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

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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.

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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.

 

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:

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.

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.

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!

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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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