Click on the Photo above to read the December 2012/January 2013.
You can also view a high resolution PDF version HERE.
A video highlighting the various campaigns, actions, and achievements of LA CAN in 2011!
Click on the photo above to read the September/October 2011 Edition of the Community Connection (or download a PDF version HERE).
This past weekend, over 50 LA CAN members hopped on a bus and headed north to San Francisco for the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP) Congress. They were joined by groups and folks from up and down the west coast, all of whom convened with one goal in mind – to build a regional movement that exposes and eliminates the root causes of homelessness and poverty.
During the three day event, members took part and led various workshops on issues very familiar to LA CAN – such as addressing the criminalization of homelessness and conducting effective community outreach.
LA CAN and WRAP members also participated in the Great American TARP Tour – a protest targeting the various groups and institutions responsible for the current national financial crisis and bank bailouts. In one action, over 500 people marched to Wells Fargo, a Hyatt Hotel currently neglecting the contract demands of employees, Charles Schwab and various other institutions – all of whom continue to play a role in widening the gap between the rich and the poor.
Demonstrators let these groups know loud and clear – homeless and impoverished folks are not going to stand for increasing budget cuts and the criminalization of their communities while irresponsible corporate entities receive tax payer funded bailouts.
See below for more photos and footage from the amazing protest.
While Big Finance has held the people of the United States up for hundreds of billions of dollars, the biggest players on Wall Street have foreclosed the homes of millions of families, attacked Union representation for front-line workers, and funded the criminalization and incarceration of poor people at record rates.
Join us in San Francisco to say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
If you are interested in attending or would like more information, call LA CAN at 213.228.0024 and ask for Debbie or Steve
You can also get more info at wraphome.org.
On Wednesday, July 6th, just hours after the conviction of General Dogon was announced, LA CAN and partners including Dream Team LA, Comunidad Presente, Hippie Kitchen and others gathered for our monthly protest of the supposed Skid Row Neighborhood Watch Walk. Pete White, LA CAN Co-Director, was distinctly targeted and arrested during the protest.
This Walk is organized by the Central City East Association, a business improvement district which promotes criminalization of homelessness and the increased policing and enforcement under the Skid Row Safer Cities Initiative. Often, City Attorney Trutanich, Councilmember Jan Perry, other business leaders, and media attend the walk. What is conspicuously missing every month is Skid Row residents.
LA CAN and our partners decided to begin a monthly protest of this event for several reasons, including: 1) the City Attorney’s crackdown on protest and dissent which has impacted all of the participating organizations; 2) the lack of resident involvement in the Walk – instead using the walk to demonize and degrade residents; and 3) to protest the Safer Cities Initiative (SCI), since the Walkers are generally accompanied by several SCI officers who have made thousands of arrests of poor, mostly Black residents as part of the Initiative.
We have been doing this protest since March, but this month the response from LAPD was quite different and more intense. Although there were only 10-12 people, mostly business reps, participating in the Walk, there were dozens of LAPD officers on hand. Officers gave conflicting information to legal observers about our right to be there and our right to protest on public property.
Although we were simply exercising our first amendment right on a public sidewalk that was not closed to the public nor occupied by a permit obtained by CCEA, Pete White was arrested for what LAPD claimed was disrupting a public meeting. After the arrest, an order to disperse was given and all others were threatened with arrest.
LA CAN leadership has been targeted with arrests, detentions, false charges, degrading comments and public statements by LAPD, and much more because of our opposition to Safer Cities and our active resistance to criminalization efforts. We believe this arrest, and especially this ridiculous charge, is unjust like all the rest and we will fight it all the way. Pete has been released from jail and his first court date is scheduled for July 27th. Stay tuned for ways to support.
On Wednesday, July 6th, a jury found LA CAN Organizer General Dogon guilty of 9 of 11 trumped up misdemeanor charges that supposedly took place during approximately 6 seconds of a 20 minute, non-violent protest in City Council Chambers last May. Although video evidence countered all charges, the jury decided against us – shocking but not surprising since the criminal justice system often has disastrous and unfair results for Black men.
The fight is not over. The sentencing hearing is next up and we are organizing and preparing now.
However, we also want to point out that the City Attorney is continuing to perpetrate the officers’ lies in their press release (one might question why they would do a press release on a misdemeanor trial to begin with – only supporting our theory that this case is a political and personal attack on Dogon, LA CAN and the Right to Housing Collective). The City’s entire description of events (bolded by LA CAN in release printed below) is exactly the two assault charges that the jury DID NOT CONVICT on. Dogon was found NOT GUILTY on two charges of assault on an officer – those charges were directly tied to these lies about digging nails into an officer and pinning an officer against a wall. In fact, it was Dogon who was the victim of use of force. The City’s lies and continued degradation of General Dogon, an amazing human rights organizer and human being, should not be tolerated by anyone.
Dogon’s personal statement reflecting on the trial is included at the bottom of this post. Stay tuned for updated information.
Press Release from the Los Angeles City Attorney:
A message from General Dogon, upon his release from jail on July 7th:
In regards to the May 21,2010 incident in city hall, I’d like to take this time to personally thank the LA CAN members, L A Right to Housing Collective members (especially Union de Vecinos), Hippie Kitchen, and all other comrades and supporters for their continued and outstanding support throughout this trial. Thank you for turning out to fight for a just and needed cause. We know that anybody that stands up and speaks out against state oppression is a target of state oppression. Me and the other two other LA CAN members that were arrested that day understood this fact. Although the city dropped all charges against us in the beginning, they later re-filed 11 criminal charges against me only after I had torn up and threw back a violence prevention certificate that was given to me by the city. It wasn’t worth the paper it was written on after the violence they used against us.
During the trial, the city presented their case which only consisted of only cops for witnesses. Because every officer that took the stand in support of the city was caught up in lies and perjured themselves on the stand during questioning, we felt that all of the video that was supplied by the media and Right to Housing Collective members totally contradicted their statements so badly that we (my lawyer John Raphling and I) decided not to present a defense due to this fact. The city had the burden to prove their case in which we felt they did not do. The video clearly showed that “IT IS WHAT IT IS.” And that reality contradicted the statements of police over and over again. We know that there is a risk of putting on witnesses, as much as it is a risk to not put on witnesses. John and I have made many legal decisions together – including the ones that got me free from a 25-to-life sentence a couple of years ago when LAPD targeted me because of my organizing. We decided on this strategy and believe it was the best decision.
Obviously, the jury didn’t see anything the way we saw it and lived it. Yesterday, July 6, the jury found me guilty of 9 of the 11 counts. Although we don’t agree with this verdict, there is still a lot of work to be done. The next court date is July 14 (although it will likely be postponed a couple of weeks) and we plan to pump up the heat. We‘ll be calling on folks to continue this fight together. Once again I’d like to thank everyone for their continued support during this time……………all power to the people.
For Immediate release
Law Offices of Carol Sobel
310 393-3055 [o]/ 310-922-7001[c]
A federal district judge in Los Angeles issued an injunction today against the City of Los Angeles to halt the seizure and destruction of the personal possessions of homeless residents of Skid Row. This follows a temporary restraining order the court issued against the City on April 22, 2011.
The court’s order rejected the City’s claim that the property was abandoned or created a public hazard. The judge ruled that homeless individuals have an expectation of privacy in their property, even when they leave it unattended on public sidewalks for short periods of time. The court also rejected the claim that signs posted by the City advising that property on the sidewalks would be disposed of was proper justification that anything on the sidewalk was abandoned and could be taken and destroyed.
Jeff Dietrech of the Catholic Worker/Hippie Kitchen located in Skid Row stated, “Homeless people have now had their inalienable rights of person and property validated by the court—LAPD hands off!”
In its ruling the court also noted that significant evidence submitted by the City in opposition to the claims of the homeless individuals was not credible and conflicted with other evidence the City submitted. The opinion recognized the City’s initiative to revitalize the downtown area, but found that the homeless population will suffer greater injury without the court’s intervention on behalf of their rights.
LA CAN Organizer and Skid Row resident Steve Richardson, better known as General Dogon, worked diligently to collect documentation presented in the lawsuit. When informed about Judge Gutierrez’s ruling, he stated, “Thankfully this is one judge that saw through the City of Los Angeles’ lies—this is more than just a lawsuit. It is about dignity, respect, and property rights for all people.”
Click HERE to read Judge Gutierrez’ Preliminary Injunction Ruling (Highlights added by LA CAN).
As reported many times on this blog, LA CAN members are adamantly opposed to the Safer Cities Initiative (SCI) and the ongoing actions of between 40 and 100 additional officers SCI brought to the Skid Row community in 2006. We have witnessed several “maximum enforcement days” over the past few weeks – escalating the police state once again.
As a form of harm reduction, our CommunityWatch teams monitor police activity daily to attempt to prevent civil rights violations. This video shows the extreme over-saturation of police officers, as well as raises serious questions about why this man needed to have a hood placed over his head, held like that on the public sidewalk, and why he was taken away in an ambulance – we can only assume it was because of physical injury or mental health condition.
If it was related to mental health, where were the specially-trained SMART team LAPD officers? Why were there dozens of uniformed police officers there? And why was at least one LAPD officer taking photos of this man, in the hood, with what appears to be his personal camera? An inquiry has been made to Central Bureau command staff, but to date they have given no response to the community.
This and dozens of other incidents has led to a community recommendation to LAPD and the Police Commission that SMART team officers be increased in the Skid Row community. On March 8th, LAPD reported to the Commission that additional SMART teams weren’t needed and there weren’t enough resources to add officers. However, the Commission did not accept that report and a sub-committee is meeting on this urgent issue. We ask, couldn’t a few of the dozens of officers that respond to these incidents be shifted to the SMART team?
The LA Times, in its never ending quest to dismantle skid row, released its latest propaganda piece to support aggressive and oftentimes illegal policing of the area. In this particular piece, Mission hopes a fee will change skid row’s culture, written by Sandy Banks, the writer goes through great lengths to inculcate the narrative supported by the LAPD, Mayor Villaraigosa, and Councilmember Jan Perry.
Unwittingly, in her article, Banks also documents an illegal search of an EDAR
by Officer Joseph as well as police activity geared towards displacing homeless people. This documentation supports the case made by local residents and organizations who have decried the rampant constitutional violations that are blatantly allowed to occur in the name of “public safety.”
The Fourth Amendment is clear when it abolishes this type of behavior by law enforcement–no “warrantless searches” means just that; but it is clear that the choice has been made to disregard constitutional protections in the core of Los Angeles. As one could guess the article drew an assortment of views and opinions; however, the opinion of Barbara Schultz resonates most with LA CAN members and supporters:
As someone who has worked with Skid Row residents for the past ten years, and who sits on the board of a Skid Row community based organization (and as someone who has enjoyed your column in the past), I was utterly appalled at your one dimensional characterization of Skid Row in today’s paper. It seems that you simply parroted the world view of Officer Joseph. The problem with viewing the world through the eyes of a police officer is you’re going to see a skewed world- considering by the very nature of the job they tend to see only the bad.
I wish you had looked through the eyes of community members who are trying to make Skid Row a better place for the people who live there and maybe you would have seen the community that I work with. Maybe you would have seen actual human beings rather than “the stew of addictions, mental illness and criminal intent that keeps bubbling up in a no-man’s land.” That “no-man’s land” is home to thousands of people who are living their lives– sometimes doing good stuff and sometimes doing bad stuff– just like those of us who live elsewhere. Have you talked to the Los Angeles Community Action Network (on whose board I have proudly sat for ten years) about community? About empowering and educating residents instead of criminalizing them?
As for the missions charging fees- I’m somewhat speechless. Andy Bales wonders how people “fritter away” $211 a month from GR? Seriously? I spent $250 on cleaning supplies at Costco last night. Many people I know spend $3.50 regularly on lattes. That’s frittering. Can you even imagine trying to live on $211 (or $600) a month? A $7 nightly fee will swallow up the entire GR check. So, in case you needed any other food, or soap, or a present for your kid you’re out of luck because the mission has decided to try tough love. We are now to a point in LA where the homeless can’t even afford to go to a mission. A mission!
As for the idea that a person with a substance abuse problem could just elect to say “ok, I’m going to be sober now so I can come get a bed in your mission” is absolutely ludicrous and unbelievably ignorant. If you look at any studies, you would find that supportive housing has proven to be the best model to deal with homelessness and addiction. Have you talked to Skid Row Housing Trust, SRO housing, LAMP community about this model?
And SCI- have you looked at any studies that show that criminalization of homelessness does nothing to solve the problem? Have you read UCLA professor Gary Blasi’s report on the “effectiveness” of that policy? How is giving $300 jaywalking tickets to extremely low income individuals going to solve homelessness, addiction, or any other problem? I run a legal clinic at LA CAN which offers residents a chance to talk to pro bono attorneys about housing, government benefits , family law and other legal issues, but we also represent clients in traffic court for these jaywalking tickets. We’ve kept statistics on the thousands of tickets we’ve taken in and learned that it has a disparate impact based on race and disability– over 60% of those receiving tickets are African-American and 75% are disabled. As a result of the ticket 30% report losing services. As for the public cost- we have to pay for the extra police officers writing the citations, and then going to court to testify, the city attorney’s time prosecuting the case, and of course the costs to the courts having to deal with thousands of extra cases. Then we also have to pay for the city attorney’s HALO program- which forces jaywalkers to go only to the missions if they want to avoid a fine– even if they are housed (as most of our clients are) and are receiving services elsewhere, thus using up valuable resources needlessly.
I really hope that you look a bit deeper into Skid Row if you choose to write about it again. Like your community, it is multi-faceted and cannot be reduced to one characterization. If you’d like to learn more, I’d be happy to provide references.
Barbara Schultz | Attorney at Law