excerpts include:
Should the public be concerned? No, the general public should not be overly concerned. The public needs to know that there is no immediate danger to their health related to the current situation. TB is spread from person to person through the air, and usually requires prolonged, close contact.
Should people working with the homeless population wear a mask? No, but persons working with homeless populations should remain alert to the signs and symptoms of active TB disease (e.g., prolonged cough, fever, night sweats, weight loss) and refer those individuals promptly for further medical evaluation.
It is shameful and irresponsible of the media to mislead the public in a way that causes unwarranted panic and that further demonizes Skid Row. LAPD gave a directive for officers to wear masks, something NOT recommended by Public Health officials. We have also already heard stories and witnessed LAPD sensationalizing the rumors around TB to further violate the rights of local residents.
In the video below, officers justified private security guards illegally going through private property by saying it was “for your own safety” considering “all the stuff that has been in the news” about “people getting sick.” LAPD sits by as BID guards cut open people’s bags – even those clearly marked with Not Abandoned signs.
To counter this mis-information, and promote community-based health responses, LA CAN is organizing a Community Meeting with the LA County Department of Public Health on Friday, March 1, at 6pm. The event will be co-hosted by SRO Housing and held at the James M. Wood Community Center on 400 E. 5th Street (5th and San Julian). Come find out what you really need to know and get involved in promoting community health in Skid Row!
Click HERE for a flyer and help spread the word!
Carmen Trutanich, backed by the Los Angeles Police Department and Central City East Association, has incessantly attempted (on three recent occasions) to obtain the authority to simply deprive homeless people of their personal property. Lavan v. City of Los Angeles, brought by Civil Rights Attorney, Carol Sobel simply lays out what is prescribed by the U.S. Constitution, that people have a right to property to which the courts have agreed, on three occasions.
LA CAN has been fighting and reporting on this issue for quite some time but is still amazed at the cavalier attitude taken by the City Attorney as he continues to spend limited resources from shrinking city coffers. Never-mind the fact that Los Angeles has lost the EXACT same battle numerous times since the 80′s, Nuch continues to run headstrong into the weeds.
LA Times’ Sandra Hernandez has covered this story/legal fiasco from the start and has offered Nuch a bit of wise advise, stop ALREADY! Carmen, would you please stop? We’re asking you nicely, this time, but as residents of Los Angeles we could create a list of things that deserve your full attention…this ain’t one of them!
Last week, The Los Angeles Times’ published an editorial (“L.A.’s skid row property rights”) calling out City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and his “misguided use of resources” in trying to overturn a recent federal court decision that bars the city and LAPD from seizing/destroying the property of homeless residents living in Skid Row.
On February 28, Estela Lopez (Executive Director of the Central City East Association) issued a problematic response (“Skid row: Hoarding trash on sidewalks isn’t a right”) that was riddled with misinformation and straight out lies. She continues to mischaracterize and demonize our community in the media.
To be clear, Estela Lopez and the CCEA do NOT speak on behalf of Skid Row residents – housed or homeless. The CCEA represents downtown L.A. businesses that pay Lopez and her organization to advocate on their behalf. If her concern for housed Skid Row residents expressed in the editorial were real, she could work with residents on solutions instead of blaming us for our community’s problems.
In her response, Lopez states “those who are critical of this injunction don’t dispute the right of the homeless to have personal property.” However, that is precisely the position taken by the City of Los Angeles at the behest of those interested in removing poor people from downtown Los Angeles. Leading the charge has been Los Angeles City Attorney, Amy Field who has openly in her arguments to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, fought against the notion of property rights and due process in Skid Row.
In an exchange with judges, Ms. Field stated “I’m not conceding that they [homeless residents of Skid Row] have a constitutionally protected property right. In fact, that’s my point…that they don’t.” (Hear audio of this quote and others HERE)
Then Lopez concludes her shallow rebuttal by stating that the injunction “is about whether it is safe, sane and civilized to allow limitless and hazardous possessions to occupy the sidewalks that belong to everyone,” which is a blatant misstatement of fact. The injunction does NOT allow for limitless OR hazardous possessions on the sidewalk. In fact, it expressly states that property that presents an immediate threat to public health or safety CAN be seized.
Ms. Lopez, Skid Row residents are perfectly capable and speaking for themselves – and they do it every day in their fight for an equitable community that values long-time low-income and homeless residents. Your version of our community only perpetuates myths and stereotypes.
The specific directives in U.S. District Judge Phillip S. Gutierrez’ ruling state that the City, and its agents and employees, are enjoined from:
“1. Seizing property in Skid Row absent an objectively reasonable belief that it is abandoned, presents an immediate threat to public health or safety, or is evidence of a crime, or contraband; and
2. Absent an immediate threat to public health or safety, destruction of said seized property without maintaining it in a secure location for a period of less than 90 days.”
Therefore, the injunction in no way instructs the City of Los Angeles to stop picking up trash. Nor does it stop LAPD from enforcing laws that regulate appropriate sidewalk access or from taking property that presents an immediate threat to public health or safety, or is evidence of a crime.
Unfortunately, since the recent preliminary injunction decision that forbids the city and its agents from seizing and/or destroying the private property of homeless people living in Skid Row (blog post), misinformation and questionable journalism has continued to suggest that this injunction is the reason why trash and other health and safety concerns have escalated throughout the community.
At first it was local blogs and the likes of Estela Lopez (ED of the Central City Association) and City Councilmember Jan Perry who were perpetuating false information. Then this week a problematic article by Christina Hoag of the Associated Press was picked up by newspapers across the country. According to Hoag, since the court’s decision, “the streetscape has deteriorated. The number of people sleeping on the street has jumped at least 30% since June because they can leave mattresses and tents on the sidewalks.”
A recent piece from the LA Weekly blog even went so far to say that trash and belongings have begun to “pile up Third-World style” to the point that “trash and the belongings of homeless have festered on the row between Los Angeles and San Pedro streets, between Third and Seventh streets.”
Let this be clear: there is nothing about the injunction that prevents the city from cleaning up trash in the community. They have, however, continued to use this as an excuse for not doing their job.
In fact, community residents recently voiced their concern about trash being neglected by the city to the office of their councilmember, Jan Perry. And it appears that those meetings worked. Since last week, the clean up crew seems to have resumed cleaning the streets – something conveniently omitted from any recent media articles.
In contrast to the degrading descriptions of our community promoted by the business community, the photos above (taken November 1) support LA CAN’s position that it is completely possible for the city to both respect the property of individuals while also doing their job of cleaning the streets. They also reveal that belongings are not piling up “Third-World style.” Rather, they show that the vast majority of personal belongings on the street during the day are neatly organized, often times covered, and placed tightly against against an wall/fence and away from the street.
This month-long media blitz seems to be the business community’s attempt to influence the court appeal process – the City’s appeal to the injunction is currently pending. It is in their interest to perpetuate the myths that this injunction has created a “third-world” environment, so that the injunction will be overturned. We hope that the fearmongering of the business community won’t trump the constitution, as the courts have ruled over and over to protect homeless residents’ right to possess property – no matter where they live.
We ask why would the City supported by downtown business interests (or vice-versa) want so badly to be able to have the right to steal people’s personal property? If the City and business community supported the right to housing, invested in real solutions, and stopped wasting our police and legal resources to fight for the right to steal and destroy people’s things – there wouldn’t be a problem with property on our sidewalks, because people would store their belongings in their own homes. We will continue to fight for this reality.
“A Legal Rulings Unfortuante Impact: June Decision Turns Skid Row Sidewalks Into a Health Hazard“
Op-Ed by Estela Lopez, Executive of the Central City East Association (Los Angeles Downtown News August 26, 2011)
“Injunction and Growing Encampments Bring Health Fears on Skid Row”
by Eric Richardson, (blogdowntown.com October 26, 2011)
The recent chatter regarding the impacts of a Preliminary Injunction ordered by Honorable Philip S. Gutierrez, United States District Judge, has been one big ball of MISINFORMATION.
As background, in June Judge Gutierrez found that the City of Los Angeles was in fact violating the rights of homeless people living in Downtown Los Angeles by seizing and destroying their personal property. The violation(s) happened in a number of ways including confiscation of property directly from homeless people and seizing property that was left unattended for short periods of time. (Click HERE to read the decision).
As such, the courts PRELIMINARILY ENJOINED THE City and its agents from doing the following:
1. Seizing property in Skid Row absent an objectively reasonable belief that it is abandoned, presents an immediate threat to public health or safety, or is evidence of a crime, or contraband; and
2. Absent an immediate threat to public health or safety, destruction of said seized property without maintaining it in a secure location for a period of less than 90 days.
The City was also directed to leave a notice in a prominent place for any property taken on the belief that it is abandoned, including advising where the property is being kept and when it may be claimed by the rightful owner.
The intent of the order is very clear and is consistent with constitutional and California law. More important, however, it in no way, shape or form, instructs the City of Los Angeles to stop picking up trash—but stop collecting trash on a consistent basis is exactly what they have done. As a response to this action, the strategy on the part of the City and the Central City East Association appears to be to point fingers at “said” trash and say that it is the judge’s fault. Why? To hopefully influence the appellate court to see things their way.
In a recent conversation with Central Bureau Deputy Chief Jose Perez , he unabashedly confirmed the obvious: that LAPD and other city agencies were in fact not picking up trash because the decision prevented them from doing so, which, of course, is a straight out non-truth. Now, you have City Councilmember Jan Perry parroting new nonsense about health risks that have been created as a result of the decision and some bogus business about a process needing to be created that instructs people to move their PERSONAL PROPERTY so that the sidewalks can be cleaned.
For the record:
Lastly, the current situations regarding personal property and trash in Central City East represents an immature bureaucracy hell-bent on denying the rights of downtown’s poorest residents for the sake of a few. Most passersby will quickly realize that most residents in downtown have a stringent routine (some of the routine is based on ordinances that forbid standing, sleeping, or sitting on public sidewalks during the hours of 6:00am – 9:00pm) whereby personal property is neatly stored and areas cleaned up first thing in the morning.
So, we must ask, what are Lopez, Perry, and similar groups really after? Clearly they are more concerned about winning their appeal of the decision and getting “permission” to steal and destroy people’s personal property than they are about ensuring a clean and safe community for ALL residents.