Safer Cities…for whom?

Marchers from San Julian Park in the heart of skid row were greeted with thunderous cheers as they joined residents and friends from organizations throughout Los Angeles gathered in an empty lot across from the LA Community Action Network storefront. The rally and protest against the LAPD’s occupation of our community had begun.
The large crowd assembled on September 25th mirrored a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-generational Los Angeles. This kaleidoscope put to rest all of the age-old stereotypes used to keep us divided.
LA CAN member, Pam Walls opened with an unforgettable rendition of “We Shall Overcome,” while everyone locked hands held high in unity.
LA CAN member Al Sabo spoke eloquently about his experience as a resident of downtown LA and the injustices he has suffered and witnessed.
LA CAN member Pete White’ s speech ignited the crowd.
He said: “I look out at you and see a historic beauty. As our country is reeling from economic instability and uncertainty, you unselfishly are here. As the government ponders using our resources to bail out those that have sucked our communities dry, further bankrupting our communities into the foreseeable future, you are here.

“We have always been here staring adversity straight in the eye, rising to the moment, and ultimately passing the test. From the Warsaw Ghettos to the streets of Skid Row we are still here; from the migrant farm worker movement to the South Central Farmers, we are still here! From the ravages of slavery and abolition to the continued struggle for our Human Rights we are still here! From Operacion Mojado to the ICE raids of today we are still here! From interment camps to Lil Tokyo we are still here, still fighting, righting the wrongs and demanding a brighter day.

“We have gathered today to bring an end to the Safer Cities Initiative that was launched in 2006, against our community resulting in:
•    18,000 arrests in a community of approximately 13,000.

•    24,000 citations, more than 50 times greater than anywhere else in the city. Tickets given to blind and disabled residents while they are in handcuffs, and to people whose cigarette ashes fall to the ground.

•    $6 million, the minimum cost to patrol 50 squares blocks of Skid Row

•    $5.7 million, the total homeless service budget for the entire city of Los Angeles—all 469 square miles.

“This Mayor has stolen a page right from the Bush Doctrine when it comes to his War Against the Poor. Masquerading as a progressive, he is single-handedly responsible for the destruction of thousands of lives. He has stood steadfast behind an LAPD surge that parallels the occupation in Iraq. He has allowed the arrest of human rights defenders/organizers simply for attempting to document his heinous occupation—in full contradiction of who he says he is and in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But just as the Iraq occupation has failed, so too will Villaraigosa’s domestic occupation.

“Remember, what’s popular is not always right, and what’s right is not always popular!
“Mr. Mayor your reign of nothing ness is just about over!”
Responding to the call of this rousing speech, we set off for City Hall marching and chanting with defiance and determination.  We took and held the intersection in front of LA City Hall sending an electric shock reverberating through our downtown neighborhood.
Those in power want us to stay divided and silent. We proved them wrong once again. We showed them a small sample of what the people are prepared to do for human and civil rights, and we let them know that we will not go silently.


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