Archive for the civil rights Category

CA Senator Liu Introduces Legislation Aimed at Stopping Homeless Criminalization

Posted in civil rights on January 15, 2016 by Cangress

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Press Release | For Immediate Release
Contact: Eric Ares 213.458.3909

Senator Carol Liu Introduces Legislation Protecting the Civil Rights of Homeless Individuals

Sacramento. California State Senator Carol Liu (D – La Cañada Flintridge) has introduced a new bill designed to end discrimination against people experiencing homelessness. SB 876 prohibits law enforcement from arresting or ticketing people for resting, eating, or practicing religion in public spaces.

According to Senator Liu, “this bill is intended to ensure equal rights for the homeless. It’s time to address poverty, mental health, and the plight of the homeless head-on as a social issue and not a criminal issue. Citing the homeless for simply resting in a public space creates a criminal record that can lead to rejection for jobs, education loans, and housing and further block their pathway out of poverty,” she added.

According to a 2015 report by the UC Berkeley School of Law Policy Advocacy Clinic, the number of anti-homeless laws passed by California municipalities has risen sharply in recent years. In total, the 58 cities researched in the study have enacted at least 500 anti-homeless laws – nearly nine laws per city on average.

Recently announced efforts to combat homelessness include California State Senate President Pro Tempore, Kevin de León’s bi-partisan “No Place Like Home” initiative, which would provide 2 billion dollars for cities to build permanent supportive housing for the homeless. Coupling housing with treatment for mental illness and other wrap-around support services provides a long-term, sustainable solution to homelessness. However, funding for housing and wrap-around services is just one piece of a multi-pronged strategy that must also include putting an end to criminalizing the homeless.

“We applaud sincere efforts to build more permanent supportive housing, but no plan or strategy to end homelessness is complete without ceasing the failed policies that ticket or jail people for sleeping, eating, or sitting in public when they have no other place to go,” says Paul Boden of the Western Regional Advocacy Project, which coordinates the coalition of 140 organizations across the state that are supporting SB 876. “Even if we get new money to build the housing we critically need, it will take time to develop those units and house people. Cities cannot continue to make illegal the basic life-sustaining activities of people who have no other choice but to live in public.”

The growing rate at which cities are criminalizing homelessness is not unique to California. Rather, it reflects a national trend in practices that are increasingly being challenged in federal courts. In December 2015, a federal judge suspended a Ft. Lauderdale law banning public food sharing after a 90-year old resident was arrested twice for serving meals to homeless individuals.

“SB 876 is consistent with the federal government’s condemnation of practices that criminalize homelessness and violate their civil rights,” said Maria Foscarinis, Executive Director at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. “Under this bill, we hope communities will apply their resources to develop housing and other services for the homeless. Such strategies are less expensive and more successful at ending homelessness than criminalization; a practice the U.S. Department of Justice has said is unconstitutional.”

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Over 120 Organizations and Civic Leaders Respond to Homeless “State of Emergency” Announcement: Stop the Criminalization and Create Real, Permanent Solutions

Posted in civil rights with tags , , , on October 14, 2015 by Cangress

Logos for Sign Ons

Open letter to Mayor Garcetti and LA City Council Regarding the Homeless “State of Emergency” Declaration

We write you in response to the recent declaration of a homeless “state of emergency” in Los Angeles and an announcement of a $100 million investment towards homeless services and housing. While we welcome the call for more resources for solutions to homelessness, this must translate into substantial, long-term sources of funding and, equally important, an end to the failed policy of criminalizing the lives of homeless residents through laws and enforcement that punish people for being poor and only make it more difficult for someone to get out of homelessness.

The homeless “state of emergency” did not create itself. The City has invested hundreds of millions dollars to address homelessness in the past several years, but the large majority of that money has gone to the Los Angeles Police Department to cite, arrest and otherwise police people who need resources, not fines and jail time. Just last year, according to Chief Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, $87 million of the $100 million that went toward addressing homelessness out of the City’s general fund was spent on LAPD arrests of homeless people. This is not only an inhumane strategy, it is a wasteful and ineffective one as well. Many of you now seem to agree, which we welcome. Mayor Garcetti has called criminalization efforts “pennywise pound foolish.” We were encouraged that Councilmember Huizar also joined us in saying that “this approach to homelessness has failed” and that “we can’t ignore the problem, and we can’t arrest our way out of it.”

Only $13 million in one-time funds have been identified with no real plan of how you all will get the additional $87 million or ensure long-term investments to really impact the homeless crisis. This must happen immediately if your constituents are to believe this announcement is a real commitment to change. Additionally, increases in financial resources towards this crisis will only work if the City abandons what has been its primary approach toward homelessness over the past decade: criminalizing the lives of homeless residents. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is now requiring that localities have a proactive plan to prevent the criminalization of homelessness or federal funds will be at risk. The time is now. The City can and must redirect millions of dollars towards housing and services and create an environment to ensure homeless residents are not criminalized or penalized for life-sustaining activities.

As Councilmember Bonin recently stated, the City needs to “get out of this cycle we’ve been in of trying to enforce against people who have no alternative.” To this end, in order to adequately address the homeless “state of emergency” with a plan for long-term, dedicated resources, we call on you to do the following:

1. Identify long-term, sustained sources of local funding totaling at least $100 million per year and dedicate the large majority of those resources toward new permanent supportive housing units.

2. End all “quality-of-life” and “Safer Cities” enforcement against homeless residents, including, but not limited to:

a. Evaluating and repealing punitive laws such as LA Municipal Code 56.11, 63.44 B and I, and 41.18D.
b. Redirecting the $87 million spent on arresting homeless people, as identified in the recent CAO report, toward permanent solutions to homelessness.

3. Provide emergency public health resources to people living on the streets without major investment in infrastructure, including mobile restrooms and showers, mobile health and mental health services, and voluntary storage facilities.

At the announcement, City Council President Wesson declared, “Today, we step away from the insanity of doing the same thing and hoping for different results, and instead chart our way to ending homelessness.” Announcing a goal of $100 million is a start. Words that acknowledge the failed policy of criminalization are promising. But if the City is to truly achieve different results, we need your leadership to ensure $100 million per year is identified and spent on housing and public health solutions and finally step away from policing as a strategy to address homelessness. We have the solutions and the City has the financial resources, we now need sustained political action.

Signed,

Alliance of White Anti-Racist Everywhere – Los Angeles
AME Church Ministerial Alliance of Southern California
Anti-Racist Action LA
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles
Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice
Black/Jewish Alliance
Black Lives Matter – Los Angeles
Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB)
California Partnership
Center for Media Justice
Church Without Walls
Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE)
Congregation Kol Ami
Courage Campaign
Dignity and Power Now
Drug Policy Alliance
DRUM- Desis Rising Up & Moving
East LA Community Corporation
Esperanza Community Housing
First To Serve, Inc.
Global Women’s Strike
Housing Works
Hunger Action LA
Inquilinos Unidos
Inner City Law Center
Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP)
Justice Not Jails
Labor/Community Strategy Center
Legal Advocacy Project
Living Word Community Church
Los Angeles Anti-Eviction Campaign
Los Angeles Catholic Worker/Hippie Kitchen
Los Angeles Black Worker Center
Los Angeles Community Action Network
Los Angeles Human Right to Housing Collective
Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches
Los Angeles Poverty Department
Los Angeles Tenants Union / Sindicato de Inquilinos de Los
Martin Luther King Coalition of Greater Los Angeles
National Coalition for the Homeless
National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty
National Lawyers Guild, Los Angeles Chapter
A New Way of Life
Occupy Venice
People Organizing for Westside Renewal (POWER)
Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles (PSR-LA)
Progressive Christians Uniting
Proyecto Pastoral at Dolores Mission
Revolutionary Autonomous Communities Los Angeles
Rodney Drive Tenants Association
Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness
Skid Row Housing Trust
South Asians for Justice – Los Angeles
Southern California Homeless Bill of Rights Coalition
Southern Christian Leadership Conference
St. John’s Well Child and Family Center
St. Mary’s Center
Stop LAPD Spying Coalition
Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE)
Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE)
Thai Community Development Center
Topanga Peace Alliance
Trust South LA
Union de Vecinos
United Homeless Healthcare Partners
Venice Community Housing Corporation
Venice Justice Committee
Voice of My People Foundation
Wesley Health Centers & JWCH Institute
Western Center on Law and Poverty
Western Regional Advocacy Project
Women Organizing Resources, Knowledge and Services (W.O.R.K.S.)
Youth Justice Coalition

Individuals (Organizational Affiliation for Identification Purposes Only)

Aminah Abdul-Jabbaar, Filmmaker and Professor, CSULA
Dr. Melina Abdullah, Professor, CSULA & Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles
Professor Jody Armour, Roy Crocker Professor of Law, USC
Akilah Bakeer, Social Worker
Larry Aubry, Journalist, ABSA, BCCLA
Gary Blasi, Attorney at Law,Professor of Law Emeritus, UCLA
Margo Bouchet, Attorney at Law
Jordan T. Camp, Postdoctoral Fellow Center for the Study of Race & Ethnicity in America (CSREA)
Thandisizwe Chimurenga, Journalist
Chuck D, Public Enemy
Rosa Clemente, 2008 Green Party VP Candidate and co-founder Hip Hop National Political Convention
Patrisse Cullors, Co-Founder Black Lives Matter
Michael Datcher, Author and Professor, Loyola Marymount University
Ralph D. Fertig , ACSW Federal Admin. Judge (Ret.) Professor, USC School of Social Work
Regina Freer, Professor, Occidental College
Alicia Garza, Co-Founder of Black Lives Matter
Jonathan Gomez, Artist
Nana Gyamfi, Attorney at Law
Stephen Gyllenhaal, Film and Television Director
Dr. Ange-Marie Hancock, Professor, US
Phyllis Jackson, PhD, Associate Professor, Pomona College
Dr. Angela James, Professor, Loyola Marymount University
Gaye Theresa Johnson, Associate Professor, UCLA
Erin Aubry Kaplan, Journalist
Rev. Peter Laarman, Coordinator, Justice Not Jails
Dr. Libby Lewis, Adjunct Professor, UCLA
Professor George Lipsitz, Professor, UCSB
Lynn Martinez, Attorney at Law
Diane Middleton, Diane Middleton Foundation
Dena Montague, Postdoctoral Fellow, UCSB
Marilyn Montenegro, PhD., Coordinator NASW Women’s Council Prison Project
Maegan Ortiz, IDEPSCA
Jose M. Paez, Professor, CSUN
Yasser Arafat Payne, Ph.D.Associate Professor, University of Delaware
Kevin Powell, Author and Journalist
Margaret Prescod, Global Women’s Strike
Vivian Price, Ph.D., Associate Professor, CSUDH
John Raphling, Attorney at Law
Dr. Anthony Ratcliff, Professor, CSULA
Steven Renderos, Center for Media Justice
Dr. Boris Ricks, Professor, CSUN
Cynthia Ruffin, Downtown Women’s Action Coalition/Liberation Artist/Revolutionary Angel
Rev. Dr. Roslyn Satchel, Minister, Attorney and Community Activist
Aqeela Sherrills, Organizer and Peace Activist, Watts, CA
Mark Simon, Rodney Drive Tenants Association
Carol Sobel, Civil Rights Attorney
Dan Stormer, Attorney at Law
Alan Sutton, The Louise Sutton Kindness for All Foundation
Dave Wagner, Professor, University of Southern Maine
John Walton Senterfitt, PhD, RN Epidemiologist and Ethicist, L. A. County Dept. of Public Health
Goetz Wolff , Immediate Past President, UC-AFT 1990

10-12 LAPD Officers Tase, Fire Bean Bags at Man in Wheel Chair in DTLA

Posted in civil rights, video with tags , , , on July 21, 2015 by Cangress

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.

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 Time for Remorse has Long Passed! #BlackLivesMatter #JusticeforEricGarner

Posted in civil rights, video with tags , , , , , on December 5, 2014 by Cangress


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

Post-Operation Healthy Streets with Councilmember Jose Huizar

Posted in civil rights, human & civil rights, video with tags , , , , , on August 29, 2014 by Cangress

Much has been made of Councilmember Jose Huizar’s Operation Healthy Streets. And the plan SOUNDS good on camera – cleaning streets and connecting homeless residents in Skid Row to services and housing via street outreach (an idea that Huizar suggests has “never been done before”). However, when the cameras are shut off and you try to get into the details of what kind of “housing” will be made available, then the answers and talking points don’t sound so polished.

Also, homeless outreach as a strategy has been done (and done well) by many groups across the city for years.The real issue is not outreach, but the lack of sufficient services and complete lack of housing!

LA is “crafting a new plan” for Skid Row – unfortunately in reality it’s really just talking points.

Posted in civil rights, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 17, 2014 by Cangress
OCANO PHoto

May 2014 – Carlos Ocano, a homeless Skid Row resident with a known mental illness, who fell to his death after LAPD SWAT Team shot him with non-lethal ammunition. Why was SWAT called instead of the System-wide Mental Assessment Response Team (SMART), which pairs mental health professionals with specially trained officers? (Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Police Department and City of Los Angeles are “crafting new plan to help homeless on skid row.” This includes “developing a new strategy for taming pervasive homelessness on skid row, easing up on arrests for petty offenses while concentrating mental health, medical, housing and sanitation services in the long-troubled swath of downtown.” Unfortunately, this rhetoric – both on the part of the writer and city officials who are quoted throughout the piece – does not reflect the actual criminalization of an entire community and too often deadly use of force that continues to characterize LAPD policing in Skid Row.

To be clear, LA CAN has opposed “broken windows” policing from the day it was introduced in the form of the “Safer Cities Initiative.” The flawed policing method, introduced by former Chief Bill Bratton in 2006, has brought nothing but long-term devastation  that continues to plague the community. We would welcome any sincere efforts to shift the focus in Skid Row from policing and criminalization to housing, mental health services, and public health infrastructure. These are concrete solutions to ending homelessness that LA CAN has worked on securing for well over a decade.

LAPD San 6

July 2014 – LAPD officers at 6th and San Pedro after telling homeless residents they had to take their belongings and move on or “they would be going to jail.” (Credit: AARON CANTÚ)

However, the residents of Skid Row just aren’t seeing this supposed “more progressive approach” that LAPD Captain John McMahon describes in the article. Rather, residents continue to experience the more of the same: Citations and harassment for basic life-sustaining activities (like sitting or sleeping on the street); a lack of restroom facilities, trash cans, public space and other public services/amenities enjoyed by Downtowners who live west of Main St.; the business community actively opposing projects that would house homeless residents; regular examples of aggressive, violent, and deadly force; Private property theft on the part of Business Improvement District Guards/Workers; Racial profiling and targeting; and, an overall policing style that violates basic civil and human rights and punishes people for being homeless rather than connecting individuals with the services and support they need.

And if there is a new approach to how the community is policed, why haven’t the residents themselves heard about it? LA CAN has tried regularly to set up community meetings in which residents can express their ideas and concerns about the Safer Cities Initiative directly to LAPD and the Police Commission, and those demands and requests have been consistently declined. Recently LA CAN met with new leadership at LAPDs Central Division, secured a community meeting time and date to discuss Safer Cities implementation, only to have the meeting canceled at the last moment.

LA CAN welcome’s a genuine move toward actual solutions to homelessness (housing, services, ending the Safer Cities Initiative) – and have been organizing to make that a reality. However, we fully understand that just because LAPD says something doesn’t make it so – we will be convinced when the rubber meets the proverbial road.

arrest

June 2014 – A female resident of Skid Row being arrested after not listening to LAPD’s orders to get out of the street.