Buy a Junk-Car in Los Angeles, Lose a couple $1,000; Buy Mayor Garcetti’s Revised Budget Plan Today, Lose a Generation

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 77)

The mayor must really miss Dodger baseball, because he actually thought he could pull a fast-one on Los Angeles in his press conference earlier today.

For starters, if anyone thinks mayor Garcetti’s “$100 – 250,000 in cuts” for LAPD are even likely to be honored, just remember that this is the same guy who two months ago said along with LAHSA that the city would get 15,000 of our most vulnerable unhoused into hotels ASAP. But two months later, there are no more than 3,200 of those most vulnerable unhoused residents indoors. And that’s with the city and county “re-opening” now.

To place that into perspective, consider it took only two days for mayor Garcetti to get 10,000 LAPD officers and the National Guard to beat back unarmed protesters in Los Angeles. Ten years from now, when people are reading about these events, these two single discrepancies will say all they need to about the mayor’s actual priorities during his tenure.

But for now, consider that the mayor’s bright new idea after six days of protest against police violence in Los Angeles is to create more departments at L.A. City Hall, apparently to make it a friendlier place for Black & Latino kids in Los Angeles, even while neglecting to mention that L.A. City Hall at its current capacity is under investigation and apparently accountable strictly to the FBI, but not accountable to us, the people who elected them to oversee the expenditure of our tax-dollars. Sidenote: Jose Huizar still hasn’t resigned, Los Angeles. That is, seven days after being asked to do so by L.A. City Council president Nury Martinez.

But make no mistake about it: by coming down with the batons on peaceful protesters in L.A., the one thing the mayor has been successful at has been turning a generation of young people who may have otherwise stayed home watching Netflix into full-fledged newfound activists.

Unlike with sheltering our unhoused, the mayor mobilized the next generation in less than a week, and in numbers not seen in Los Angeles since the marches for Immigrants Rights in 2006, and before then, maybe since the marches against Lyndon B. Johnson’s War in Vietnam in 1967. So way to go, Mr. Mayor. L.A. will now definitely remember you and your police mob for decades to come.

Speaking of which, during the conference mayor Garcetti noted, almost with laughter, that the LAPD hasn’t actually used the real rubber bullets against protesters, which, according to his expertise, are “much more dangerous.” However, after making this discrepancy he didn’t say which kinds of bullets LAPD has blasted at unarmed civilians, including on journalists from the newspaper still going out of its way to publish the mayor’s photo-ops.

All in all, even forgetting for a moment the mayor’s lip service about more cops “working with communities” during his latest–despite not specifying as to how police can actually serve the community going forward–just know this: as long as mayor Garcetti stands at his podium surrounded by no one except for the supporting cast of his coup at City Hall this last week instead of with wleaders and families from Black Lives Matter – Los Angeles, which has called on him for years to act like a leader over the LAPD, the mayor is lying.

Even an earthquake couldn’t distract us from it. What a strike-out.

Because no, it is not alright to settle for piecemeal “reforms” at this point, Los Angeles.

Lyndon B. Johnson himself knew as much in 1964 when he signed his name to not just make a show of an audience, but to actually invest in a great society.

J.T.

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Police cruisers parked along 1st street and Hope street in Los Angeles

To the Board of Police Commissioners in Los Angeles: Your Time Has Come

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 76)

The following is a statement edited for publication on the site and delivered by yours truly to the Board of Police Commissioners (BOPC) in Los Angeles, in what would turn out to be eight hours’ worth of public comments for the meeting this past Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020.

LAPD COMMISSION:

I want to echo all of the Black & Brown voices who have made themselves heard at this public meeting thus far.

I want to commend the public for their bravery in speaking against this police and military state that we are seeing unfold across our city and across cities all over America.

To the board:

You have a chance to be on the right side of history
by standing against the militarization of the state in response to working class communities marching for an end to genocidal practices against Black and Brown bodies.

Even before the protests, you were already overseeing a caste system in the L.A. County Jail with a daily population of more than 17,000 people, where Black people make up 29% of that jail system while making up less than 9% of the population in Los Angeles.

You, the board members, have a chance not to stand with the fascists. You all heard the president just yesterday declare war against unarmed Black & Brown people, even while only a few days earlier he praised armed white militias for standing for liberty against covid-19 restrictions.

Mayor Garcetti originally said he would not be calling the National Guard. An hour later, he called the National Guard. You’re closer to fascism than you would like to think.

You all need to call for the national guard to LEAVE. They’re armed with M-4 assault rifles and intimidating our community and you are standing by, doing nothing.

You need to call to disarm the LAPD right this second, who, in line with police departments across the country, are battering and injuring unarmed civilians.

You’re closer to fascism than you think.

You have enough blood and injuries on your hands already, but you still have a chance to scale all of this down before it gets worse.

If you think today’s meeting has been long, just wait until the summer when more than 2.5 million people are out of work and looking into their city’s budget, and into the leaders and representatives tasked with overseeing the interests of the people.

Finally, consider that you live in a city where more than half of the population speaks a language other than English at home, yet you offer no captions for non-English speakers.

How much do you really want to hear from your city?

J.T.

A military plane, presumably belonging to the National Guard, flies above Los Angeles

Fascism is Not Coming: It’s Already Here As “Curfew” In Los Angeles, New York, and in Cities Across America

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 75)

The picture for this column is of a military plane flying above East Hollywood in Los Angeles on June 1st, 2020, presumably belonging to the National Guard. But the fact is that such planes are flying above cities all across the United States this week to stoke fear in the hearts of its working-class citizenry, including its postal workers, its sanitation workers, its restaurant & retail workers, their children, and more.

To anyone who may doubt that racism supported by the pillars of power in our country can only lead to the fascism we’re now witnessing in the militarization against our communities, I offer just the following:

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.

– Martin Niemoller, 1946

J.T.

Sunset over East Hollywood, Los Angeles

Victor Avila: Hope Amid Stones both Tall and Gray

Infinity does not know the grave
though the digger’s hand still turns the soil.
These monuments that some think grand
only mutely invoke the names
of the long forgotten dead.

There is no permanence
as these stones hope to proclaim.
Whether we are buried over here or over there
only bones below in a box remain.

The earth gladly welcomes them.

Perhaps infinity is just a word
Like truth and God and love.
Are they just pretty syllables
for atheists and blasphemers
to ponder in their despair?

Faith is irrational. It’s the logic of angels.

No, I will never understand
the mystery of the silent mountains.
not far beyond these gray and somber stones.
All the secrets of the universe
I’ll leave for others to discover.
The unknown will remain for me unknown.
I am glad of this.

I walk among the intaglio of crosses
and joyfully accept my mortality.
It’s because of this that I do not fear
the eventuality of days.

For every story, even ours, has a conclusion.

The essence of everything
we hold briefly in our hands.
In reality though, there is nothing in between them.
I find this notion both magnificent and grand.

Dust in time will cover even this.

Nothing in life is learned
until beauty becomes our mirror.
Only then will we catch a glimpse
of all that we call immortal.
We do well when we chase the ethereal.

For it is in the chasing of it, that we find most joy.

V.A.

Victor Avila is a winner of the Chicano Literary Prize. His poetry collection, “The Mystic Thrones of Night,” was published through Vagabond Books in 2019. Victor’s poetry has been widely published and anthologized. Recent work can be found in such collections as EXTREME: An Anthology for Social and Economic Justice, and The Border Crossed Us. Victor has taught in California schools for over thirty years.

America’s Greatness Has Always Been Measured by the Scale of Its Violence

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 74)

In the shadow of a president who was elected to office on a lie, and then a million of them, what could we expect from a nation following four years of his flipping off the system?

While several papers, including the New York Times and the L.A. Times insist on headlines about broken windows, people everywhere can see that the real looters are no immigrants, and that they are not Black people. For one, footage abounds of mask and hoodie-wearing white groups, anarchists, and Donald Trump supporters, taking liberty while police focus on peaceful Black & Brown bodies on the front-lines to advance a perverted lust for mayhem they think equates to justice.

For another, even to the finger-pointing of impoverished Black and Brown people associated with acts of vandalism or violence–which is a form of white supremacy in itself–the fact of the matter is that years from these last few days, the biggest criminals will not be people who broke windows, or who stole a flat-screen TV or a pair of shoes from the Vans store. They will also not be people whom wrecked a police car.

Years from now, the biggest crooks will be the barely-elected officials like Mayor Garcetti and Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who, along with their new M4 assault rifle-wearing buddies from the National Guard, looted democracy in Los Angeles to rebrand martial law as “curfew” so it sounds less straight from a Banana Republic.

The biggest looters will also be people like Jose Huizar and his enablers at City Hall, that is, his fellow council-members, who refused to say anything at all about his open stealing from the public good until no one cared anymore since it was an open secret that council-members serve real estate developers and police unions instead of the 250,000 residents in their districts who do not form such packs.

Most of all, what will be clear following this weekend is that the United States needed no wall to keep rapists and violence from MS-13 out. Because we grow them right here in the U.S.A. better than anywhere else.

Consider that after four years, at the highest levels of government, our greatest mascots for American thrashing of the rules have been Brett Kavanaugh, Donald J. Trump, and Addison Mitchell McConnell, whom to any accusations of misconduct or being held to the same standard that any Black or Brown person charged with a crime during these protests will be: they give a bit, fat, and raging middle finger.

In the process, we’ve simply gotten used to such men shoving personal responsibility to the American public out of the way to play all out warfare against their opponents–“the establishment” or “liberal media”–demonizing the other side and denying them even an ounce of dignity.

But in the billions of acres making up the American country, just recall there are still many young people out there, including–get this–young white children in America, who might be watching.

To those young white Americans–including anarchists–in the 21st century: what does it say if their own president, and their own supreme court justice, and their top senator in government can flip everyone off?

It says that they can do it too. If that sounds “shocking,” recall also a few names we’ve forgotten these past few years: Patrick Crusius, Devin Patrick Kelley, and Stephen Paddock, whom were just some of the latest white men deploying assault rifles to shoot down helpless bystanders these last three years.

It’s unclear whether the FBI labeled even one of the shooters domestic terrorists, but such silence also sends a message. Such silence is also violence. It is complicity; Paddock was 56, while Crusius and Kelley were 21 and 26, respectively. They were all 100% homegrown Americans, each inheriting a legacy of violence over the past two decades, but particularly over the last four years from our elected leadership, so that if anyone still doubts whether language denying the humanity of “the other” has psychological effects on a generation, these men–like young white Anarchists exploiting Black Lives Matter protests today–show otherwise, each contributing their own part to a uniquely American legacy of violence.

In an editorial for the New York Times, Charles M. Blow thoroughly and succinctly reminds readers of how violence is also like a birth language for a nation that’s been called the United States of Amnesia, recalling the rhetoric of “Manifest Destiny” and “Segregation forever!” that our society loves to forget, until it screeches back into range:

We can bemoan the violence that has attended some of these protests, but we must also recognize that…White people in America have rioted, slaughtered, massacred and destroyed for centuries, often directing their anger and violence at black people and Native Americans, to take what they had or destroy it, to unleash their rage and assert their superiority, to instill terror, to maintain power.

Today, the inheritors of this legacy are also police officers like those in Atlanta this past weekend, who viciously pulled a young African American couple, supposedly in violation of curfew, out of their car, despite footage showing a white woman in a car just ahead of the couple who was also presumably in violation of the same curfew that’s not even spoken to by the officers. After one officer pulls at the couple’s car-doors, a swarm of them huddle in. Then a National Guard troop runs up to slash the tires. Meanwhile, the white woman in the car ahead casually drives away, unharmed. It looked like a scene straight out of the 1943 Zoot Suit riots in Los Angeles, but it was actually just a modified day in police state America which happened to be filmed.

But what can we expect? Those police officers have a president, a world of courtrooms, and even mayors who’ve all made clear that they are taking this system for everything it has until the wheels fall off.

To donate to the couple’s legal defense fund following the terrifying violation of their civil rights, please do so HERE.

J.T.

By Escalating the Police State, Mayor Garcetti Is Now Officially L.A.’s First White Supremacist Mayor for the 21st Century

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 73)

History now records that every injury inflicted on defenseless protestors in L.A. this week comes from a mayor whose billion-dollar police force could only bulldoze and bully unarmed citizens exercising their first-amendment rights to protest the modern-day lynching of Black bodies, and whom, even after more than an annual billion dollar budget for weapons and training for those forces, still needs Governor Newsom’s support to smother free speech and the right to assembly in Los Angeles.

Let there be no mistake about it: at this critical moment in our nation’s history, by calling the National Guard to intimidate and arrest defenseless protestors, Mayor Garcetti is now the first white supremacist mayor of L.A. in the 21st century, no better than a “Proud Boy” thug in Atwater Village claiming “defense” of white supremacy as his uniform glorifies blood spewed from Black & Brown bodies.

If that sounds like an exaggeration, consider that the mayor’s curfew and call for the national guard on Saturday night comes less than 12 hours before the president’s label of the so-called “ANTIFA” (aka known as the ANTIFASCIST) association as a “terrorist group,” despite providing no evidence to support the claim that the group, which is known as a loose coalition of anti-racist activists, engages in anything related to terrorism.

That is, unless the official policy of the state is that any movement against white supremacy is so offensive to whiteness it must be deemed “terrorist.” The open-air prison is now in plain sight. Enter prison warden Garcetti.

But the mayor’s decision to escalate police reinforcements rather than deescalate their numbers doesn’t just place him in the company of Donald Trump. It also comes at a time when mayors across urban cities in the United States have a choice to either stand with their citizens in calling for an end to Jim Crow policies for Black and Brown bodies, or stand against them in support only of the extension of those same policies. Just one of these choices historically costs Black and Brown bodies their lives. Garcetti has chosen the latter.

Consider also that the mayor, like Governor Newsom, certainly calls on the federal government to support the state and L.A.’s economic shortcomings this year due to reduced tax revenue. So why can’t they stand with L.A. calling on the state and federal governments to stop supporting the killing of unarmed Black people?

Additionally, I encourage every reader to ask these questions: exactly what gives Garcetti the right to escalate police forces at this time? And why is L.A. City Council not convening at these hours to veto the mayor’s baseless invitations to the national guard on our city? What expertise for crisis management has Garcetti shown during 7 years spent shoving & arresting our unhoused instead of sheltering them? Or his failure to house even two-tenths of our 15,000 most vulnerable unhoused residents over the last two months of the pandemic? Or are those precisely his qualifiers?

L.A. City Council’s failure to convene also exposes that the body is weak outside the realm of green lights for real estate tycoons, with its council-members sitting separately at this time and apparently with no prior knowledge of any of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s orders. That’s a clear example of what democracy DOES NOT look like.

J.T.

An encampent along Sunset boulevard and Manzanita street in Los Angeles

You can Now Make Your Voice Heard On L.A.’s Budget For Next Year with A New Survey for Residents

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 72)

Today I’d like to encourage every reader in Los Angeles to take approximately seven minutes to fill out a critical survey regarding priorities for L.A.’s proposed budget this upcoming year. The form, facilitated by The People’s Budget for L.A., is a simple yet comprehensive set of questions for residents in Los Angeles gauging opinion on which resources to prioritize with our tax-dollars at this time. Find the form HERE.

In what’s now clearly a historic juncture for our nation, there are a litany of opinions over the best way to advance better policies for our society, but also many questions about the best way to get started. I can assure each reader that filling out the survey is one key way to just activate one’s own thought process on the issues, regardless of where they may stand on each issue. In fact, after submitting my thoughts on the survey’s opinion section, I copied and pasted them onto the city council’s public comment section for the mayor’s proposed budget and submitted them there as well. It was a two-for-one special. Now that’s a deal in democracy you can’t pass up!

J.T.

Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center, from Sunset boulevard and Edgemont street

Racial Inequality Today Results from the same U.S. Policies that have just cost 100,000 Americans their lives

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 71)

I am thankful, once again, for Black America leading the cry for dignity and justice in our country at a time when many Americans might forget that in less than four months the wealthiest nation on earth has lost more than 100,000 lives to a health-care system built on class and therefore racial lines.

The American ideal of equality for all, and indeed an attempt at democracy anywhere, cannot survive if not for protest at the first sign of unequal justice. Black Americans have reminded us of this burden for centuries, and are rightfully angry at still having to carry such a burden into the 21st century, when instead of perpetuating racialized inequality our nation should be leading the charge towards meeting the more existential crisis of global warming and rising sea levels on the horizon.

Protests over these last few days—similarly to protests from six years ago following Eric Garner’s death at the hands of yet another white police officer in Staten Island–may remind some readers of the radical 1960s, but for this column, an earlier call beckoning the American government to honor its promise to all Americans, however preposterous the notion of governments actually honoring their oaths to their people may have sounded even then, is also instructive.

In Frederick Douglass’s first speech against slavery in the U.S. south, delivered in Nantucket Island, MA in 1841, Douglass begins his lecture by describing one of his experiences at a New Bedford church with newly Christianized white and Black residents:

…among those who experienced religion at this time was a colored girl; she was baptized in the same water as the rest; so she thought she might sit at the Lord’s table and partake of the same sacramental elements with the others…[the deacon] handed the girl the cup, and she tasted. Now it so happened that next to her sat a young [white] lady who had been converted at the same time, baptized in the same water, and put her trust in the same blessed Saviour; yet when the cup containing the precious blood which had been shed for all, came to her, she rose in disdain, and walked out of the church.

The anecdote demonstrates how the American psyche separating humans by race affected life in both “northern” and “southern” states. The New Bedford church was in “Northern” Massachusetts, and Douglass went on:

Another young lady fell into a trance. When she awoke, she declared she had been to heaven. Her friends were all anxious to know what and whom she had seen there; so she told the whole story. But there was one good old lady whose curiosity went beyond that of all the others–and she inquired of the girl that had the vision, if she saw any black folks in heaven? After some hesitation, the reply was, ‘Oh! I didn’t go into the kitchen!’

I admit that however laughable and “backwards” such attitudes may seem for life in this country circa 1841, I only have to remember walking out towards Virgil avenue or Sunset boulevard on “a regular day” in 2020 to see whites–many of whom are clearly not from Los Angeles–casually taking seats at one of the posh new restaurants in town while Black and Brown hands serve them their plates of food.

On a sunny day, Los Angeles can certainly gleam like heaven. And I can recall on my walks through the neighborhood stepping past white patrons eating well, growing large, and running up bills that most of the Black and Brown bodies around them couldn’t dream of spending on food.

Is it inherently wrong for people to eat? No, but it is ironic when only a few can eat well in a country that’s supposed to afford equal opportunity to all.

More importantly, even when many patrons like those of my anecdote haven’t been in L.A. long enough to know who their local council member is, they still quickly grow used to being served by those familiar Black and Brown bodies in the kitchen! And those Black and Brown hands cleaning up the tables after them! And those same Black and Brown bodies getting out of the way when they see them on the street! As Amy Cooper in Central Park expected.

If some of them were asked what their conception of heaven today might be, I can’t even imagine what they might say. But such realities thus show that people in Los Angeles have much to share with people protesting in cities all across the country today, in the same way that our country still bears so much resemblance to that church in New Bedford 179 years ago.

In that case, thank you Mr. Douglass, Black Lives Matter-L.A., and all purveyors of justice still calling for a better way of life in this scarred land.

J.T.

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A man finishes searching through the dumpster bin for cans in Silver Lake, Los Angeles

Los Angeles is Dying in Black and Brown Shades

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 70)

It’s now being recorded in history that in the state of California, “reopening” business and houses of worship comes largely on the heels of white protesters in Sacramento and coastal communities such as Huntington Beach even as a second wave of COVID-19 increasingly places Black and Brown bodies at bedsides in intensive care units across South, East, Central L.A., and more.

Many of the bodies in Los Angeles belong to mothers, fathers, grand-mothers and grandmothers, and form no insignificant part of the more than 100,000 people who have lost their lives across the U.S. in less than four months since news of the coronavirus first became headlines.

They look like the man in this column’s photograph, who is sifting for cans through dumpsters along the famed Silver Lake neighborhood, trying to gain something–anything–by which to live to fight another day.

They took their bodies to work each day, and looked past discrimination and second-class citizenship for decades to still “play by the rules” pursuing an American dream they may have once actually believed in.

But history will show this is not an unlikely about-face for the state of California. One only has to recall that for nearly fifty years the golden state has also been the Golden Gulag, to quote Ruth Wilson Gilmore, with its elected officials voting as recently as 2018 to spend over $15 billion of taxpayers’ money to maintain the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which as of last year housed less than 127,000 inmates. A little bit of math will show that that’s over $118,000 to house just one inmate.

By contrast, what did the state spend for more than 6.1 million students at its K – 12 schools, even before the pandemic? A pinch above $12,000.

The state’s expenditures do not get better across the rest of its educational institutions. To quote David Crane, a lecturer in Public Policy at Stanford University, California’s $15 billion allotment to incarcerate its population entails:

7x, 9x, 13x and 39x the amounts they’ll spend per K-12, UC, CSU and CCC student.

All we have to do then is remember which students depend most on under-funded public school districts like LAUSD across the state: Black, Brown, Asian, Native, as well as working-class white children. Indeed, the grandchildren of the many bodies now being prepared for the ground in California.

If long before the pandemic we were funding these childrens’ incarceration as adults more than we were funding their education, it says all one needs to know about why Los Angeles is losing its Black & Brown family members so disproportionately right now.

J.T.

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Call In or Write to Oppose Mayor Garcetti’s Police Raises As Housing & Community Investment Lose Millions

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 69)

I’ve been to Tokyo, Shanghai, Mexico City, San Salvador, and Guatemala City, among others. With the exception of the latter two, all of these cities are larger than L.A. proper. But in none of them did I see thousands of encampments of unhoused people as I’ve seen in Los Angeles.

Even so, over the next year, experts estimate that the number of unhoused people in California due to rising unemployment from coronavirus can grow by up to 20%, from 150,000 people currently to 180,000.

In Los Angeles County, which contains more than 40% of the unhoused population in California, that can mean an increase of up to 12,000 more people on the sidewalks over the next twelve months.

That’s 1,000 families left to L.A.’s concrete every four weeks. And if Project Roomkey shows us anything, it’s that given two months, the city of Los Angeles can barely manage to get well short of 3,000 of its 15,000 most vulnerable unhoused citizens into a hotel room.

Exactly what would be the point of “reopening” Los Angeles then,
if all we have are more people in tents crowding below freeways, at schools and libraries, and around grocery stores and restaurants?

At the same time, the mayor’s proposed budget, which slashes $9 million from housing and community investment next year for a total of $81.1 million but increases the police budget by over $122 million for a total of $1.9 billion, is in the motions for approval by City Hall over the next four weeks.

That’s four weeks of time for residents in Los Angeles to use their first-amendment rights to express opposition to this proposal.

I ask readers to imagine if just half as many people who flocked to the city’s beaches and park trails over the weekends called in to their local Council Member’s offices or Board of Supervisors’ office to demand they rescind their support for the mayor’s budget in its current form.

Mayor Garcetti and each Council Member and Board Supervisor are supposed to be our elected officials, after all, not Kings and Queens of our fate; each of these representatives is supposed to advance our interests given that they’re paid for by money from our income, sales, property taxes, and more.

See below for two directories, one for L.A. City council members and the mayor’s office, and another for the L.A. Board of Supervisors:

Mayor’s Office & City Hall Directory
L.A. County Board of Supervisors Contact Info

The office of the City Clerk also features a little-known form online for the public to write in a comment for the public comment portion on items considered by the L.A. City Council, listed below:

Office of the City Clerk for Public Comment Form

Not sure how to start? Feel free to contact yours truly for some ideas.

J.T.

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