Archive for Central City East Association

Skid Row Residents and Orgs. Sue DTLA BID and City of LA for Unlawful Seizure of Property

Posted in press release with tags , , , , , on September 22, 2014 by Cangress
Skid Row Residents and Organizations Sue DTLA BID and City of LAW for Unlawful Seizure of Property

LOS ANGELES, CA (September 19, 2014)—Los Angeles Catholic Worker, Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN), Harry James Jones, Louis Grady, Lloyd Hinkle and Walter Shoaf filed a lawsuit in federal court today against the Los Angeles Downtown Industrial District Business Improvement District (LADID), Central City East Association (CCEA), and the City of Los Angeles to stop the LADID and City from seizing the personal property of homeless individuals on Skid Row, in violation of their constitutional rights.  They are represented by the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) and Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris and Hoffman, LLP.

The City of Los Angeles is already under a federal court injunction prohibiting it from seizing property that is not abandoned, an immediate threat to health or safety, or evidence of a crime. Despite the injunction, LADID’s cadre of public safety officers in red shirts continue to take unattended property from homeless people living on the streets of Skid Row.

The seizures at issue are separate from street cleaning by the City and are not part of an organized maintenance schedule.  Instead, BID officers take people’s property without any notice – with seizures often occurring during times that officers know that homeless individuals are receiving services or eating at area missions. People step away from their property for often only minutes at a time to get a meal, go to a medical appointment, or even use the rest room.   When they return, all of their worldly possessions, including tents, bedding, and warm clothing, are gone—taken by truck to a location at the edge of the district.  The location is hard to reach and a far distance for people to transport property back to the places they regularly sleep, particularly without the assistance of the trucks that took the property away.  These seizures serve no purpose other than to make life even harder for homeless residents in Skid Row.

Last year, Harry James Jones, a disabled Vietnam War veteran, neatly packed up all his belongings including his identification card, his life-saving medication, tent, and clothing.  Same as every day, he went to get some food.  While he was gone, LADID officers took all of his property.  They left no receipt for him to retrieve the property when he got back. “I was only gone for a little while.  When I came back, all of my things were gone,” said Mr. Jones. “I had no way to know the Red Shirts would take my things when I was gone.  I didn’t have my medicine for weeks, and I didn’t have my ID to get a refill. I got very sick and wound up in the hospital.”

Lloyd Hinkle, another Vietnam War veteran, had similarly neatly packed his property, and a neighbor was watching over it while he went to eat. LADID officers, with the assistance of the LAPD, seized his belongings, despite being told they were not abandoned by both Hinkle’s neighbor and members of LA CAN, who videotaped the incident.  LAPD officers prevented witnesses and members and staff of LA CAN from intervening to stop the LADID officers from taking Mr. Hinkle’s belongings.  The LAPD officer insisted that BID officers were doing their jobs and that she and the officers were only taking abandoned property, even as LA CAN members insisted that the owner of the property was nearby. Mr. Hinkle was unable to predict the seizure, and he has no way of knowing when they will come for his property again. “Since they took my stuff, I’m less willing to leave, even to get a meal or see the doctor,” said Mr. Hinkle.  “I don’t want to risk the red shirts coming and taking my stuff again.”

Plaintiff Los Angeles Catholic Worker (LACW) distributes shopping carts to homeless people in Skid Row.  The carts are given to people so they can store their belongings and also use the carts to assist them in moving their property from one location to another.  LACW also provides meals, toiletries, and foot care to hundreds of homeless people in Skid Row every year.  “Because of ill-fitting shoes and poor foot care and the challenges of being homeless, so many people on the Row have problems just walking and getting around.  The carts not only give people a place to put their things, but they also help many people just walk down the street,” said Catherine Morris, one of the group’s organizers. “The BID’s constant taking of people’s things and our carts make it harder for people to live on the street and harder for us to do our work.”

Media Contacts:
Jeff Dietrich, Los Angeles Catholic Worker, 323-267-8789 or 310-627-7308
Becky Dennison, Los Angeles Community Action Network, 213-840-4664
Shayla Myers, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, 213-640-3983
Fernando Gaytan, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, 213-640-3831
Catherine Sweetser, Schonbrun Desimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman, LLP., 310-396-0731

Spanish speakers available upon request.

Footage and Coverage of LA CAN Press Conference on LAPD Lawsuit

Posted in press coverage with tags , , , , , , , on March 12, 2014 by Cangress
Yesterday morning in front of LAPD Headquarters the Los Angeles Community Action Network announced our lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles, LAPD, and the Central City East Association because of their coordinated efforts to silence LA CAN, prevent us from exercising our first amendment rights, and their malicious acts that resulted in the wrongful prosecution of one of LA CAN’s longest term organizers, Deborah Burton.
Click HERE (or on the photo to the left) to read the Los Angeles Times article covering the announcement.

This lawsuit is a result of years of unfair and unjust targeting of LA CAN staff and members by LAPD, a long history of retaliation against us for fiercely and loudly opposing LAPD’s racist Safer Cities Initiative in Skid Row, and, more recently, their efforts to even more blatantly favor the Downtown business community’s position by stifling our right to protest and manufacturing charges against our staff.Through all of the attempts to criminalize us and silence us, LA CAN leaders and members remain unified and strong.  We will continue to organize, continue to protest when needed, and we are hopeful the federal courts will uphold our constitutional rights and direct the City and LAPD to change their tactics, since all efforts at engaging with City officials to stop the years of harassment have failed.

Click HERE to read the official LA CAN Press Conference Statement in its entirety.

Click HERE to view the press packet, which includes the Press Release and a copy of the lawsuit, as well as a few key photos and emails from LAPD Officer Shannon Paulson to employees of the Central City East Association. These documents only scratch the surface of the coordinated effort to prevent LA CAN from exercising our constitutional rights.

Additional Coverage:
Equal Voice, “Los Angeles Group Files Civil Rights Suit Against Police”
Annenberg TV News, “Activist Sues City of LA”

Photos: LA CAN Announces Lawsuit Against City and LAPD

Posted in photos, press coverage with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 11, 2014 by Cangress

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LA Times: “Skid row activists file lawsuit accusing city of stifling dissent”

Posted in civil rights, Media Advisory, press release with tags , , , , , , , on March 11, 2014 by Cangress

Below you will find a Los Angeles Times piece by Gale Holland covering the announcement of the LA CAN lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), Central City East Association (CCEA), Downtown Industrial District Business Improvement District, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, LAPD Lieutenant Shannon Paulson, and former CCEA Executive Director Estela Lopez.

Click HERE for the full press release.

Deborah Burton
By Gale HollandMarch 10, 2014, 4:29 p.m.

A federal civil rights lawsuit filed Monday accuses the city of Los Angeles of malicious prosecution for charging a skid row community organizer with assault after she blew an air horn during a demonstration.

City Atty. Carmen Trutanich charged Deborah Burton, 62, with misdemeanor assault and battery for allegedly blowing the horn in officials’ ears during a 2011 skid row protest. Burton was acquitted of all charges last July. The suit says the charges were aimed at stifling political dissent.

Police conspired with business leaders, distorted crime reports and lied on the witness stand to frame Burton for crimes she did not commit, the suit says.

City Atty. Mike Feuer, who succeeded Trutanich, said in an earlier interview that the Burton claim had no merit.

“We proceeded in that case in a highly professional way,” he said.

LAPD Lt. Andy Neiman said the department would not comment on a pending lawsuit.

The suit, brought by the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles on behalf of Burton and the Los Angeles Community Action Network, also accuses police of harassing and intimidating group members and falsely arresting its leaders.

The actions were designed to silence the group’s protests against the displacement and “criminalization” of poor residents of skid row, the densest concentration of homeless and extremely low-income people in the country, the suit says.

“Many business interests and the City officials who support them apparently see the existence of high concentrations of poor people in the area, especially African American men and the highly visible homeless population, as an obstacle to planned business expansion and development,” says the suit.

Also named in the suit are the Downtown Industrial District Business Improvement District, whose security guards patrol skid row on bikes; Central City East Assn. and its former director, Estela Lopez, who ran the improvement district; the Los Angeles Police Department; Police Chief Charlie Beck; and Lt. Shannon Paulson.

“Really, the city should have been helping them fight against homelessness, not put every barrier in their way and blatantly violate their 1st Amendment rights,” said Legal Aid Foundation attorney Barbara Schultz.

The suit seeks an injunction to halt interference with L.A. Community Action Network’s civil and constitutional rights; a declaration that the rights of Burton and her group were violated; and general, special and punitive damages. It was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

The August/September 2013 Community Connection is NOW AVAILABLE!

Posted in community connection with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 9, 2013 by Cangress

AugSept2013 CC Color_web_1

Click on the Photo above to read the August/September 2013.

You can also view a high resolution PDF version HERE.

CCEA Illegally Using Bolt Cutters to Steal Skid Row Resident Property

Posted in video with tags , , , , , , , , on May 1, 2013 by Cangress

Yesterday the LA CAN Community Watch Team came upon the Central City East Association (CCEA) Security Guards attempting to use bolt cutters to illegally confiscate the property of a Skid Row resident. The team intervened to prevent them from stealing the private property, which was clearly not abandoned. However, when the team returned an hour later, the property was gone and the lock was cut.

A September 2012 decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an injunction that bars the City of Los Angeles and LAPD from seizing the property of Skid Row residents. However, private Business Improvement District officers continue to illegally steal property from residents. They regularly claim that this property is abandoned, but LA CAN has documented time and time again that this is not the case. More often than not the property belongs to residents who step away for a few minutes to use the restroom, get a meal, or engage in other life sustaining activities.

Deborah Burton’s Trial Expected in Late April – These Unjust Charges Should be Dropped!

Posted in civil rights, Uncategorized, video with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 21, 2013 by Cangress

Yesterday, LA CAN was featured on Voices on the Frontlines with Eric Mann. Listen below to find out more about the coordinated efforts of CCEA, LAPD, and the City Attorney to silence the human rights work of LA CAN.

Deborah Burton, longtime LA CAN member and organizer, has been unjustly charged with three counts of assault for alleged actions during a legal protest in June 2011. She was not charged until August 2012, 14 months later, and public records show that in the interim months LAPD and the Central City East Association actively lobbied the City Attorney to criminally charge LA CAN members involved in a monthly protest of the CCEA’s “Skid Row Walk.” Deborah is just the latest target of the City Attorney’s ongoing campaign to squash protest and political dissent in Los Angeles, including other LA CAN members.

Since 2006, LA CAN has led the charge against LAPD’s Safer Cities Initiative (SCI), which has brought up to 150 additional cops into the Skid Row community and resulted in mass criminalization of homeless and poor, mostly African American, residents. In 2011, LA CAN and partners began protesting the CCEA’s “Skid Row Walk” because it was a tool to promote SCI, perpetuated myths about homeless people, and lacked the voice and participation of community residents.

Immediately after we began our protests, the CCEA, LAPD, and the City Attorney’s office began coordinating and strategizing on ways to stop LA CAN’s opposition to the walk. The quotes below, from emails obtained through Public Records Request, begin to shine light on just how CCEA was trying to use LAPD and the City Attorney to criminalize first amendment rights.

In one email in April 2011, CCEA’s Estela Lopez assures her colleagues that the City Attorney informed her that “they would explore all legal options to protect us and allow us to conduct our walk without interference from LA CAN.”   In another email sent on June 1, 2011 — the evening of the purported assault — Estela confirms they were able to complete their walk “as planned” and never mentions being assaulted or injured by Ms. Burton or anyone else from LA CAN.   In a July 2011 email from LAPD’s Lieutenant Paulson, she tells the City Attorney that she needs information about the filing and documentation of cases related to the public safety walk because “This is going to be an ongoing problem until it gets too costly for them.”

Stay tuned for more information about the documents obtained.

The targeting of LA CAN members exercising first amendment rights by LAPD, at the demand of business leaders, is clearly unjust. The City Attorney should not prosecute this unsubstantiated case and should not continue his past history of criminalizing protest and first amendment rights.

LA CAN members and supporters will be calling on the City Attorney over the coming weeks to drop these charges and not pursue this trial. Please join us! You can call the City Attorney’s office directly (213-978-8100) and/or stay tuned for other ways to get involved by spreading the word through social media and other public actions.

NOW AVAILABLE: May/June 2012 Community Connection!

Posted in civic participation, civil rights, community connection, community gardens, DWAC & Women's Issues, education, food access, human & civil rights, LAPD, organizing, photos, Uncategorized, women's issues with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 13, 2012 by Cangress

The May/June 2012 Community Connection is NOW AVAILABLE!

Click on the Photo above to read the Community Connection Online.
You can also download a PDF version HERE.