Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Stop the Criminalization of our Communities

Stop the Criminalization of our Communities
Come to the next “Public Safety Walk” and Call for an End to the Safer Cities Initiative

WEDNESDAY, August 3rd at 5:30pm

As most of you know, last summer the City Attorney launched an aggressive assault against organizers and activists who were actively engaged in protest and dissent against human rights violations against immigrants, young people, homeless and very poor people, low-income tenants, transit riders, and other oppressed people in Los Angeles and beyond.

Because of this and other continuing criminalization efforts against our communities, organizations convened/re-convened under the umbrella of the Coalition against State Violence to develop a broad response and provide solidarity support for individual organization or community issues.

Out of these discussions, one of our first joint campaigns was to protest the City Attorney and business community’s supposed “public safety walk” in the Skid Row community – and demand that it end and be replaced with resident-led community safety efforts.  The public safety walk is comprised of business representatives, especially the Central City East Association, elected officials such as the City Attorney and Councilmember Perry, and some large missions including Midnight and Union Rescue.  Long-time, low income and homeless residents believe that the leaders of the Walk come into Skid Row pointing the finger at them for the community’s problems and using these problems to justify the ongoing criminalization under the Safer Cities Initiative.  The Walk happens on the first Wednesday of every month at 6:00 pm – so the next one is this week!

Besides specifically opposing the format and composition of this public safety walk, we have made three basic demands to the elected leaders who participate: 
  • End the Safer Cities Initiative in Skid Row
  • Stop all Unjust Criminalization of our Communities
  • Ensure our Rights to Dissent

While our protest and engagement with Walk participants has led to a decrease in participation, leaders have refused to stop this monthly event and instead are now being accompanied by even more LAPD officers than usual.  Last month, LAPD told organizers we did not have a right to protest this Walk or to even chant on a public sidewalk.  They arrested Pete White of LA CAN and threatened arrest of everyone else.  We cannot allow our First Amendment rights to be summarily shut down.  We cannot allow LAPD and the City Attorney to so blatantly prioritize the business community’s right to engage in this Walk and simultaneously violate low-income residents, organizers and supporters’ right to dissent.

LA CAN, Dream Team L.A., Critical Resistance, Youth Justice Coalition, Labor Community Strategy Center, IDEPSCA, ¡Comunidad Presente!, International Socialist Organization and other human rights activists urge you to support next week’s protest, to get involved with the emerging Coalition Against State Violence, or – at a minimum – to contact us to get updated and find ways to support our ongoing work. 
Note: The Safer Cities Initiative in LA’s Skid Row community has criminalized homelessness and poverty at a level never before experienced in the United States.  When Mayor Villaraigosa launched the Safer Cities Initiative (SCI) in September 2006, Los Angeles’ Skid Row became home to the largest concentration of standing police forces in the country. In a community with a population of approximately 12,000 – 15,000 residents, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) made over 19,000 arrests and issued roughly 24,000 citations in the Initiative’s first two years. In 2007, a UCLA study found that the number of citations issued in the first year of SCI came at a rate up to 69 times higher than those found in other parts of a city already notorious for intense police activity.  Additionally the study found that the cost of the 50-officer SCI task force focused on 50 square blocks ($6 million) exceeded the amount LA officials spent on homeless services in the entire 469 square miles of the City ($5.7 million).


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