Archive for skid row

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.

Updated: Open Letter from Skid Row Leaders to City of LA Electeds and LAPD #CANTKILLAFRICA #BLACKLIVESMATTER

Posted in #blacklivesmatter, #cantkillafrica with tags , , , on March 17, 2015 by Cangress

To add your organization to the letter, please contact Becky at 213.228.0024 | beckyd@cangress.org.

Link to PDF: http://bit.ly/1H3YZ0W

Open letter to City of LA elected officials, Los Angeles Police Department, public agencies, and others in Los Angeles

We write in sadness and anger at the killing of yet another unarmed man by the Los Angeles Police Department in the Skid Row community. As a predominately African American community, we also declare that #BlackLivesMatter, and view the killing of the man known as “Africa” as part of the growing crisis of law enforcement officers killing unarmed Black men in Los Angeles and across the nation.

We also write with a unified voice about the long-standing and systemic issues facing Skid Row that continue to lead to senseless and unjustified deaths and other injustices in our community.

We call on elected and public officials, and all other Angelinos, to invest in real and large-scale solutions to address homelessness and extreme poverty instead of the overconcentration of police officers as the main “solution” that residents have endured for the past 8 ½ years, after the 2006 launch of LAPD’s Safer Cities Initiative brought between 50 and 110 additional officers into a 50-square block community.

There is no denying that LAPD officers shot and killed Africa, who was unarmed and by most accounts living with a mental illness. However, the death of Africa must also be seen within the context of institutional and policy failures that have perpetuated the problems of Skid Row for decades while not sufficiently investing in concrete solutions that would end homelessness and extreme poverty. We present five critical demands that need urgent attention and implementation by our local elected officials immediately.

1. Invest in housing at the scale needed to truly impact LA’s homeless crisis, including creating new local sources of funding, re-allocating existing resources to housing, and actively fighting for much-needed state and federal funding. A minimum of 10,000 units of permanent supportive housing are needed in the City of Los Angeles, yet in the past 8 years the City has produced only about 1,200 units (this number also includes rehabilitation of units previously home to other low-income people). At that pace, it would take at least 65 years to meet the need. Among new housing produced in the City, a significant increase in permanent supportive and other affordable housing is needed within Skid Row and greater Downtown LA. For example, over the past decade or so, tens of thousands of upscale units have been created but only about 800 new permanent supportive or affordable units have been constructed in that time.

2. End the Safer Cities Initiative (SCI) and remove all extra officers associated with SCI from the Skid Row community. The overconcentration of police create an environment of almost constant contact with officers among residents facing homelessness, mental illness, substance abuse, or other health conditions that put them at extreme risk of harassment, citation, arrest, or violence by officers. The City must stop the practice of utilizing police as the main response to homelessness and instead invest in housing and other support services.

3. Expand the LAPD’s SMART teams (mental health professionals and non-uniformed officers) and create a dedicated SMART team to be deployed throughout the Skid Row community, within the existing LAPD budget. The prevalence of mental health issues in the Skid Row community is well known and documented, yet there is no SMART team assigned to our community and, in fact, there is no deployment of existing SMART teams to Skid Row. They work solely inside of Central Division, defeating the purpose of them helping to de-escalate situations and avoid arrests and unnecessary force by officers. Additionally, non-LAPD mental health experts should be funded and utilized as first responders within the community as much as possible.

4. Assign an independent prosecutor and/or a Department of Justice representative to investigate the officers who killed our community member known as Africa. LAPD should release all body camera footage, release the officers’ names and place them on unpaid leave until all internal and external investigations/prosecutions are completed, and conduct a full review of use-of-force policies that allow for lethal force on unarmed individuals.

5. Recognize and promote the community-level assets and expertise and local best practices in the Skid Row community and include Skid Row residents and their allies in all policy making and other decision making. Signatories of this letter have decades of experience and investment in the community and our expertise should be utilized and valued.

There are other contributing factors to extreme poverty and homelessness and other systemic problems in Skid Row. However, the extreme lack of housing and extreme over-policing are the most pressing issues today and, if not reversed, will continue to fuel more tragedies like the unnecessary and unjustified death of Africa. We envision a community with policies and resources that reflect the diversity, strength, needs and compassion of our residents. If our elected and public officials share this vision and truly care about Africa’s death, the human rights violations throughout Skid Row, and ending homelessness and poverty, they must take concrete steps to turn this vision into a reality. They can start by immediately implementing the above solutions.

Signed by Skid Row Organizations and Stakeholders:
Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice – Los Angeles
Dignity and Power Now
Downtown Women’s Action Coalition
DramaStage Qumran
Homeless Health Care Los Angeles
Issues and Solutions
Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles
Los Angeles Catholic Worker/Hippie Kitchen
Los Angeles Community Action Network
Los Angeles Human Right to Housing Collective
Los Angeles Poverty Department
United Coalition East Prevention Project

Pastor Cue, Church without Walls and Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Katherine McNenny, Skid Row Resident and Founder of Industrial District Green
Carol Sobel, Civil Rights Attorney representing dozens of Skid Row residents

Endorsed by Local, State and National Allies:
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – LA
AWARE-LA
Black Alliance for Just Immigration
Black Community Clergy and Labor Alliance
Black Lives Matter – LA
Coalición de Derechos Humanos
Hunger Action Los Angeles
Los Angeles Anti-Eviction Campaign
National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty
People Organized for Westside Renewal (POWER)
Public Counsel
St. John’s Well Child and Family Center
Stop LAPD Spying Coalition
Union de Vecinos
Western Regional Advocacy Project
Women Organizing Resources, Knowledge and Services (WORKS)

boona cheema, Founder of Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency
David Wagner, PhD, Professor, Author and National Expert on Homelessness


Open Letter to City of LA and LAPD from Skid Row Leaders

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 February/March 2015 Community Connection is NOW AVAILABLE!

Posted in community connection with tags , , , , , on February 25, 2015 by Cangress

CC.FebMar2015

Click HERE to read the February/March 2015 Community Connection.

Click HERE to download a high-resolution PDF version.

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.

 

LA CAN Opposes 2014-15 $3.7 Million Operation Healthy Streets Allocation

Posted in civil rights with tags , , on May 14, 2014 by Cangress

On Tuesday Morning (May 13), the LA City Council approved funding for Operation Healthy Streets.

The Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN) welcomes a bit of forward progress in addressing the deep disparities between residents that live east of Main Street versus their neighbors to the west. The City Administrative Office (CAO) report begins to cobble together resources that, if spent wisely, can be used as a down-payment to finally address the glaring apartheid-like conditions that exist in Downtown Los Angeles. We stand firmly behind the emergency allocations for fiscal year 2013 – 2014; however, at this time we cannot  support  2014 -2015 $3.7 million  allocation as proposed.

Community residents, members of LA CAN, have fought long and hard to ensure public health infrastructure would become a reality. In fact, residents conducted a participatory research project entitled The Dirty Divide, which captured and measured the true depths of the problem associated with a lack of trash cans; non-working and too few restroom facilities; no soap and water for washing and drinking; and, a heavy reliance on the LAPD and business community to serve as the voice of public health needs in our community. Many of the final conclusions and recommendations mirrored the items that the City of Los Angeles was cited for in multiple inspections by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

LA CAN prides itself in developing leaders so that we may have voice, power and opinion in the decisions directly impacting us. The CAO report and its expedited timetable robbed our members and other Angelenos the opportunity to weigh in with substantive feedback. In short, this proposal was waived passed two committees and placed on the City Council floor for its first and final decision. Moreover, the impetus to move the proposal so swiftly was nothing more than political double-talk – with the City Attorney informing the Council that this proposal was the only thing that could bring them in compliance with the Lavan Injunction, which prevents the City and its agents from stealing and destroying houseless people’s property. It also notes that in the event property is creating a health or safety hazard there are still measures that must be taken by the City before simply taking personal property.

As is the case with many things related to homelessness and poverty in Los Angeles, the only time we seem to move is when the heat is on. At LA CAN we plan to keep the heat on to ensure that the $3.7 million is not squandered and wasted in administrative costs and that Downtown’s poorer residents get their fair share. We believe that our City is better than the contradictions its elected officials continue to allow in Downtown.

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