Click on the Image above to read the April/May 2014 Community Connection.
Click HERE to download a High Resolution PDF Version.
This week LA CAN members and allies continued our fight against the increasing criminalization of poor communities of color throughout the City of Los Angeles.
On Saturday, over a dozen community organizations convened to launch the California Homeless Bill of Rights Campaign (see photos above). After an overview of the campaign goals, those in attendance broke out into small groups to outline campaign strategies and create an action plan for the next few months. The campaign will be a long and hard fight, but when the event ended it was clear that organizations in Southern California are committed to organizing to protect and uplift the Human Rights of Homeless individuals throughout California and beyond!
On Tuesday, LA CAN continued a busy week of Anti-Criminalization actions at both the LAPD Commission and the LA County Board of Supervisors. At the Board of Commissioners, LA CAN members were on hand to let the newly appointed Commissioners know that while the Board has changed, the devastating impact of LAPD’s Safer Cities Initiative has not. We demanded a new commitment to dialogue as well as a Town Hall specifically on the Safter Cities Initiative, which has continued to make Skid Row the most heavily policed and criminalized community in the country. Just down the street, LA CAN members joined the No New Jails Coalition to demand that the LA County Board of Supervisors reverse its decision to create a $10 million contract with the City of Taft and instead put more resources into rehabilitation (NOT more incarceration). See the video above for more information. Stay tuned for more information on how you can get involved in the fight. Until then, ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE!
Words can’t express the love and thanks present the day of (and day after) another beautiful labor day gathering. It was truly a manifestation of what happens when all of downtown Los Angeles comes together for food, dance, recognition, and celebration.
Thanks to LA CAN member Daniel Jones many of those moments were captured with his camera lens and photographer eyes. Enjoy the slideshow and stay tuned for a video montage of downtown’s vast cultural offerings.
Skid Row, Los Angeles–
In April 2013 LA CAN released a report entitled, The Dirty Divide, which clearly detailed the inadequate public health infrastructure that exists in DTLA. Utilizing a participatory action research framework residents mapped the day-to-day experiences faced by residents simply attempting to relieve themselves. Moreover, the report included a set of recommendations that we are using as a roadmap for the work needed to end the public health inequities. National and local researchers pointed to the report, and its participatory methodology, as a model way of problem solving which includes a variety of stake-holders and duty-bearers.
On June 5, 2013 the Department of Public Health released its follow-up report on the current conditions of Skid Row. Current Status of Conditions on Skid Row Report.6.5.13 The report found alarming increases in conditions previously abated by the City of Los Angeles in their May 2012 inspection. Among their findings were an 88% increase in solid waste disposal violations; a 100% increase in vermin violations; a 62% increase in safety violations; and, that the presence of urine and feces increased by 82%. Many of the report findings mirrored the conclusions drawn in the Dirty Divide, and while not news to residents facing the problems daily, it validated the need to respond rapidly.
But why had the City of Los Angeles’ Operation Healthy Streets fallen so drastically?
As reported by LA CAN, on numerous occasions, the impetus behind Operation Healthy Streets was less about the health of Skid Row residents and more about the Lavan Injunction which stopped the outright illegal confiscation and destruction of personal property. Residents have long cleaned the area and pushed for basic trash pick-up to no avail but it was not until the City of Los Angeles found itself in dire legal straits that their game of “smoke and mirrors” would begin. Noticeably, after their legal maneuvers failed to produce desired outcomes and the Supreme Court refusal to even hear their case, it quickly went back to business as usual.
On July 29, 2013 Gail Holland, LA Times wrote an article entitled, “Skid row bathrooms are a perennial debate,” which attempts, in a lackluster fashion, to posit that solutions to the bathroom crisis are stunted because advocacy groups and various Mayor’s all have had different answers. In fact, LA CAN, the County Department of Public Health, many other service and advocacy groups, and now – according to the article – even LAPD agree that until the long-term solution of housing for all is achieved, more 24-7 restroom access is crucial and can be provided through automated toilets and/or in service sites. Nowhere did Gail mention the fact that LAPD has for years lobbied hard against additional bathrooms; had bathrooms locked at night; or, that some public urination cases were handled as sex crimes leading to registration on the sex offender list and all the problems associated with that determination. I would have to say that Gail missed alot in her skid row bathroom investigation, particularly that there is widespread need and support for solving public health inequities in Skid Row but not the political support to do so – likely because of the business community’s opposition she mentions, but does not contextualize.
The only thing “perennial” about this issue is the everlasting attitude that dehumanizes poor and homeless people, and Black people in particular.
Jurors reported afterward that they did not find Estela Lopez of the CCEA or LAPD Lieutenant Shannon Paulson to be credible witnesses
We hope July 11 ends the years of targeted efforts by the LAPD and LA’s City Attorney to criminalize organizing, dissent and public protest by LA CAN and dozens of other organizations across Los Angeles. We know the tactic of criminalizing political movements goes well into our history and well beyond Los Angeles – but yesterday marked a key victory in preventing these attacks on those working for justice.
Yesterday afternoon, a jury found Deborah Burton not guilty on 8 charges of assault and battery, including the “lesser charges” the City Attorney was able to include in the jury instructions. These unjust charges stemmed from a legal protest of the Central City East Association’s public safety walk in June 2011. Charges were filed in August 2012 and Deborah has shouldered this burden on behalf of LA CAN and the social justice movement in Los Angeles since then. She stood strong and firm, and truth and justice prevailed!
LA CAN is proud to have Deborah as a long time member and organizer – she continues to demonstrate on a daily basis what commitment, dedication, compassion and bravery look like as she works to defend and promote human rights in Downtown and South LA. We thank all of our members, staff, Board, community partners, and others who supported us leading up to and during this case. We express deepest gratitude to John Raphling, who defended Deborah and continues to provide much needed legal representation to community organizers and activists in Los Angeles.
We are all Deborah Burton! And we are all NOT GUILTY!
See community partner’s perspective at NESRI’s blog HERE.
Help LA CAN’s Rooftop Garden continue to fight food insecurity and increase healthy food access in Skid Row.
Vote for LA CAN to WIN Reed’s & Mind Gardens Adopt-A-Garden Program – which was sparked by Snoop Lion (aka Snoop Dogg).
Click HERE to vote TODAY!
Last Monday, June 17, US District Judge Gutierrez denied the City of LA’s application to modify the preliminary injunction he issued in June 2011. Among many findings in his ruling, the denial stated,
“However, as the City has not shown a change in law or fact that would warrant modifying the language of the injunction, the Court is not persuaded that the alternate proposed modification is appropriate. Further, Defendant has submitted no evidence of a problem with individuals failing to move their property during a noticed cleaning operation.”
The LAPD and the City Attorney, with loud and public urging by the business community, have inexplicably been fighting this injunction since it was issued – failing at every level. This Monday, June 24, the Supreme Court denied hearing their appeal, allowing the injunction to stand. We are pleased to see the City’s unjust efforts continue to be denied by the courts.
LA CAN hopes the City, and especially our new City Attorney, will stop these wasteful and mean-spirited attempts to assert that homeless people simply don’t have the same constitutional rights as those who are housed. Instead of fighting injunctions protecting people’s most basic rights, the City should focus on housing and public health solutions that have been proven effective.
LA CAN members will continue their organizing efforts to promote the human right to housing while also protecting homeless people’s rights until there is housing for all. We will also work to end the Safer Cities Initiative, which criminalizes homelessness and poverty in Skid Row and was the original source of the illegal property destruction.
Read the LA Times coverage here: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-homeless-belongings-20130625,0,7106702.story
Downtown Los Angeles gentrification continues to reach all-time lows as LAPD carries on with its mission to rid downtown of poor and homeless, and mostly Black, faces. In the May 20th episode, LAPD took action to stop…wait for it…a seedling give-a-way in front of the LA CAN office. The bustling operation, coordinated by LA CAN’s community gardeners in front of our office, was being visited by a vast array of downtown stakeholders. In fact, our garden project almost always demonstrates the real potential of bringing together disparate communities and realizing the purported vision of a “mixed-income” downtown – there is widespread support for community gardens and giving residents access to seedlings to start their own gardens of any size.
The Great Plant Caper – Seedling Give-Away at LA CAN
LAPD Officer Owens apparently isn’t a fan of gardening, but is fine with perpetrating the Jim Crow policing used under Downtown’s Safer Cities Initiative. The tool of choice for years to move poor and homeless people off Main Street has the been the enforcement of municipal code 41.18D – no sleeping or sitting on the sidewalk. And that’s what Officer Owens was doing yesterday – issuing a ticket to an elderly gentleman sitting in a portable stool and two LA CAN members sitting in chairs handing out seedlings. Never mind that all parties cited were actually on private property – within 3 feet from a private building. Never mind that a legal settlement agreement requires LAPD to give people warnings and the opportunity to comply BEFORE citing or arresting anyone for 41.18D.
Fully aware of their rights, and the actual 41.18 D rules, the LA CAN members stated they could not be cited for 41.18D and requested to speak to a supervisor. Instead, within minutes, nearly a dozen police responded to the plant give-away “crime scene.” Thelmy Perez was monitoring this incredibly over-use of LAPD with her cell phone camera when she was seized by three officers and arrested. Thelmy was released later in the day and now faces a charge of interfering with police investigation. Sean and Esteban also received misdemeanor citations for their community gardening activities, and Jody, our elderly neighbor, faces misdemeanor charges for just sitting down for a brief rest.
Monitoring Police as they Detain Community Gardeners
We of course won’t accept Jim Crow in Skid Row – we will continue to fight for equal rights and equal enforcement through local fights and statewide fights like YES on AB 5, the Homeless Bill of Rights. We will also fight these four cases together and ensure this most recent round of criminalization of perfectly legal community activities and organizing does not stick! LA CAN will continue our community gardening and seedling give-away programs in public space as well.
Yesterday is unfortunately just one example of the blatant selective enforcement and civil rights violations that define the Safer Cities Initiative, and the continued criminalization of organizers who stand up against these violations. If you aren’t familiar with Main Street – wealthier residents and visitors sit and stand on the street regularly. Below you will see the bench in front of the Nickel Diner and the tables and chairs for the new “Creamery” - where their upscale customers sit without any police harassment, within a block of LA CAN. Apparently the Nickel Diner can put a bench in front of their establishment (complete with a sign that says “customers only”), but LA CAN members can’t be found in chairs in front of our office. Again – we won’t accept this and will fight for equity on Main Street and throughout all of LA and beyond.
This morning, LAPD officers shot into a crowd on the corner of 5th and Wall in Skid Row. At least one person was shot and killed. LA CAN is still looking into the matter and collecting information from witnesses.
However, even if LAPD were responding to a crime, why was shooting the suspect necessary? Was everyone on the corner a suspect? Why shoot multiple rounds in the middle of one of the busiest corners in Skid Row? How many innocent people were put in danger? Were more people wounded?
This is not the first time this happened. Police officers shooting suspects first and asking questions later, and shooting into crowds of civilians does not make the community safer. It is extremely dangerous and completely unacceptable. Community residents will not stand by idly and allow this to happen. We demand answers and accountability!
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.