The protection of human and civil rights has always been a cornerstone of LA CAN’s work. Our constituents and members are steadily confronted by rapid attempts to side-step constitutional guarantees—oftentimes in the name of progress. Experience has shown us that civil rights, while guaranteed by the US Constitution, are not always honored and must be vigorously protected and defended. Poor communities of color continuously experience unequal protection under the law; are forced to endure blatant discrimination and discriminatory practices; and, have their civil liberties threatened on a whim. LA CAN works to ensure that equality and equity are valued and upheld.
As a core component of our civil rights project, LA CAN launched Community Watch in November 2005 as an alternative private security presence in the community – one trained to ensure that civil and human rights violations by the Los Angeles Police Department and Business Improvement District (BID) security guards and others are stopped. LA CAN trains and deploys groups of residents to document police and private security actions to prevent and respond to human rights violations in our community. Community watch teams also contribute to community education efforts and develop civil rights campaigns based on patterns or egregious actions that are documented.
For more than a decade, LACAN has been fighting for the civil rights of poor and homeless people, and more recently against the assault by the City and LAPD to implement the “Safer Cities Initiative” to harass and criminalize residents of Skid Row.
Among LA CAN’s achievements in the protection of civil rights are:
- Educating thousands of residents about their rights through teach-ins, workshops, one-on-one outreach and other efforts;
- Launching the first and longest-sustained police monitoring program in LA, CommunityWatch, which created a check and balance system for the power dynamics between residents and private security/police;
- Creating a culture of resistance against civil and human rights abuses in our communities;
- Helping dozens of individuals win civil and criminal court battles who otherwise would have been wrongfully prosecuted and/or had their rights violated;
- Collecting documentation and evidence leading to several court injunctions against LAPD, preventing them the pattern and practice of illegal stops, illegal searches and illegally confiscating property; and
- Reducing the ticketing rates in Skid Row by almost 50% and providing citation defense for thousands of residents.
LA CAN maintains that Housing is a Human Right and has engaged in preserving and improving extremely low-income housing since our inception. Starting with the organizing of Residential Hotel tenants in Downtown LA, then expanding to Citywide and National campaigns to preserve public housing, LA CAN has educated and mobilized tenants to promote and defend the human right to housing.
LA CAN organizes housing committees in Downtown LA and South LA. These committees identify pressing issues and develop campaigns to address them. We are also a core member of the Los Angeles Human Right to Housing Collective, focused on building a Citywide voice for extremely low-income tenants and homeless residents.
LA CAN also engages in coalition building, Know Your Rights training, community-lawyering projects, policy research and policy advocacy, and other strategies to advance housing rights.
LA CAN’s critical housing work has led to numerous victories, including:
- The preservation of 15,000 homes for LA’s lowest income tenants throughout the City;
- Reversing a unanimously-passed redevelopment plan, preventing displacement for almost 9,000 low-income households in the heart of gentrifying downtown;
- A “no net loss” policy for all affordable housing in the downtown redevelopment plan, which resulted in increased funding for extremely low-income housing, local hiring obligations, and strengthened tenant rights requirements;
- Significantly improved health and safety conditions in more than 2,000 homes previously in slum conditions;
- Elimination of the guest fee practices in more than 5,000 homes, saving tenants from an unjust charge just to have family, friends and caregivers visit; and
- Community-lawyering projects that resulted in $3 million going directly to low-income people in compensation for illegal actions and establishing the right to return for more than 500 illegally displaced tenants