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.

 

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.

Bratton’s Return as NYC’s “Top Cop”: Hold the Press!

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To say that Chief Bratton’s return to the NYPD is troublesome would be an understatement. His reinstatement highlights the shockingly short institutional memory of politicians eager to use Bratton’s well developed media appeal.  Unfortunately, beyond the headlines and soundbites, Bratton’s true impact comes at the expense of poor communities of color. Upon announcement of his return to the position of NYC’s “top cop” there has been nothing short of an all-out media fawning for the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Oddly, Los Angeles has been used to justify and prop-up why NYCs “top cop” is worthy of returning to his East Coast throne. But missing is the readily available facts that paint the real picture of Bratton’s reign in Los Angeles.

For example, Dennis Hamill of tge Daily News writes a fluff piece (non-critical evaluation of things sputtered by Bratton) that simply allows Bratton to control the narrative. In one especially bothersome and long quote Bratton is allowed to talk about;  1) how he supports and utilized stop and frisk in Los Angeles; and, 2) how it was not focused on “good kids on the way home from school or work.” (See Full Article HERE)

A simple internet search would have led Hamill to the extensive campaign organized by the Labor/Community Strategy Center’s Community Rights Campaign who have led a multi-year effort to stop the ticketing and harassment of these exact “good kids” going to and from school–a policy ushered in by Chief Bratton and is another manifestation of his celebrated stop and frisk strategy. In fact, a staggering 47,000 tickets, from 2004-2009, were issued to predominantly African American and Latino students. Hamill could have also searched the LA Times would have found extensive coverage on the subject matter.   And if that was not enough information, he could have simply picked up the phone and made a few calls to those who were working on the ground in poor communities of color under Bratton’s tenure in LA to ensure journalistic integrity was applied.

But it’s not just Hamill’s article.  There has been a wave of articles since Chief Bratton’s reinstatement and very few of them have been critical of his record in Los Angeles. Instead, we have been bombarded with Bratton quotes and politically connected civil rights advocates assertions that have nothing to do with the realities in our communities. LA CAN will work to set the record straight as the “Bratton media express” rolls out its fabricated versions of Los Angeles policing because the record should be clear and authentic.

Please visit often because until fair and balanced journalism happens we will continue to provide a blow-by blow accounting of Bratton’s racist and brutal policing practices we experienced here in LA, and especially Downtown LA.

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.