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

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.

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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

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.

Footage and Coverage of LA CAN Press Conference on LAPD Lawsuit

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7txMjhKDjKU?rel=0]

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:

Predictive Policing? What’s there to predict?

During a recent (February 11 2013) LAPD Police Commission presentation LAPD Capt. Sean Malinowski attempted to describe the science behind the latest policing craze, “predictive policing.” After a little joyful back and forth banter between himself and Commission President Steve Soboroff Malinowski asserts that he doesn’t really understand the science because its “high math and small boxes.” This gleeful assertion coming directly from the person in charge of, yep you guessed it, “predictive policing.”

As could be expected the presentation, and festivities surrounding it, felt more like a pep rally than a presentation geared towards informing the public. Left out of the presentation was the actual cost of the program and potential impacts (social and otherwise) in communities that found themselves located in one of those small boxes. The LAPD did, however, offer up that there was no criminal profiling associated with the new design–sort of suggesting that the computer is responsible for the selecting of squares thus removing bias.

That notion is of course flawed because a living and breathing human being will decide which of the multitudinous small boxes deserves the immediate attention of the LAPD.  Additionally, communities of color (and others) located in gentrifying neighborhoods will most certainly bear the brunt of this latest attempt to “put lipstick on a pig.”

Rest assure, new policing methods are simply new attempts to legitimate and legalize old and  illegal practices. It is important that we understand the tactics are the same soup warmed over and it is our job to reign in the police state.

Join the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition housed at LA CAN to learn more and do more.

What the Hell: So Jaywalking tickets are fine as long as they go to poor, predominantly Black, people in Downtown Los Angeles.

I’m taking this opportunity to call foul! The recent “firestorm” about jaywalking tickets http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-jaywalking-20131218,0,6633088.story#axzz2nyPUszgU in downtown would be laughable if not for the obvious…poor and homeless people of color have been targeted for the same offense (allegedly stepping off the curb after the light starts blinking); handcuffed and detained for inordinate periods of time; and ticketed over and over again on the same streets, for nearly eight years.

Since the launch of the Safer Cities Initiative in 2006 the LAPD has written as many as 1,000 tickets (mostly jaywalking) per month in Downtown Los Angeles. The majority of those tickets have been given to poor, homeless and disabled residents living within the rapidly gentrified boundaries of the city’s center. To put it in perspective that is 1,000 tickets, per month, given to a population of 12,000 – 15,000 people.

Ironically, this is not a new situation. There have been numerous studies and reports done; residents have lobbied the LAPD, the Police Commission, Mayor Villaraigosa, Department of Justice and numerous other duty-bearers; there have been numerous public actions and protests to decry the discriminatory actions  but the complaints fell on deaf ears.

The jaywalking tickets reached such outlandish proportions that it led to the development of the LA CAN Citation Defense Clinic. Week in and week out lawyers from the Los Angeles Legal Aid Foundation and large downtown law firms provided legal representation for residents in downtown to fight against a system that was clearly tantamount to the creation of a debtors prison. But it wasn’t just large firms that responded to this obvious targeting of poor people. Carol Sobel, Gary Blasi, John Raphling and many other lawyers and students brought their resources to bear to stop the ticketing. Research was done; numerous meetings with the City Attorney’s Office happened; meetings with judges in charge of Metropolitan Court happened and plenty of press releases went out…but never the type of FIRESTORM (editorials and such) that we are being bombarded with today.

So, why is that?

The only thing different  is the socio-economic status and race of those (few people) whose privilege is suddenly challenged.

Could it simply be implicit bias? Or, is it institutional and structural racism on full display before our eyes. Is it really the media’s way of saying that poor and homeless people should only be spoken of during holiday dinners served by celebrities? Or, in the case of Downtown poorest residents, Black and Brown residents, are you saying that their humanity simply doesn’t matter?

Rest assure, the FEW tickets given to privileged newcomers in Downtown Los Angeles pale in comparison to the 10’s of thousands DOCUMENTED tickets given to poor Downtowner’s. And, if this outcry is truly about injustice you would feel  duty-bound to lift the injustice in its entirety. You would say, “what’s bad for the goose is bad for the gander!”

There is plenty of EMPIRICAL data, if you so choose to search. You can start right on our blog and that will lead to the United Nations (yes, they had something to say about this) and numerous reports and publications. We look forward to reading fair and balanced coverage of an issue that has crippled many in our community; oftentimes leaving them without Driver’s Licenses; with outstanding arrest warrants because they can’t afford to pay multiple tickets; and, short circuiting their ability to take a step forward.

 

 

LA TIMES 8/31/13: “L.A.’s urban parks: for the homeless too?”

Screen Shot 2013-09-25 at 2.06.14 PMLink to Los Angeles Times article HERE.

By Gale Holland
August 31, 2013, 10:00 a.m.

Dawn was breaking when three scruffy men in dark clothing trudged past Grand Park’s bubble-gum-pink benches and into its purple-tiled bathrooms to wash up.

The early-morning ablutions have become a daily ritual for homeless men at the 1-year-old park across the street from Los Angeles City Hall. But their presence has done little to dim the appeal of the $56-million, county-owned venue, as office workers, loft-dwelling professionals, curious suburbanites and, yes, the homeless flock to evening concerts, public ceremonies, fireworks shows and farmers’ markets.

“I went to the opera the other night,” said Tom Hackett, 60, a former garbage collector from upstate New York and one of the regulars at the homeless bathroom lineup. “I’ve never been to an opera.”

The situation isn’t so harmonious in other downtown parks, however, as officials’ efforts to make the facilities more welcoming to the new urbanites have spurred claims of harassment by skid row advocates.

These efforts have also led to homeless nudged out of one park simply relocating to others blocks away — a reminder that even as much of downtown crackles with new, upscale condos, bars, restaurants and stores, the central city’s revival still depends on maintaining an uneasy truce with one of the nation’s largest concentrations of people living in the streets.

“It’s a game of cat and mouse,” said UCLA law professor Gary Blasi, who has studied homelessness in Los Angeles, “except the mice have nowhere to go.”

In the last year, the city and county have opened or planned several new public spaces, including Grand Park, Spring Street Park, an Arts District park and a parcel next to Grand Park to be developed and managed by the city. They join parks that have welcomed visitors for many decades, including Pershing Square, the grassy grounds of City Hall and the historic sites near Olvera Street that mark the city’s founding.

Park managers at Spring Street and Grand Park included extensive regulations and design elements to discourage homeless people from camping out. Grand Park’s open spaces, stretching 12 acres from Bunker Hill to the foot of City Hall, in the shadow of the criminal court building, offer few hiding places for prostitutes or drug users. It’s also farther away from skid row than some other parks, keeping the homeless count comparatively low.

But five blocks south, a resident describes Pershing Square, the city’s original central park, as a “day-care center” for homeless people. The city is trying to change the park’s character with a whirlwind of movies, concert series and farmers’ markets.

“The homeless need somewhere to sit and be,” said Kevin Regan, a park administrator. “We just aren’t going to let them live there.”

Skid row activists call it harassment.

A Los Angeles Community Action Network activist known as General Dogon leads a weekly patrol at Pershing Square and other downtown parks to monitor what he says is widespread intimidation of the poor and homeless.

Dogon pointed out concrete seating in the shade that had been cordoned off with yellow police tape. A chain blocked access to the lawn. Restrooms in the underground garage are off-limits to anyone without a parking ticket, and cafe tables with umbrellas where homeless people once rested are hauled out only for the noon concerts and other activities.

Police patrol cars park, sometimes two abreast, on the concrete plaza around the fountain, and officers stop people for loitering, Dogon said.

“How do you loiter in a park?” Dogon said.

Park officials said the seating is tied off for cleaning or so farmers can store their crates during market days. The grass is off-limits to protect the sound system or to prepare for concerts.

Police and city officials deny any bullying campaign, saying their enforcement efforts are directed at illegal activities.

“We welcome anybody from anywhere into any of our parks,” said Rick Coca, spokesman for Councilman Jose Huizar.

“The key is keeping the area in a way that can be used by all,” said Los Angeles police Capt. Horace Frank, who heads the downtown detail.

Police stepped up their presence at Pershing Square last year in response to complaints afterOccupy Los Angeles was forcibly ejected from the City Hall lawn, Frank said. Remnants of the group disrupted the farmers’ market, urinating on walls, grabbing food samples and demanding spare change, the market manager said.

As Occupiers drifted away from Pershing Square, a rowdy encampment arose outside El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, home to Olvera Street and the site of the city’s founding. People partied to all hours and tossed needles over the wall into La Plaza de Cultura y Artes — a museum focused on the contributions of Mexican Americans in Southern California — said Father Richard Estrada, the parish priest at nearby La Placita church.

“It was like a tent city all day long,” he said.

A city-county task force was formed to clean up the encampment, and some of the tarp-covered shopping carts and tents can now be seen at Father Serra Park, across the street from Union Station.

Climbing out of a tour bus with his family, Berlin tourist Nico Gruenberger looked askance at the huddle in Serra Park, with their plush blankets and carts bristling with plastic bags.

“In Germany we have homeless people, but [this is] a historical part of the city,” Gruenberger said. “Here, unfortunately, everything is together.”

Frank said people have complained about the homeless camp at Serra Park, but other “people put out a blanket, so do they. All you can do is shift them around.”

The newest downtown green space, Spring Street Park, opened in June between 4th and 5th streets. The sign at the entrance lists 12 rules, including a ban on shopping carts. Its metal perforated benches discourage lying down, and there are no little enclosed “alcoves,” said downtown neighborhood council President Patti Berman. So far, the only open conflict has been over loose dogs, she said.

But at less than two-thirds of an acre, including a playground, the small park needs to be watched closely to make sure everyone is comfortable and safe, Berman said. She heads a nonprofit that is raising private money to pay for a full-time city ranger to patrol the park.

Not long after Spring Street Park opened, a security guard at the loft building next door called police to investigate two men suspected of cooking heroin purchased on skid row. Zach Calig, a television writer, came down from his condo to find his cousin, whom he hadn’t seen for years, slumped on the ground in handcuffs.

Calig said he is in recovery from substance abuse himself and understands how people end up addicted and homeless. But he doesn’t want them overrunning his neighborhood park.

“We don’t want it to be Pershing Square,” he said. “We want it to be Grand Avenue park.”

CBS 2: “Protestors Demand LAPD Investigate Charges Against Community Organizer”

Click HERE to view CBS 2 Coverage of today’s action.

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Dozens of human rights protestors gathered Tuesday morning to protest charges filed against a community organizer.

The group marched into a Los Angeles Commission board meeting at 9 a.m. at the LAPD Headquarters at 110 W. 1st St.

The organizers were demanding the LAPD Commission investigate the case against 62-year-old Deborah Burton, who has been charged with three counts of assault for alleged actions during a protest.

“It’s a cloud hanging over my head, because I didn’t do anything wrong,” Burton said.

Burton was charged in August 2012 for her actions at a legal protest in June 2011.

“You can absolutely see there is a conspiracy against Los Angeles Community Action Network and human rights organizers and defenders,” protest organizer Hamid Khan said. “We’re demanding that the abuse of power and the charges be dropped by the Los Angeles Police Commission.”

The protestors are asking the LAPD to investigate the case, rescind what they call “faulty evidence” and drop all charges against Burton.

LAPD Commander Andrew Smith says the organizers have a right to let themselves be heard, but the department has no comment regarding the issue.

Burton’s trial is set to begin on June 26.

The community-based organizations involved include: Dream Team LA, IDEPSCA, Immigrant Youth Coalition, Labor/Community Strategy Center, Los Angeles Anti-Eviction Campaign, Los Angeles Community Action Network, Los Angeles Human Right to Housing Collective, POWER, Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, Union de Vecinos and Youth Justice Coalition.

Unequal and Targeted Enforcement Escalated again on Main Street Yesterday – People Cited for Handing out Seedlings to the Community and Police Monitor Arrested

Downtown Los Angeles gentrification continues to reach all-time lows as LAPD carries on with its mission to rid downtown of poor and homeless, and mostly Black, faces. In the May 20th episode, LAPD took action to stop…wait for it…a seedling give-a-way in front of the LA CAN office. The bustling operation, coordinated by LA CAN’s community gardeners in front of our office, was being visited by a vast array of downtown stakeholders. In fact, our garden project almost always demonstrates the real potential of bringing together disparate communities and realizing the purported vision of a “mixed-income” downtown – there is widespread support for community gardens and giving residents access to seedlings to start their own gardens of any size.

seedling giveaway 5-20-13

The Great Plant Caper – Seedling Give-Away at LA CAN

LAPD Officer Owens apparently isn’t a fan of gardening, but is fine with perpetrating the Jim Crow policing used under Downtown’s Safer Cities Initiative.  The tool of choice for years to move poor and homeless people off Main Street has the been the enforcement of municipal code 41.18D – no sleeping or sitting on the sidewalk.  And that’s what Officer Owens was doing yesterday – issuing a ticket to an elderly gentleman sitting in a portable stool and two LA CAN members sitting in chairs handing out seedlings.  Never mind that all parties cited were actually on private property – within 3 feet from a private building.  Never mind that a legal settlement agreement requires LAPD to give people warnings and the opportunity to comply BEFORE citing or arresting anyone for 41.18D.

Fully aware of their rights, and the actual 41.18 D rules, the LA CAN members stated they could not be cited for 41.18D and requested to speak to a supervisor. Instead, within minutes, nearly a dozen police responded to the plant give-away “crime scene.”  Thelmy Perez was monitoring this incredibly over-use of LAPD with her cell phone camera when she was seized by three officers and arrested.  Thelmy was released later in the day and now faces a charge of interfering with police investigation.  Sean and Esteban also received misdemeanor citations for their community gardening activities, and Jody, our elderly neighbor, faces misdemeanor charges for just sitting down for a brief rest. 

Police monitoring 5-20-13

Monitoring Police as they Detain Community Gardeners

We of course won’t accept Jim Crow in Skid Row – we will continue to fight for equal rights and equal enforcement through local fights and statewide fights like YES on AB 5, the Homeless Bill of Rights.  We will also fight these four cases together and ensure this most recent round of criminalization of perfectly legal community activities and organizing does not stick! LA CAN will continue our community gardening and seedling give-away programs in public space as well.

Yesterday is unfortunately just one example of the blatant selective enforcement and civil rights violations that define the Safer Cities Initiative, and the continued criminalization of organizers who stand up against these violations.  If you aren’t familiar with Main Street – wealthier residents and visitors sit and stand on the street regularly.  Below you will see the bench in front of the Nickel Diner and the tables and chairs for the new “Creamery”  – where their upscale customers sit without any police harassment, within a block of LA CAN.  Apparently the Nickel Diner can put a bench in front of their establishment (complete with a sign that says “customers only”), but LA CAN members can’t be found in chairs in front of our office.   Again – we won’t accept this and will fight for equity on Main Street and throughout all of LA and beyond.

nickle diner

Fiddler Creamory

Nickel Diner

LAPD Opens Fire on Skid Row Corner (AGAIN), At Least 1 Person Shot and Killed

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This morning, LAPD officers shot into a crowd on the corner of 5th and Wall in Skid Row. At least one person was shot and killed. LA CAN is still looking into the matter and collecting information from witnesses.

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However, even if LAPD were responding to a crime, was everyone on the corner a suspect? If not, then why shoot multiple rounds in the middle of one of the busiest corners in Skid Row? How many innocent people were put in danger? Were any of them wounded?

This is not the first time this happened. Police officers shooting into crowds of civilians does not make the community safer. It is extremely dangerous and completely unacceptable. Community residents will not stand by idly and allow this to happen. We demand answers and accountability!

PRESS RELEASE: The Dirty Divide Highlights the Continued Lack of Public Health Equity for Poor Downtown Residents

?????April 18, 2013

PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                             

Contact: Becky Dennison, Los Angeles Community Action Network (213) 840-4664

The Dirty Divide Highlights the Continued Lack of Public Health Equity for Poor Downtown Resident

LOS ANGELES — On April 11, the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN) released The Dirty Divide, a participatory research project that highlights the continued lack of public health infrastructure for poor residents residing in Downtown Los Angeles – with a particular focus on trash services and restrooms.

“Dirty Divide blends science, politics, outrage and policy development; resisting the gated community of policymakers, Dirty Divide exemplifies the best of public participatory science for environmental and racial justice,” said Michelle Fine, Ph.D., City University of New York.

The report documents a growing dividi­ng line between the “new Downtown” and Skid Row communities, with new Downtowners continuing to see an influx in resources and services of all kinds while Skid Row continues to see resources and services threatened or all together cut. While the gentrification of Downtown LA impacts for more than trash and restroom access and associated public health disparities, but The Dirty Divide provides a snapshot of the inequities that exist in the City’s center – inequities that have been increasingly scrutinized by health agencies.

“As a 30-year resident of Downtown LA, I’m seriously concerned about the growing inequality between the new Downtowners and long-term Skid Row residents,” said low-income resident James Porter. “They complain about the trash, but refuse to give us trash cans. They put in automated restrooms, but they’re always broken. We’re not going to stand for this anymore.”

In May of 2012, the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health (DPH), at the request of the City of Los Angeles, released a report highlighting the severe water and sanitation shortcomings faced by Skid Row residents. DPH recommendations included, among other things, a call for the City to “Provide additional public toilets particularly on San Julian, San Pedro and Crocker Streets” and to “provide adequate number of trash bins with frequent, as needed disposal to prevent the accumulation of trash and debris on the sidewalk.” However, in the year since the relea­se of the report, the City has yet to implement these recommendations.

LA CAN embarked on its own participatory research project to further its continued work on these issues. Findings include that in only 32% of 147 spot checks of public restrooms were they open, clean and stocked with supplies.  In order to respond to the human rights violations outlined in The Dirty Divide and to ensure public health equity, the report offers recommendations that include: 1) Shift current political and governmental priorities and resources from criminalization to housing; 2) Place adequate numbers of trash receptacles in Skid Row and establish frequent trash collection; 3) Increase access to restrooms; and 4) Develop a community health council to address issues for the long-term.

“This report shows how Los Angeles is violating not just with its own health department’s recommendations but international human rights norm,” said Eric Tars of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP). “We at NLCHP are proud to support LA CAN in this call for L.A. to live up to its human rights obligations, stop treating its citizens like trash, and start treating them like human beings deserving of their basic human dignity.”

To read the full text of The Dirty Divide, visit www.cangress.org or the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty website, www.nlchp.org.

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

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 April 2011. She was not charged until August 2012, 16 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 sent the evening of the alleged incident with Deborah, CCEA’s Estela Lopez assures her Board of Directors 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 from LAPD’s Lieutenant Paulson, she tells the City Attorney that she needs information about the filing 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.

LAPD Police Presence on Main St. Continues to Escalate, Two LA CAN Members Arrested

Over the last few weeks, we have seen an increase in LAPD presence and hostile policing on Main St. in Downtown.

This dangerous trend continued late last night when a large group of officers began roughing up  a couple of black female residents. LA CAN members were on hand to video and document the altercation. And when the officers decided they did not like that, they had two of our members arrested.

This type biased and violent policing has only increased since the Safer Cities Initiative was implemented in 2006. And long-term, low-income residents who have stood up and resisted have been met with repression and constant harassment. But we remain undeterred. We will not sit back and allow LAPD to intimidate and attack our community.

Community Support for Deborah Burton Continues to Grow

Deborah Burton 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.

Deborah, a longtime LA CAN member and organizer, has been unjustly charged with three counts of assault for alleged actions during a legal protest in April 2011. She was not charged until August 2012, 16 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.”

To learn more about Deborah’s case, click HERE. Stay tuned for more information!

20 by 30 debbie

Central Division, LAPD Officer Earl Wright, and 1.2 million Reasons to Finally Erase Racism

This week the City of Los Angeles, really LA taxpayers, paid Officer Earl Wright S1.2 million after a jury (after 4 hours) found that fried chicken and watermelon birthday cakes were indeed RACIST!  http://www.scpr.org/news/2013/03/26/36562/black-lapd-officer-wins-1-2-million-discrimination/ and http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-lapd-verdict-20130326,0,617450.story

LA CAN has witnessed Officer Wright and other officers named in this suit during the course of their duties for years.   There are relatively few Black officers in Central, a division that sits squarely in the middle of one of LA’s last African American/Black strongholds.  What is clear from the details and outcome of this case is that Central Division is as racist and brutal toward African Americans internally as they are externally.

Based in Downtown LA’s  Skid Row community, Central Division sits as if it’s a gun tower on a prison yard. Skid Row is definitely treated as a carceral  community, day in and day out, and bearing witness to human and civil rights violations is a daily occurrence. The issues of race and racism are not new in the community and regardless of what the “new and improved” LAPD might tell you.  Black folks are catching hell in Central Division, inside and outside of the station.

LA CAN has been on the front-lines fighting against the banishment of poor, mostly Black people in Downtown Los Angeles for more than a decade. Our nationally recognized Community Watch program educates residents on their civil rights, documents police activities in our neighborhood, and  intervenes in cases of rights violations by the LAPD and Business Improvement District security guards.  Videos taken over the years shows racist and insensitive behavior that is hauntingly, though probably not surprisingly, similar to the issues faced by Officer Wright.

Officer Wright was harassed with photos depicting him as a character in the 70s TV show  Sanford and Son.  In the news clips below Central Division Officers are caught illegally taking property from skid row residents and dumping it under the 6th Street bridge. Once there, Central Division officers sing the Sanford and Son theme song to summon homeless residents to unload their vehicles and take whatever they want.

Clearly the behavior alleged by Wright is not new and from LAPD’s response to this video — not frowned upon. When we released the footage LAPD’s response was nonchalant and questioned if it was indeed racially charged.  Racism inside…racism out side – that pretty much sums it up.

Take a look for yourself.

LA CAN will continue to fight against LAPD’s oppression and racism in Skid Row, South LA, and across the City. LAPD now has $1.2 MORE reasons why they should finally get serious about confronting, preventing and erasing racism.  Charlie Beck’s “new and improved” mantra, with the support of people like Connie Rice, simply means a better public relations department – not real change.

Stopping the TB Mis-information Campaign: LA CAN Calls on Department of Public Health to Explain

The word of  a Skid Row TB “outbreak” traveled quickly. Local, National and International media outlets picked up the story and ran with it–most forgot to check the facts. Concerned family members and supporters called and emailed LA CAN members to make sure they were okay and taking all of the necessary precautions. The story created an environment of fear and panic and those elected and paid to assuage those fears were nowhere to be found.

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Media, LAPD Misrepresent TB Outbreak in Skid Row Creating Unnecessary Fear and Further Demonization: Community Meeting to be held with L.A. Dept. of Public Health to Dispel Rumors Around TB and Promote Effective Health Education

Much has been made in the media this week about the so-called “outbreak” of Tuberculosis in Skid Row. Despite many rumors and mis-information spread by countless news outlets, the Los Angeles County Department of Health is telling everyone not to panic (Click HERE for an Info Sheet the Department just released). Excerpts include:

Should the public be concerned? No, the general public should not be overly concerned. The public needs to know that there is no immediate danger to their health related to the current situation. TB is spread from person to person through the air, and usually requires prolonged, close contact.

Should people working with the homeless population wear a mask? No, but persons working with homeless populations should remain alert to the signs and symptoms of active TB disease (e.g., prolonged cough, fever, night sweats, weight loss) and refer those individuals promptly for further medical evaluation.

It is shameful and irresponsible of the media to mislead the public in a way that causes unwarranted panic and that further demonizes Skid Row. LAPD gave a directive for officers to wear masks, something NOT recommended by Public Health officials. We have also already heard stories and witnessed LAPD sensationalizing the rumors around TB to further violate the rights of local residents.

In the video below, officers justified private security guards illegally going through private property by saying it was “for your own safety” considering “all the stuff that has been in the news” about “people getting sick.” LAPD sits by as BID guards cut open people’s bags – even those clearly marked with Not Abandoned signs.

To counter this mis-information, and promote community-based health responses, LA CAN is organizing a Community Meeting with the LA County Department of Public Health on Friday, March 1, at 6pm. The event will be co-hosted by SRO Housing and held at the James M. Wood Community Center on 400 E. 5th Street (5th and San Julian). Come find out what you really need to know and get involved in promoting community health in Skid Row!

Click HERE for a flyer and help spread the word!