Click HERE to read the February/March 2015 Community Connection.
Click HERE to download a high-resolution PDF version.
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)
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.
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 Immediate Release
Contact: Eric Ares, 213.458.3909 | firstname.lastname@example.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.”
The time for remorse has long passed. We demand justice for Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Ezell Ford, and all other black and brown lives that have been stolen from our families and communities by the state, which continues to tacitly approve of the murdering of our daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, etc., with this joke of a justice system.
So while we are furious that Daniel Pantaleo will not be held accountable for the murder of Eric Garner. It is also critical that we remember and call out that this is not only about Pantaleo, not only about about Darren Wilson, not about any one officer in particular – it is about a system that allows these killers to continue to occupy our communities knowing that they can murder our people and get away with it.
But turn on a tv or pick up a newspaper, and see us in the streets. Hear our voices and feel our power. Every now and then we have to remind each other and the world that the only justice we receive is the justice we create. And that time is always NOW.
#shutitdown #blacklivesmatter #ericgarner #michaelbrown #ezellford#nojusticenopeace #handsupdontshoot
For Immediate Release
Contact: Eric Ares (213) 228-0024
November 4, 2014
New Sentencing Guidelines Could Shorten Drug Sentences for Tens of Thousands of People Currently in Federal Prison
Change is Latest Step to Reduce Mass Incarceration and Scale Back Failed Drug War
Los Angeles, CA - The Los Community Action Network (LA CAN) recently joined dozens of organizations across the U.S. to highlight changes to federal drug sentencing guidelines. On Saturday, November 1st, courts began considering petitions from incarcerated individuals for sentencing reductions. Thousands of people who are currently serving long, punitive drug-related sentences in federal prisons could be eligible to apply, although no one who benefits from this reform may be released for another year, or prior to November 1, 2015. USSC estimates that close to 45,000 people currently behind bars would be eligible to have their cases reviewed to determine whether their sentences should be reduced. This change could save taxpayers billions of dollars and would reunite thousands of families with their loved ones.
“This is huge news for residents of Skid Row and South Los Angeles – where the failed War on Drugs has destroyed communities and lives for decades,” said LA CAN organizer General Dogon. “We still have a long way to go to fix this broken prison system, but this is a big step forward.”
The changes that took effect on Saturday follow a July 2014 vote by the United States Sentencing Commission to retroactively apply an amendment approved by the same government panel in April 2014 that lowers Federal Guidelines for sentencing persons convicted of drug trafficking crimes. Federal judges may now begin referencing the reduced guidelines in the course of sentencing persons convicted of drug trafficking crimes and individuals who were sentenced under the old drug sentencing guidelines may begin petitioning a federal judge for a hearing to evaluate whether their sentence can be shortened to match the reduced guidelines. The underlying drug guidelines amendment that shortened the length of drug sentencing guidelines was approved by the United States Sentencing Commission and submitted to Congress for review in April.
The United States Sentencing Commission’s decision reflects efforts underway in Congress and by the Obama Administration to reform federal drug sentencing laws, as well as a broader effort to adapt federal policy to overwhelming public support for reforming drug laws, ending marijuana prohibition, and reducing collateral consequences of a drug conviction. In 2010 Congress unanimously passed legislation reducing the crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparity. Bipartisan legislation reforming mandatory minimum sentencing, the Smarter Sentencing Act, has already passed out of committee this year and is awaiting a floor vote in the Senate. Attorney General Eric Holder has made numerous changes this year, including directing U.S. Attorneys to charge certain drug offenders in a way that makes ensures they won’t be subject to punitive mandatory minimum sentencing.
According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission and a recent report by the Congressional Research Service, mandatory minimums have significantly contributed to overcrowding and racial disparities in the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The BOP operates at nearly 140 percent capacity – and is on track to use one-third of the Justice Department’s budget. More than half of the prisoners in the BOP are serving time for a drug law violation. Even though African-Americans are no more likely than Whites to use or sell drugs, evidence shows they are far more likely to be prosecuted for drug law offenses and far more likely to receive longer sentences than Whites. With less than 5% of the world’s population – but nearly 25% of the world’s prison population – the U.S. leads the world in the incarceration of its own citizens.