Archive for civil rights

Human Rights Victory Today – A Win against City of LA’s Continued Efforts to Criminalize Homelessness instead of Ending It

Posted in civil rights, Homeless Bill of Rights, human & civil rights, LAPD, legal with tags , , , , , on June 19, 2014 by Cangress

Today, the 9th Circuit of the US Court of Appeals overturned a prior lower court decision and ruled that LA Municipal Code Section 85.02 (which prohibits living/sleeping in a vehicle) is an unconstitutionally vague statute and opens the door to discriminatory enforcement against the homeless and the poor.  The Court’s decision states, “Plaintiffs argue that Section 85.02 is unconstitutionally vague on its face because it provides insufficient notice of the conduct it penalizes and promotes arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.  We agree.”

This important case was litigated by Civil Rights Attorney Carol Sobel, with co-counsel by Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, and homeless individuals who were impacted by Section 85.02 enforcement by LAPD.  Several community-based organizations fighting against criminalization and forced displacement in Venice and across the City supported this case as well.  This fight is crucial to upholding the human rights of everyone, of ensuring homeless and poor people have full and equal access to public spaces, and – for those that do have vehicles but have no current access to housing – ensures at least some shelter and safety protections over sleeping on the streets.

California and Los Angeles should enact Homeless Bills of Rights to protect the civil rights of homeless residents, seriously invest in housing solutions, and stop expensive and inhumane criminalization efforts.  Segregation and criminalization of public space cannot continue and this victory is one step toward that.  To get involved in local and statewide campaigns, contact Eric or Dogon at LA CAN, and/or attend the next LA-region Homeless Bill of Rights meeting on Thursday, June 26th at 6:00 PM at LA CAN (838 E. 6th Street, LA 90021).

The full court decision can be read here:  9th circuit DECISION June 2014

COURT APPROVES $1.5 MILLION HUNTINGTON HOTEL LAWSUIT SETTLEMENT

Posted in press release with tags , , , on November 15, 2013 by Cangress

LOS ANGELES, CA (November 15, 2013) — The Honorable Richard Rico of the Los Angeles Superior Court approved a $1.5 million settlement of a lawsuit brought against the owners of the Huntington Hotel in downtown Los Angeles today. The lawsuit was brought by the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) and Steptoe & Johnson LLP, on behalf of three individual tenants and the Los Angeles Community Action Network, a community based organization. The lawsuit was based on the unlawful displacement of at least 60 tenants living in a historical building downtown, in the throes of gentrification.  The tenants alleged that after an ownership change, they were subjected to illegal rent increases, discrimination, harassment and retaliation as the owner attempted to force them out while circumventing statutory tenant protections.  All of the individual plaintiffs represented by LAFLA were elderly and/or persons with disabilities. Many became homeless after leaving the Huntington.

The $1.5 million settlement includes monetary relief for individual plaintiffs’ emotional distress and statutory damages, for LA CAN’s lost resources, a relocation fund for other displaced Huntington tenants, and attorneys’ fees and costs. “It is very difficult to put a monetary value on the cost of being rendered homeless, like so many tenants were,” stated Barbara Schultz, attorney for the plaintiffs. “But at least individual plaintiffs can now afford to improve their living situation, and other displaced tenants are eligible for the pool of relocation funds.”

During the course of the litigation, filed December 2011, the plaintiffs won three preliminary injunctions, based on the legal rental amounts of the units, disability and source of income discrimination, and the right of one individual tenant to return to her unit after an unlawful eviction. “The Huntington Hotel tenants endured some of the worst conditions in the City for years, and then got illegally pushed out as the conditions finally improved. The settlement creates a means to compensate dozens of tenants for this harm, though the City and other regulators must do more upfront to prevent these things from happening at all,” said Becky Dennison, Co-Executive Director of LA CAN.

LAFLA will be honoring Steptoe & Johnson LLP at their Access to Justice Dinner on December 3, 2013 for their laudable pro bono assistance on this case. Find more information at: http://www.lafla.org/access.php.

CONTACTS:

Barbara Schultz, Esq. – Legal Aid Foundation of Law Angeles 213.640.3826
John Swenson, Esq.- Steptoe & Johnson LLP 213.439.9424
Becky Dennison – Los Angeles Community Action Network 213.840.4664

Discriminatory Enforcement on Main Street Hits a New Low — Sitting in Your Own Wheelchair No Longer Allowed??!!

Posted in civil rights, human & civil rights, LAPD, photos, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on September 5, 2013 by Cangress

This morning, LA CAN observed LAPD Officer Janata telling three longtime Skid Row residents who were near the corner of 5th and Main that they could not be on the sidewalk and had to leave.  He told them they were not allowed to sit on the sidewalk between 6 am and 9 pm.  These three men were sitting down – but in their own wheelchairs!  At one point, 2 private security guards and 7 officers were on scene in response to …… no crime at all.  This over-response of law enforcement lasted about 30 minutes – all because 3 low-income Black men defended their rights and were not going to be scared off just because security guards and LAPD wrongfully told them they had to move.  Finally, an LAPD Sergeant arrived who upheld the actual law and informed the men that they could remain on the sidewalk as long as they were not blocking foot traffic or any doors.  However, the Sergeant would not respond to a complaint by an LA CAN member on site that Officer Janata had said the exact opposite.  In fact, Sgt. Ramirez said that technically the men were violating the law by sitting down (LAMC 41.18d), but of course they would “let” them sit in their wheelchairs if they had to.  No matter the amount of security and police, low-income people of color will continue to resist the oppression and enjoy public space in Downtown LA.

At least 7 cops respond to 3 men in wheelchairs who committed no crime

After Dozens of Human Rights Defenders Shut Out by Public Officials Yesterday, Unjust Trial of Deborah Burton Started Today

Posted in civil rights, human & civil rights, LAPD, organizing, photos, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on June 27, 2013 by Cangress

On Tuesday morning, June 25, dozens of human rights defenders gathered in front of LAPD Headquarters in the early hours to again demand that Police Commissioners investigate the evidence submitted in the case against LA CAN organizer Deborah Burton, and later to deliver signed petitions to the City Attorney to demand he drop this case.

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(see past blog posts for more details:  https://cangress.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/cbs-2-protestors-demand-lapd-investigate-charges-against-community-organizer/ and https://cangress.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/deborah-burtons-trial-expected-in-late-april-these-unjust-charges-should-be-dropped/)

LAPD officers refused to let the large majority of our group into the Commission hearing room, though there were many empty chairs.  LAPD then lined the door to City Hall East and refused to let people in the public building to make a request to deliver the petitions to the City Attorney’s office.

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Though City officials who could have intervened to stop these ridiculous and unsubstantiated charges from going forward did nothing but hide from the truth, Deborah and all of her supporters stood confident and tall this morning as trial proceedings begin.  We know the truth is on our side, but we also too deeply understand the criminal in-justice system’s impacts on people of color.  We remain hopeful that justice will prevail.

Contact beckyd@cangress.org to help with court support.  Below, Frank Stoltze of KPCC interviews Deborah about the case.

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STOP LAPD SPYING Community Townhall! Saturday, January 19th at 2pm at Chuco’s Justice Center!

Posted in Stop LAPD Spying with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2013 by Cangress

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The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition invites you to a Community Townhall on Saturday January 19th, 2013 at 2PM at Chuco’s Justice Center. The “War at Home” has been going on for far too long on our collective human rights.

Click HERE to RSVP on the Community Townhall Facebook Event Page.

Everyday new surveillance and spying policies are assaulting our civil liberties, invading our privacy, and wasting public resources. For over a year and a half, the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition has been building diverse grassroots campaign to build public awareness, participation, mobilization and action. The coalition has engaged in broad community outreach, conducted clear analysis and confronted both the perpetrators of state violence like the LAPD and their supporters in the civil rights community who have betrayed our communities by being the mouthpieces of LAPD.

Our vision is the dismantling of government-sanctioned spying and intelligence gathering, in all its multiple forms. Together we build a movement that is intersectional to the core on issues, experiences, demographics and resources.

Start spreading the word, Saturday Jan 19th at 2 PM. Chuco’s Justice Center – 1137 E. Redondo Blvd., Inglewood, CA 90302.

Will We Sleep or Will We Fight?!?!

Click HERE to view and download an English color version of the event flyer.
Click HERE to view and download an English black and white version of the event flyer.

Click HERE to view and download a Spanish color version of the event flyer.
Click HERE to view and download a Spanish black and white version of the event flyer.

The December 2012/January 2013 Community Connection is NOW AVAILABLE!

Posted in community connection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2012 by Cangress

Dec12 Jan13 CC Cover

Click on the Photo above to read the December 2012/January 2013.

You can also view a high resolution PDF version HERE.

LA CAN Concludes 7-Day Siege at the CCA Headquarters

Posted in civil rights, human & civil rights, organizing, photos, press coverage, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 5, 2012 by Cangress

On Monday, June 4th, LA CAN concluded its 7-Day siege at the Headquarters of the Central City Association with marches, rallying cries and a clear message: “CCA, YOUR COPS WON’T SCARE US AWAY!”

Over the past decade, the CCA, the power business lobby in Downtown LA, has been one of the strongest advocates for increased policing and the criminalization of homelessness and poverty downtown. This has made them one of the major foes of poor and homeless residents who have been fighting to preserve their right to exist in a community that many have called home long before the lofts and art galleries that now line Spring and Main.

This most recent action was planned and executed by LA CAN, Occupy LA, and Occupy the Hood L.A. in response to CCA’s successful push to get LAPD to add 50 additional officers to downtown. This is on top of the over 100 uniformed and undercover cops that came to Skid Row in 2006 as part of the Safer Cities Initiative, which was backed heavily by the CCA.

For 7 straight days and nights, over 50 folks camped out in from the the CCA offices located at 626Wilshire Blvd. In the mornings, the groups rallied, passed out fliers to people on their way to work, and maintained a continual visual presence that let CCA know that residents of downtown will not stand idly by as big business and the LAPD attempts to remove their civil and human rights.

For more photos of the action, you can view a slideshow HERE.

Police Commission Finds that Dale Garrett Shooting Last Year was Not Within Policy – But True Justice for Police Murders is Hard to Find

Posted in anti-violence, civil rights, human & civil rights, LAPD, legal, organizing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2012 by Cangress

Dale Garrett was shot and killed by LAPD in the Skid Row community last year at this time – the anniversary of the police murder is this coming Thursday.  LA CAN members and other community members will be holding a vigil in his honor calling for the end of police murders and abuse, and accountability for officers.  The vigil will take place on 5th and Spring Streets at noon – PLEASE JOIN US!

Two weeks ago, the Police Commission finally heard the results of the use of force investigation.  Dale was actually shot twice in the back.  Just as witnesses – many of whom were LA CAN members who came forward to provide testimony – had earlier claimed, the shooting was found to be out of protocol by the Commission – though Chief Beck and the Inspector General found it to be within protocol. The Commissioners found:

“In conclusion, Detective A and B’s failure to follow proper protocols or to operate in a manner consistent with Department tactical training, by having and communicating an operational/tactical plan, to include support personnel, unjustifiably and substantially deviated from approved Department training.”

“In conclusion, the BOPC found Detective A’s lethal use of force to be out of policy.”

Although the Commission took this unusual action to overrule the internal report (they find the large majority of shootings to be justified, though communities know this isn’t true), Chief Beck gets to decide the discipline for these officers.  And the LA Times reported recently that Beck has not been strongly disciplining officers for unjustified shootings – otherwise known as police murders.

While LAPD continues to enforce the most minor violations against poor residents in downtown LA –  sending people to jail for sitting on the sidewalk – their officers are allowed to commit major violations, even kill people, without any consequence.  LA CAN believes criminal charges should be pursued in this case and we will continue to demand police accountability throughout our community – to the policy makers and on the streets.  Stay tuned.

Joel Rubin of the LA Times reported on this today:

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-lapd-shooting-20120507,0,5626899.story

The public version of the use of force report is here:

http://www.lapdonline.org/assets/pdf/042-11_%20Central%20_OIS.pdf

Remembering Rampart, Remembering the Rebellion, Many Changes, Little Improvement

Posted in civic participation, civil rights, human & civil rights, LAPD, organizing with tags , , , , , , , on May 3, 2012 by Cangress

Written by Leonardo Vilchis and Becky Dennison, on behalf of the Los Angeles Human Right to Housing Collective (of which LA CAN is a member organization)

As so many reflected on the 1992 civil unrest last week, we heard stories of fundamental change in the LAPD and how conditions have changed so much within the City of LA since then. However, given the experiences in our communities in Downtown, South and East LA, we couldn’t disagree more. The fact that there have been changes does not mean that there have been improvements. Extreme poverty, lack of meaningful employment, a continuously growing housing and homelessness crisis, a deepening economic and social inequality, and continuing police abuse and racial profiling reflect the same conditions that spurred the uprising in 1992. At the same time we are still dealing with the self-righteous arrogance in LAPD that made Daryl Gates famous. Last week the Times reported that Chief Beck was giving only “conditional reprimands” to officers committing major violations, including unjustified police shootings (sound familiar?), causing discord among some Commissioners and the public. Yet, just one week later spurred by the 20-year anniversary, the same media outlets report on the supposed “changed” LAPD.

It is fitting, then, that the public meeting on the future of the Old Rampart Station also happened last week. The Old Rampart Station, a symbol of police abuse and arrogance, has been abandoned for the last 4 years and is a painful reminder of LAPD’s past that is worsened by the abandonment, neglect in and around the property, and a total disregard for the community that surrounds it. When the LA Human Right to Housing Collective chose the Old Rampart Station for its International Human Rights Day actions last December, it was selected as a symbolic representation of much that is wrong in the City of Los Angeles: the site of some of the worst and most pervasive police abuses in LA’s history; an abandoned and blighted City-owned property that could instead be used for human rights promoting purposes; the City’s budget priority of more than 50% of its budget going toward LAPD when housing, libraries, schools, parks, and other human rights programs are seeing devastating cuts; and the list could go on and on. The Housing Collective created a human rights camp that cold weekend in December to call attention to the abandonment and to demonstrate to the City and LAPD that this site should be used for community serving purposes. What is the city’s response? Rampart is planned to be the new headquarters for LAPD’s Metro Division, including SWAT.

There are two problems with the Metro/SWAT proposal. First, the community was unaware of these plans. There was no community input process in deciding what should happen at a space that holds such painful memories of crime and abuse. In fact, the LAPD representative at last week’s public meeting admitted there had been no community involvement, simply stating they weren’t required to do it. Second, what is the message sent by establishing a SWAT training ground in a community that was victimized and abused by the Police? The site will be turned into a militarized zone controlled by the police without providing any community services. The self-righteous arrogance of LAPD and the complicity of the city with its plans ignore the community’s needs and reaffirm the role of the police as an occupying force in Rampart. Certainly nothing has changed, and most definitely we see no improvement. The police plans and policies do not take into consideration community’s needs and desires.

Since January, local residents and other concerned Angelinos have been working to Reclaim Rampart – to ensure that community-serving purposes are included in any plans for the site and that the site is not solely used to house Metro Division, which will not serve the local community. Community members are also demanding transparency and more comprehensive public input as the City moves forward with its plans. The hearing was the first step, but much more work is needed by local residents, City Officials, and other concerned residents to be sure that LAPD is accountable to the community on this infamous site, and fully accountable to our communities across Los Angeles. That will be a change to welcome and a certain improvement for this community.

National Civil and Human Rights Groups sound the alarm on City Attorney Carmen Trutanich

Posted in civil rights, human & civil rights, organizing, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2011 by Cangress

From the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative website:

“National civil and human rights organizations with a long collective history of defending the right of political expression and challenging the targeting of movement leaders submitted a strongly worded appeal letter to the Los Angeles City Attorney on behalf of Mr. Steve Richardson, a community organizer with the LA Community Action Network (LA CAN) based in the Skid Row community of downtown LA.

Over the past 16 months, Mr. Richardson has been booked, processed and jailed four times on the same troubling charges arising out of one non-violent act of protest.  The letter of appeal in full is attached.”

Civil and Human Rights Organizations that have signed on to the letter:
American Civil Liberties Union – Southern California
Center for Constitutional Rights
International Alliance of Inhabitants
National Economic and Social Rights Initiative
National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty
USA-Canada Alliance of Inhabitants
U.S. Human Rights Network

Click HERE to read the letter.