Updated: Open Letter from Skid Row Leaders to City of LA Electeds and LAPD #CANTKILLAFRICA #BLACKLIVESMATTER

Posted in #blacklivesmatter, #cantkillafrica with tags , , , on March 17, 2015 by Cangress

To add your organization to the letter, please contact Becky at 213.228.0024 | beckyd@cangress.org.

Link to PDF: http://bit.ly/1H3YZ0W

Open letter to City of LA elected officials, Los Angeles Police Department, public agencies, and others in Los Angeles

We write in sadness and anger at the killing of yet another unarmed man by the Los Angeles Police Department in the Skid Row community. As a predominately African American community, we also declare that #BlackLivesMatter, and view the killing of the man known as “Africa” as part of the growing crisis of law enforcement officers killing unarmed Black men in Los Angeles and across the nation.

We also write with a unified voice about the long-standing and systemic issues facing Skid Row that continue to lead to senseless and unjustified deaths and other injustices in our community.

We call on elected and public officials, and all other Angelinos, to invest in real and large-scale solutions to address homelessness and extreme poverty instead of the overconcentration of police officers as the main “solution” that residents have endured for the past 8 ½ years, after the 2006 launch of LAPD’s Safer Cities Initiative brought between 50 and 110 additional officers into a 50-square block community.

There is no denying that LAPD officers shot and killed Africa, who was unarmed and by most accounts living with a mental illness. However, the death of Africa must also be seen within the context of institutional and policy failures that have perpetuated the problems of Skid Row for decades while not sufficiently investing in concrete solutions that would end homelessness and extreme poverty. We present five critical demands that need urgent attention and implementation by our local elected officials immediately.

1. Invest in housing at the scale needed to truly impact LA’s homeless crisis, including creating new local sources of funding, re-allocating existing resources to housing, and actively fighting for much-needed state and federal funding. A minimum of 10,000 units of permanent supportive housing are needed in the City of Los Angeles, yet in the past 8 years the City has produced only about 1,200 units (this number also includes rehabilitation of units previously home to other low-income people). At that pace, it would take at least 65 years to meet the need. Among new housing produced in the City, a significant increase in permanent supportive and other affordable housing is needed within Skid Row and greater Downtown LA. For example, over the past decade or so, tens of thousands of upscale units have been created but only about 800 new permanent supportive or affordable units have been constructed in that time.

2. End the Safer Cities Initiative (SCI) and remove all extra officers associated with SCI from the Skid Row community. The overconcentration of police create an environment of almost constant contact with officers among residents facing homelessness, mental illness, substance abuse, or other health conditions that put them at extreme risk of harassment, citation, arrest, or violence by officers. The City must stop the practice of utilizing police as the main response to homelessness and instead invest in housing and other support services.

3. Expand the LAPD’s SMART teams (mental health professionals and non-uniformed officers) and create a dedicated SMART team to be deployed throughout the Skid Row community, within the existing LAPD budget. The prevalence of mental health issues in the Skid Row community is well known and documented, yet there is no SMART team assigned to our community and, in fact, there is no deployment of existing SMART teams to Skid Row. They work solely inside of Central Division, defeating the purpose of them helping to de-escalate situations and avoid arrests and unnecessary force by officers. Additionally, non-LAPD mental health experts should be funded and utilized as first responders within the community as much as possible.

4. Assign an independent prosecutor and/or a Department of Justice representative to investigate the officers who killed our community member known as Africa. LAPD should release all body camera footage, release the officers’ names and place them on unpaid leave until all internal and external investigations/prosecutions are completed, and conduct a full review of use-of-force policies that allow for lethal force on unarmed individuals.

5. Recognize and promote the community-level assets and expertise and local best practices in the Skid Row community and include Skid Row residents and their allies in all policy making and other decision making. Signatories of this letter have decades of experience and investment in the community and our expertise should be utilized and valued.

There are other contributing factors to extreme poverty and homelessness and other systemic problems in Skid Row. However, the extreme lack of housing and extreme over-policing are the most pressing issues today and, if not reversed, will continue to fuel more tragedies like the unnecessary and unjustified death of Africa. We envision a community with policies and resources that reflect the diversity, strength, needs and compassion of our residents. If our elected and public officials share this vision and truly care about Africa’s death, the human rights violations throughout Skid Row, and ending homelessness and poverty, they must take concrete steps to turn this vision into a reality. They can start by immediately implementing the above solutions.

Signed by Skid Row Organizations and Stakeholders:
Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice – Los Angeles
Dignity and Power Now
Downtown Women’s Action Coalition
DramaStage Qumran
Homeless Health Care Los Angeles
Issues and Solutions
Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles
Los Angeles Catholic Worker/Hippie Kitchen
Los Angeles Community Action Network
Los Angeles Human Right to Housing Collective
Los Angeles Poverty Department
United Coalition East Prevention Project

Pastor Cue, Church without Walls and Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Katherine McNenny, Skid Row Resident and Founder of Industrial District Green
Carol Sobel, Civil Rights Attorney representing dozens of Skid Row residents

Endorsed by Local, State and National Allies:
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – LA
AWARE-LA
Black Alliance for Just Immigration
Black Community Clergy and Labor Alliance
Black Lives Matter – LA
Coalición de Derechos Humanos
Hunger Action Los Angeles
Los Angeles Anti-Eviction Campaign
National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty
People Organized for Westside Renewal (POWER)
Public Counsel
St. John’s Well Child and Family Center
Stop LAPD Spying Coalition
Union de Vecinos
Western Regional Advocacy Project
Women Organizing Resources, Knowledge and Services (WORKS)

boona cheema, Founder of Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency
David Wagner, PhD, Professor, Author and National Expert on Homelessness


Open Letter to City of LA and LAPD from Skid Row Leaders

Video: LAPD and Mayor Use Media to Exonerate Officers who Killed Brother Africa

Posted in #blacklivesmatter, #cantkillafrica, Uncategorized, video with tags , , , , on March 17, 2015 by Cangress

Since the LAPD murder of Brother Africa, the community has been told over and over again that we shouldn’t rush to judgement, we should wait until the investigation is completed.

But, as this piece demonstrates, from day 1 LAPD, the Police Commission, and Mayor Garcetti have been justifying the officers’ deadly actions. They aren’t waiting for the investigation to be completed – they are using the media to basically exonerate the officers.

THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T WAIT! We can’t let them silence our outrage with a process that we already know is broken.We must and we will continue to organize and demand justice for Brother Africa!

Join LA CAN for the Skid Row Memorial Honoring Brother Africa THIS Thursday 3/19: http://on.fb.me/1O32aIc.

For more information or to get involved, contact LA CAN at 213.228.0024 or come to 838 E. 6th 90021.

‪#‎CANTKILLAFRICA‬ ‪#‎BLACKLIVESMATTER‬

THIS IS WHAT FED UP LOOKS LIKE! #CANTKILLAFRICA #BLACKLIVESMATTER

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on March 6, 2015 by Cangress

FED UP

From the LAist: “Video: Skid Row Residents Force ABC 7 Van Out”

This is what fed up looks like! This is what enough is enough looks like!

This is what happens when Skid Row residents express their frustration with mainstream media coming into their community trying to pimp out their vulnerabilities, hardships, and pain for a quick sensationalist news clip.

It’s not that folks don’t want their stories shared – the people of Skid Row our proud, strong, and resilient. But we won’t continue to just sit idly by as these vultures with cameras roll through our neighborhoods and try to portray and dismiss all of us as criminals living in chaos.

You want to do a story on our community? Write about the decades of failed policy that continue to perpetuate the conditions of Skid Row. Go to Mayor Garcetti’s house or Chief Beck’s house, stick a camera in their faces in their most vulnerable states, and ask them why they continue to support LAPD getting endless millions of dollars to criminalize and punish people for being poor and houseless while the need for housing and services (actual solutions to homelessness) continues to grow.

We are a community. We are human beings. We are not just footage opportunities for the 11 o’clock news. ‪#‎blacklivesmatter‬ ‪#‎cantkillafrica‬‪ #‎skidrow‬

LA CAN and Skid Row Community Outraged at Latest LAPD Murder in Skid Row #BlackLivesMatter

Posted in #blacklivesmatter, civil rights, LAPD, Media Advisory, Skid Row with tags , , , on March 2, 2015 by Cangress

Contacts: Pete White (petew@cangress.org) and Eric Ares (erica@cangress.org) 213.228.0024

LA CAN and Skid Row Community Outraged at Latest LAPD Murder in Skid Row 

Residents Plan to Take Action Tomorrow, Tuesday, March 3rd!

8:00 am – Rally/Protest at corner of 6th and San Pedro Streets, Downtown LA

8:30 am – March from 6th and San Pedro to LAPD Headquarters

9:30 am – Testimony and Calls for Criminal Prosecution at Police Commission Meeting

Again, along with so many other communities, the Skid Row community faces the aftermath of a completely unjustified shooting of an unarmed Black man known in the community as Africa.  Skid Row, occupied by the supposed “Safer Cities Initiative (SCI)” task force since late 2006, has seen some of the highest rates of use of force in the City. This is at least the third police murder since the launch of SCI, following Dale Garrett in 2011, whose killing was found out of policy (but no prosecution ensued), and Mr. Ocaño just last May, who was shot down from a billboard while posing zero risk to officers.

Skid Row has been LAPD’s testing ground for body cameras, before the Mayor’s recent initiative to put body cameras on every officer, and reportedly at least one officer had a body camera during the killing of Africa.  This tragedy shows that body cameras will not stop police violence and murder.  We call on the Mayor and the Police Commission to criminally prosecute officers; remove officers from the force instead of sending them home for paid leave; and other significant reforms to the current business as usual attitude that deems the lives of Ezell Ford, Africa and too many others as just part of the job.  #BlackLivesMatter

As usual, LAPD has changed their statement about the events surrounding their latest murder, as the videos released so far did not support their initial statements.  There was no weapon, and since LAPD officers had the man on the ground and were punching him, they couldn’t use their usual statement of the appearance of reaching for a weapon.  So they’ve said Africa was reaching for an officer’s gun, while being held on the ground by four officers.  This sounds unlikely at best.

Outraged community residents and LA CAN members, who have been fighting against the brutality and oppression of Safer Cities policing since its inception, will be holding a rally and protest tomorrow morning at the scene of the shooting, marching to LAPD Headquarters, and raising our voices and demands to the Police Commission.  The time is now for the Police Commission to assert some real oversight and protect all of the people of Los Angeles.  It’s time for them to stop LA’s role in the genocide of Black people we are seeing throughout the nation at the hands of law enforcement.

The February/March 2015 Community Connection is NOW AVAILABLE!

Posted in community connection with tags , , , , , on February 25, 2015 by Cangress

CC.FebMar2015

Click HERE to read the February/March 2015 Community Connection.

Click HERE to download a high-resolution PDF version.

Join us THIS THURSDAY for Town Hall for Human Rights in Skid Row

Posted in human & civil rights with tags , , , on February 3, 2015 by Cangress

Town Hall FLYER

Join us for a Town Hall hosted by Skid Row residents and workers as we present the numerous projects, campaigns and community-based human rights initiatives taking place in our community. You’ll learn about what’s REALLY going on in Skid Row, how to support human rights projects and campaigns, and what we need from our policy makers. Click HERE to visit the Facebook Event Page.

Thursday, February 5, 2015 | 5:30pm – 7:30pm
James Wood Center 400 East 5th St. (Parking at Downtown Women’s Center)

WHY?
So that we can continue to live and thrive in OUR community. So that our innovation and achievements are not sidelined or misrepresented. So that our dignity is maintained and our contributions serve as the foundation while we continue to build our vision of Skid Row and DTLA.

WHO?
Panelists include representatives of the Downtown Women’s Action Coalition, LA CAN, Skid Row Housing Trust, AWARE-LA, UCEPP, Community Based Greening, Los Angeles Poverty Department, and individual residents Katherine McNenny, Tom Grode, General Jeff and many others.

CONFIRMED ATTENDEES: Councilmember Huizar, LA City Council; Greg Speigel, Office of Mayor Garcetti; Ben Polk, Office of LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis; LA City Department of Neighborhood Empowerment; LA City’s Housing and Community Investment Department; and more.

For More Information contact Steve at (213) 228-0024 or steved@cangress.org

Homeless Bill of Rights Days of Action THIS WEEKEND!

Posted in DTLA, Homeless Bill of Rights, Western Regional Advocacy Project with tags , , , , , on January 16, 2015 by Cangress

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Press Release
For Immediate Release
Contact: Eric Ares, 213.458.3909 | erica@cangress.org

Organizations Commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with West Coast Days of Action in Support of Legislation Protecting the Civil Rights of Homeless People

What:     Parade and Sleep Out in celebration of the Homeless Bill of Rights Campaign and Right 2 Rest Legislation
When:     1pm Sunday, January 18 – Monday January 19
Where:    Downtown Los Angeles
1pm Lunch/Parade begins at Gladys Park (6th and Gladys)
3pm – 6pm Pershing Square Speak Out and Outreach
7pm through Monday Morning – Sleep Out outside the Central City Association (626 Wilshire Blvd.)

Los Angeles – In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the weekend commemorating his contributions to the Civil Rights movement, members of the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP) are holding days of action in support of the civil and human rights of homeless people.  In Los Angeles, organizations from across the city will unite in Downtown Los Angeles for a parade and sleep out in celebration of the rights of ALL people to sit, rest, share food, and otherwise exist in public space.

“For years the City of LA and LAPD have basically made it illegal to be homeless,” said Sean Gregory, a houseless Downtown LA resident and organizer with the Homeless Bill of Rights Campaign. “Public space is for all people, not just those with the privilege to have a roof over their head. Ticketing and arresting doesn’t solve homelessness. It only makes it worse.”

WRAP’s days of action will also highlight and push for the passage of our Right to Rest Act, which would help end the criminalization and incarceration of unhoused individuals and families. The proposed state legislation is a response to the growing trend of cities creating laws that make it illegal to sit, sleep, stand, and share food in public space.

“This bill is really about basic justice,” said Oregon State Senator Chip Shields, who will be introducing the Right to Rest Act this legislative session. “People who are homeless not only struggle with life on the street, they struggle with the indignity of being treated like criminals because they have nowhere to eat, sit, or sleep. This bill is about making sure everyone is treated humanely under the law.”

“We raise our voices this week to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and continue his work in fighting for the civil rights of the most marginalized in our society,” said Ibrahim Mubarak of Portland’s Right 2 Survive, one of the 130 organizations working actively on the Right to Rest campaign. “With shelters filled to capacity and thousands of people on waiting lists for housing around the state, homeless people have no choice but to live in public space. Cities cannot continue to act as if arresting people for that is going to solve the problem.”

In December, a federal judge suspended a Ft. Lauderdale law banning public food sharing after it received national attention when a 90-year old resident was arrested twice for serving meals to homeless individuals.  This past June, another federal court struck down an ordinance in Los Angeles banning people from sleeping in their vehicles—arguing that it discriminated against the poor.

“Recent court rulings have shown that these types of laws are not only immoral and unjust, but illegal,” said Eric Ares of the Los Angeles Community Action Network. “They do not stop crime, but rather punish people for being poor and homeless. Cities are not going to ticket their way out of homelessness. Housing is the only solution, but until then we must continue to protect the civil rights of all people.”

WRAP continues its fight to protect these civil rights for all. Rhode Island, Illinois and Connecticut have all passed Homeless Bill of Rights laws in recent years. In Oregon, State Representative Chip Shields (D-Portland) recently introduced Right to Rest legislation. The California state legislature is expected to introduce Right to Rest legislation in the coming weeks.

WRAP’s Right to Rest Days of Action are taking place in San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Chico and several other cities. WRAP’s actions stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and all other groups fighting unjust, violent law enforcement.

“Policymakers and elected officials can no longer use the police, discriminatory laws, and unjust enforcement as solutions to the problems that pervade our communities,” said Paul Boden of the Western Regional Advocacy Project. “They cannot ignore the calls for justice emanating from cities across the country.”

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