Click HERE to read the August/September 2015 Community Connection.
In a manner that appears consistent with the ongoing trends of the Los Angeles Police Department using excessive force on low-income and/or houseless primarily Black residents, LAPD officers shot bean bags, tased, and then wrestled to the ground a wheelchair-bound man at or around 7:30am on Thursday, July 16, 2015. Eye witness, cell phone video footage from the shooting – recently acquired by the Los Angeles Community Action Network – appears to show a standoff (really a “sit-off”) between the man and at least 10 -12 LAPD officers. About 30 seconds into the clip, the unidentified man, who is clearly distressed and shouting at the officers, is shot twice. Then MANY seconds after, officers shoot the man again and gang tackle the man to the ground commencing to tasing him. Despite several requests, the identity of the man, nor his charges, have been released.
Unfortunately, this is just the latest of a similar string of incidents involving escalated use of force on the part of LAPD. And while this shooting thankfully did not result in another dead resident, it is important to note that this is indicative of the type of escalated policing that low-income residents, particularly in gentrifying communities, have been experiencing in recent weeks (and months, in some cases). It also represents the problem with the rhetoric around the emphasis on de-escalation training that the LAPD has been pushing in the media recently. No matter what this man was doing that resulted in a call to the police, at the time of the incident it is clear in video that the man was not an immediate threat. So why was it necessary to shoot him three times with bean bags? Why was it necessary to tase him? Why was it necessary that a horde of officers were needed to violently wrestle down a man in a wheel chair? The man did appear to be upset and was shouting. Would this have been a situation better served by the Systemwide Mental Assessment Response Team (SMART) versus a gang of officers? How much would de-escalation training matter if there are so many officers on hand for such an incident?
So, why were there so many officers called to the scene? In the past two weeks, LA CAN Community Watch teams have documented law enforcement citing and arresting homeless and low-income individuals in mass. Probation officers, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, LAPD – all have been actively patrolling the streets of Downtown LA (particularly in Skid Row) and aggressively enforcing so-called quality-of-life citations and warrants for these non-violent offenses, like illegally lodging on public property and or sitting/lying on the street. Ironically, this comes just two weeks after community residents demanded that Eric Garcetti veto changes to LA Municipal Codes 56.11 and 63.44, which were passed by City Council under the arguments that they would be used to stop illegal encampments. Low-income and homeless residents argued that these changes were largely unnecessary (as existing laws could be enforced to stop illegal encampments) and that these would just be used to further criminalize and punish residents simply for being poor. And we see that now.
The bottom line is this: No amount of training will help when the problem has to do with the oversaturation of police and a seemingly limitless budget to put officers on the street and enforce largely non-violent crimes. This is a culture and tradition of abuse, force and extermination of
“undesirable” people fully supported by the Mayor Garcetti, Chief Charlie Beck, and the Los Angeles City Council. We say HOUSING FOR EVERY Angeleno and they say ENFORCEMENT, DEATH and EXCUSES.
On April 13th Trishawn Carey will be headed to court to face two felonies 1) PC 245(C) assault against a police officer; and, 2) PC 69 resisting a police officer because she picked up a baton and screamed for the police to stop beating Charly Leundeu Keunang better known as “Africa” in the Skid Row community. Africa was ultimately shot and killed and now Trishawn faces a potential life sentence if found guilty and convicted.
Anyone that views, or has viewed the video, knows that the charges faced by Trishawn are excessive and unwarranted. What is clear, however, is that Trishawn is in need of treatment, not incarceration. To this end we will fight to get Trishawn the treatment she deserves and support her through her court process – we hope that you will join us.
Please read the open letter sent to District Attorney Jackie Lacey urging her to pursue mental health diversion options in this unfortunate case.
Los Angeles County
District Attorney’s Office
210 West Temple Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
RE: Trishawn Carey
Dear DA Lacey –
Organizationally we applaud your efforts to divert people living with mental illness out of the county jail system. Our ultimate preference would be that individuals were afforded treatment and housing (instead of any jail time) but this is a step in the right direction. We also agree with your assessment that the majority of people living with mental illness are not violent or dangerous. This is an important “truth” that needs to be spread by political leadership in an attempt to disrupt the violent and deadly encounters between law enforcement and those living with mental illness. Lastly, your push to retrain law enforcement is noteworthy and hopefully one step of many aimed at disrupting a culture of fear and violence.
While we soundly appreciate the direction your office is heading more can be done on the front end.
While presenting at the April 3rd Q & A, at Amity House and hosted by ACLU, you acknowledged that high profile shootings (of people with mental illness) needed to end. We agree, steadfastly, but recognize that shootings are but one manifestation of the problem. You are undoubtedly aware of the killing of Charly Leundeu Keunang by LAPD Central Division officers – the video, captured by a bystander, has been viewed over 50 million times and caused outrage across the globe. Also captured on the video but receiving far less fanfare is the takedown of a very small African American woman who picked up a police baton and shrieked as officers beat Mr. Keunang. Her name is Trishawn Cardessa Carey.
We were present at the arraignment of Ms. Carey and were extremely alarmed by her clearly fragile mental health status. After watching the video a number of times we were also alarmed at her felony charges and the fact that she is being held in lieu of more than a million dollar bail. Post arraignment we connected with many community residents familiar with her and it became clear that her mental health status is widely known – this of course concerned us greatly.
To this end we sent a delegation to visit Ms. Carey in custody – a registered nurse was part of this team – to ascertain her current medical condition. Within minutes of speaking with Ms. Carey a number of things surfaced, 1) that her mental health condition is very apparent and needs to be evaluated and treated; 2) that her physical health was not great and she complained about not getting the right medication for her diabetes; and, 3) that she is aware of her health history and health diary and has been battling these conditions for years. While it would not be proper to share all the details regarding her health we assert the need for a full psychological and psychiatric evaluation prior to proceeding to the scheduled preliminary hearing.
We are certain that you know the stakes in this case and have undoubtedly reviewed the video of Ms. Carey’s arrest – we understand those stakes as well. As we’ve done in the past we will monitor all court proceedings, locate witnesses, and assist the court in any way to ensure that treatment, not jail nor prison, is the only outcome in this case. We also believe that this is an opportunity to move your diversion aims from planning to practice. That Ms. Carey’s case represents the failure of an entire system which persistently criminalizes those better served by treatment not incarceration. That Black Lives Matter and deserve to be treated with dignity, respect and humanity. We understand your fiduciary responsibility to your client (we will not impede on or jeopardize that relationship) but we will do everything to ensure Ms. Carey is treated in a fair and just manner by the courts.
Los Angeles Community Action Network
*C/o LA CAN Human Rights Committee
Updated: Open Letter from Skid Row Leaders to City of LA Electeds and LAPD #CANTKILLAFRICA #BLACKLIVESMATTERPosted in #blacklivesmatter, #cantkillafrica with tags #blacklivesmatter, #CANTKILLAFRICA, Eric Garcetti, skid row on March 17, 2015 by Cangress
To add your organization to the letter, please contact Becky at 213.228.0024 | firstname.lastname@example.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
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
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)
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
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.
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.