From Venice to Echo Park: Unroot the Red Line

The next time you find another angry message board about unhoused people in Venice, please refer them to these facts.

Venice was redlined in the 1930s for 15% of its area containing families of “Mexican, Japanese, and Italian” origins and 4% “Negroes,” according to written records. The decision in the 1940s to funnel money for housing away from the area is no small part of why today’s homelessness along its beachsides, followed by policing, have markedly increased over the years.

A screenshot of a map from 1939 by the Home Owners Loan Corporation, marking Venice for disinvestment from federal dollars for housing.

Appraisers for the federal government arrived to Venice in 1939 and misleadingly claimed, “Many mortgage institutions will not operate in area.” They also went on to call the community “blighted” for its multi-ethnic workers and families. At this point, if you’ve read about redlining on this blog, it should be clear that such language was not only malicious, but consequential in that disparaging language against non-whites was an instrumental tool used by federal government officials and their counterparts in states and cities to decide where wealth and poverty would reside.

Over time, as the militaristic takeover of Echo Park this past March showed, public officials in L.A. would largely choose to expend public tax dollars to formerly redlined areas in the form of policing, that is, policing poor people in these communities on the basis of “Neighborhood Watch” and also “super-predator” theories, which supposed that youth and working age-adults in such “slum” areas were simply more predisposed to commit crime given their impoverished living conditions. Of course, in order for these theories to work, city officials just had to ignore the fact that opportunities for wealth and home-ownership for Black and immigrant communities in “slums” were choices first taken away from them by the federal government and complicit municipal and state actors.

A screenshot of a map from 1939 by the Home Owners Loan Corporation, marking Echo Park for disinvestment from federal dollars for housing.

But don’t let what escaped real estate appraisers in the 1940s escape you in the 2020s: Disinvestment in non-white communities and the inverse for whites was and remains backwards planning since whiteness could not and still cannot survive as an investment without supportive non-white labor pools nearby. The very development of the Venice canals in the early 1900s was only possible because of Black labor, after all. In fact, Black labor was so crucial to the construction of Venice beach that families were moved out to what would become the Oakwood neighborhood in order to speed up work for the grand opening of the famous beachside in 1905.

Canal scene in Venice Beach’s inductive year of 1905; Photo courtesy of the L.A. Public Library

Yet when federal appraisers arrived in 1939, on seeing “Black, Mexican and Japanese” residents alongside white European immigrant households, they were under strict orders from the Federal Housing Administration’s 1936 manual:

“The Valuator should investigate areas surrounding the location to determine whether or not incompatible racial and social groups are present, to the end that an intelligent prediction may be made regarding the possibility or probability of the location being invaded by such groups. If a neighborhood is to retain stability it is necessary that properties shall continue to be occupied by the same social and racial classes.”

Ironically enough, this logic, claiming that any and all whites interested in a home near Venice beach would turn away from the area on learning of Black and immigrant communities like Oakwood, was proven false by white influxes into Venice starting in the 1980s. Yet it’s nevertheless the logic of entitled homeowners associations in the neighborhood today, who assert as unscientifically as their peers did when “separate but equal,” or Jim Crow policy, was still law, that the very existence of unhoused people in the area depresses property values and “brings in crime,” something we’ll get back to in a moment.

For now, just note that housing shortages for Black and non-white immigrant communities in Oakwood would only be exacerbated in the decades after the World War II population boom because of this L. Ron Hubbard-like pseudoscience of real estate assessments against their “compatibility” with the dominant white order.

Racial disinvestment against areas like Oakwood would continue well after the Fair Housing Act of 1968, when redlining was outlawed, with the exception of policing budgets and details to patrol Black and Latino families in the vicinity, who, like their contemporaries to the Southeast in Watts, were not only discriminated in housing but also in employment and educational opportunities, thus making them more vulnerable to L.A.’s expanding carceral state.

A real estate boom would hit the community in the late 1980s, abetted by an accompanying surge of policing, pushing major swaths of Blacks out of the historic neighborhood in particular. By 1990, the Black population in Oakwood fell by eight percentage points down to 22% of the area, a considerable drop from a high of 44% in 1970. Latinos and whites, by contrast, increased by five and three percentage points, to make up 50% and 26% of the Oakwood population in the years before the Rodney King rebellion, respectively.

By 2000, the Black population in Oakwood fell again, by another seven percentage points to 15% of the area, while the Latino population saw its first decline after four decades of growth by three percentage points down to 47% of the area. Over the course of the new millennium, however, Latinos would continue to leave Oakwood, following in the footsteps of Blacks, whose displacement from the area began as early as when Latinos grew to comprise half of households there in 1970. As of 2019, the percentage of Black families in the area was less than 12%, while the Latino population decreased to 30%. White families, by contrast, now form 73% of the Oakwood neighborhood, something that must have seemed unimaginable to many Black and Latino youth policed up and down its corners in the early 1990s.

A gang injunction by the LAPD in Oakwood was initiated in 1999, even as research showed that “gangs” across L.A. by the 2000s were largely inactive compared to the 1970s and 1980s.

An LAPD gang injunction map from 2013, allowing them to stop, harass, and arrest any “suspected” gang members.

Compounding a dearth of housing and employment opportunities, the injunction would harass and jail generations of working-age Black and Latino residents in the area until an ACLU lawsuit slowed it down in 2016. Yet by the early 2010s, as Brown families to the northeast in Echo Park would also find, the damage was done. As one life-long resident of Oakwood noted in a 2018 interview:

“Families moved out to get their kids away from the gang injunction because you couldn’t be anywhere in Venice and not get stopped or harassed or arrested by the police if they deemed you a gang member.”

Additionally, an inspection of data from the Million Dollar Hoods project shows that over a five year period, from 2012 – 2017, police made over 3,300 arrests in the Venice beach area, with Black and Latinos accounting for 57% of arrests despite making up just 27 percent of the area’s population by 2008. Black men in particular were arrested at a rate seven times higher than their share of the population.

Conservative estimates of LAPD expenditures on arrests in the Venice beach neighborhood from 2012 – 2017.

Today, Council District 11, where Venice and Santa Monica are based, stands to see a continued decline of Black and Latino households at the same time that homelessness continues to soar for these two groups across Los Angeles. Since 2011, CD-11’s rate of unhoused people has grown by 160% to more than 3,200 people without shelter, making it the sixth most impacted district in Los Angeles today, and by extension, another hub for hostile police activity.

This is because while the number of unhoused people in L.A. grew by leaps and bounds over the 2010s, research suggests that homelessness, followed by policing, grew most in formerly redlined areas. For example, in 2019, just three of fifteen districts in L.A. contained 41% of the city’s homeless population, all three of which were heavily redlined or marked for disinvestment for their Black and immigrant residents during the federal housing administration’s development programs. Neighborhoods in these redlined areas include Skid Row and Boyle Heights, South Central or South Los Angeles, and Leimert Park and the Crenshaw corridor, where rapper Nipsey Hussle was slain in March 2019.

We also now return to the question of “crime,” particularly as it’s said to concern unhoused people. In the 1980s and 1990s, white liberal and conservative politics asserted that crime in L.A. was largely due to Black and immigrant “gangs.” Today, homeowners associations and their backers increasingly attribute crime to unhoused people, nearly 3/4ths of whom are Black and Latino in Los Angeles. Yet since the early 1990s through 2019, while homelessness increased in the city, reports of violent and “property crimes” across the nation–and in L.A. County–generally fell by more than half.

As recently as 2019, there were approximately 555 violent crimes per 100,000 people, compared to nearly 1,800 such crimes reported in 1990. There were also 2,200 property crimes per 100,000 people (not including arson) in 2019, though compared to 5,700 such crimes reported in 1990. The point is so important it merits repetition: Even while homelessness in Los Angeles has increased yearly since the early 1990s, both violent and property related crimes have largely continued to fall in the county since their 1990 levels.

An analysis of the crime rate by the Pew Research Center showing fallen crime rates from ’93 to…”infinity”?

But contrary to pseudoscience from police unions and their public official liaisons, “more cops” have not equaled more public safety. As Aya Gruber recently noted in a brilliant essay on “bluelining,” or police-patrol as a new form of redlining against historically discriminated communities of color, experts have long held that random preventative patrols, along with rapid response time to calls, neither reduce crime nor induce fear in people considering a criminal act. Additionally, Gruber points out:

“Researchers have also determined that ‘proactive policing,’ which includes ‘quality of life’ offenses, street sweeps, and stop-and-frisks, does not reduce, and in fact, may increase, crime.”

Yet, if not for the continued policing of non-white bodies, as demonstrated above, and increasingly, the policing of unhoused non-white bodies, exactly where would police have gone over the last 30 years? Something tells this writer that “preventing,” or rather responding, to 500 violent crimes per 100,000 residents and roughly 2,200 property crimes per 100,000 households to the tune of billion$ would be more difficult for police unions and public officials in L.A. to justify before city councils and communities. Yet it’s increasingly the case as more of us bear down on the city and county’s historic over-expenditures for a police state.

As author Alex Vitale noted in The End of Policing (2017): “The reality is that the police exist primarily as a system for managing and even producing inequality by suppressing social movements and tightly managing the behaviors of poor and nonwhite people: those on the losing end of economic and political arrangements.”

Moreover, in Los Angeles, there is overwhelming evidence to show why policing non-white communities into submission is not a sustainable path for the city, state or federal government. This August will mark 56 years since the war-zone in Watts, when the LAPD and Mayor Yorty called on National Guard troops to descend on Black bodies in the South L.A. community after their rebellion against continued police brutality there. The war-zone in Watts led to the police murder of 26 civilians, the injuries of thousands more, and subsequent “riots” in response to over-policing and disinvestment against Black communities in sister cities over the following years. Yet it would not constitute the worst damage in Los Angeles, after all.

This past April marked 29 years since 64 people lost their lives across Los Angeles, including ten murdered by police, while 54 others were killed amid looting and civil unrest during Mayor Bradley’s tenure. As with Watts twenty-seven years earlier–and thousands of other deaths and damages in cities all over the U.S. following the 1960s–each loss of life and damage was preventable, if not for civic institutions and policies continually demoralizing non-white, impoverished people as undeserving of fair and equal treatment in virtually every walk of life, pronouncing the indignity of the “red line” well beyond the 1930s.

What’s also true is that a major part of why L.A. & Cali have always operated–dangerously–in isolation is because of Washington D.C’s refusal to rein in the states when acting unilaterally against our historically discriminated communities. Yet as the progenitor or “forefather” of the Federal Housing Administration program that has segregated [verb] Black and immigrant neighborhoods in the inner city for nearly 100 years now, and marked them for disinvestment, Washington D.C. is not extricable from discussions of equity, reparations, and reconciliation for housing, employment, and other opportunities robbed from us.

In concert with a new civil rights movement, then, picking up where our first civil rights leaders left off, it’s now time for communities, from Oakwood and all of Venice, to Echo Park and beyond, to mark every dollar lost on policing rather than resourcing our neighborhoods. In a fair hearing, whether on the streets of D.C., or before the United Nations, each dollar represents what we are owed—with interest—in a new, New Deal through the 21st century.

J.T.

A police cruiser is stopped at a light on Sunset boulevard and Vermont avenue.

Know your Neighborhood: Policing in Los Feliz vs Silver Lake vs East Hollywood

Over a five year period, from 2012 – 2017, the Million Dollar Hoods (MDH) project compiled data for estimated costs of arrests by both the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department (LASD) across neighborhoods, community college areas, Metro subways and bus lines in L.A., and more.

Data taken from LAPD show areas where people were arrested from 2012 – 2017, how many days those people were detained, and “price tags” for booking and detainment, which is to say the costs for time that people spent under arrest at LAPD stations before arraignment or release.

Data taken from LASD took analyzed home addresses–when available–of people booked into jail by the sheriffs from 2012 – 2017, which are not shown in the data set for obvious reasons. Data analyzed also looked at the total number of days those people spent incarcerated, and the average daily cost of their time within the L.A. County Jail system, which is the largest jail system in the United States. Additionally, the data set for LASD’s arrests shows the level of alleged offenses by detainees, or whether detainees were held for misdemeanor or felony charges.

The following are a set of statistics taken from the Million Dollar Hoods database for the Los Feliz, Silver Lake and East Hollywood areas in Central L.A., which show major disparities between which racial groups are policed in each of these neighborhoods, as well as between expenses accrued for people arrested depending on which neighborhood they were arrested in.

Beginning with Los Feliz, over a five year period, the LAPD spent at least $607,237 to cover costs for 1,333 people arrested there, whose time in detention amounted to 2,642 days. The LASD over this period spent at least $272,892 for 133 people arrested in Los Feliz, whose collective time detained amounted to at least 1,737 days. Together, the LAPD and LASD’s costs for arresting and jailing people in Los Feliz amounted to at least $880,129 for 4,379 days of jail time from 2012 – 2017.

As recently as 2008, the median household income in Los Feliz was $50,793, about the same as the amount for L.A. County then. But while Blacks made up just 2.2% of the population of Los Feliz, they showed up as 13% of those arrested there, or nearly six times their demographic share. Latinos, who made up for 14.2% of the population, appeared as 25% of those arrested by LAPD in the area. By contrast, whites, who made up 67% of the population in Los Feliz, accounted for about 40% of arrests by LAPD there.

In the Silver Lake area, over a five year period, the LAPD spent at least $641,943 to cover costs for 1,313 people arrested there, whose time in detention amounted to 2,793 days. During that same time, the LASD spent at least $331,673 for 149 people arrested in Silver Lake, whose time detained totaled over 2,142 days. Together, the LAPD and LASD’s costs for arresting and jailing people in Silver Lake amounted to at least $973,616 for 4,935 days of jail time from 2012 – 2017.

As recently as 2008, the median household income in Silver Lake was $54,339, also about the same as the amount for L.A. County at the time. While Black people made up just 3.4% of the population in Los Feliz, they accounted for over 14% of those arrested by LAPD in the area, or over four times their demographic share. Latinos, who comprised just over 35% of the population, accounted for 52% of those arrested by LAPD in the area. Whites made up 43% of the population in Silver Lake, but accounted for only 25% of arrests by LAPD there.

Less than a few square miles from Los Feliz or Silver Lake is East Hollywood, the lowest median income area of the three neighborhoods, and the most policed.


Over a five year period, from 2012-2017, East Hollywood saw more expenditures for policing and jail time than Los Feliz and Silver Lake combined. The LAPD spent at least $3,454,495 to cover costs for 6,852 people arrested in the area, whose time incarcerated totaled more than 15,000 days, three times the rate of jail time for those arrested in either Los Feliz or Silver Lake.

Over the same period, the LASD spent at least $1,487,910 for 516 people arrested, whose time incarcerated totaled nearly 10,000 days. Together, the LAPD and LASD’s costs for arresting and jailing people in East Hollywood amounted to at least $4,942,405. These expenditures were made for at least 25,011 days of jail time for those arrested in East Hollywood from 2012 – 2017.

By 2008, the median household income for East Hollywood was $29,927, or nearly half of that of L.A. county at the time, not to mention nearly half of the median household income in the Los Feliz and Silver Lake areas at the time. Blacks made up just 2.4% of the neighborhood, but accounted for 13% of those arrested by LAPD, nearly six times their demographic share. Latinos made up for just over 55% of the population, but accounted for 65% of those arrested by LAPD. Whites, who made up 24% of the population of East Hollywood, accounted for 13% of those arrested by LAPD.

Additionally, in all three neighborhoods, males made up more than 3/4ths of those arrested by LAPD, while females accounted for 1/4th of those arrested. And at least half of the charges filed by the LASD against arrestees were misdemeanors, though it should be noted that even misdemeanors for non-whites can prove fatal for their chances at employment. Furthermore, as noted by the folks at MDH regarding their research methodology for these data:

“While the County Auditor-Controller calculations include variable costs (like staffing costs, travel and supplies), overhead costs, utilities costs, and accounting adjustments, our calculations only include variable costs. As a result, our estimates may be interpreted as conservative (emphasis mine): they do not include costs associated with building facilities and keeping the lights on, administrating the jail system as a sub-unit of county government, providing health care, or interfacing with the law enforcement and court systems.”

Even statisticians will admit that no data set tells the whole story, but the data above allow communities to consider just how many taxpayer dollars go yearly towards disproportionately jailing Black and Latino bodies in Los Angeles, particularly within a handful of areas in L.A. County, and how gross these disparities are when compared to neighborhoods within walking distance from particularly policed areas such as East Hollywood.

Readers can also consider the disproportionate level of jail time and detention costs for arrests in East Hollywood, where more than half of the Asian and Latino residents in the community are “foreign-born,” compared to the amount of costs and jail time for arrests in the neighboring Los Feliz and Silver Lake areas, which are substantially whiter neighborhoods. Clearly, the city of Los Angeles has a consistent track record arresting Blacks, Latinos and working class immigrants wherever they may be in Los Angeles, even while these groups are precisely those which have seen the least amount of support for housing, education, and fair employment in Los Angeles over the 172 years since California’s been in business.

In a sheriff’s document online listed by the MDH study, the front page informs readers that their department’s motto is “a tradition of service since 1850.” Clearly, such “service” refers to a very different kind of service than the one many people of color have experienced with such departments in their neighborhoods.

J.T.

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

In Pictures: A Week that Changed Los Angeles for A Generation

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 80)

A group of police officers, sheriffs, and National Guard service-members at the Hall of Justice in downtown Los Angeles
A group of police officers, sheriffs, and National Guard service-members at the Hall of Justice in downtown Los Angeles
A line of National Guard service-members guard the Hall of Justice in downtown Los Angeles
A National Guard truck gets ready to make a turn on Hope Street in downtown Los Angeles
A police officer, sheriff, and National Guard service-member guard the Hall of Justice in downtown Los Angeles
A police officer, sheriff, and National Guard service-member guard the Hall of Justice in downtown Los Angeles
A police officer and National Guard service-member exchange a word at the Hall of Justice in downtown Los Angeles
A police officer and National Guard service-member exchange a word at the Hall of Justice in downtown Los Angeles
A crowd of protesters gathered on North Spring street
A line of police officers forms a barrier at L.A. City Hall in downtown Los Angeles
A line of police officers forms a barrier at L.A. City Hall in downtown Los Angeles
A police officer holds what appears to be a rubber bullet rifle at L.A. City Hall
A police officer holds what appears to be a rubber bullet rifle at L.A. City Hall
A protester holds a sign at a protest in front of L.A. City Hall
A protester holds a sign at a protest in front of L.A. City Hall
A helicopter circles around L.A. City Hall, monitoring protests
A helicopter circles around L.A. City Hall, monitoring protests
A police SUV cruises by on Hill street in downtown Los Angeles
A police SUV cruises by on Hill street in downtown Los Angeles
Police cruisers parked along 1st street and Hope street in Los Angeles
Police cruisers parked along 1st street and Hope street in Los Angeles

“The words ‘Equal Justice Under Law’ are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand—one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values—our values as people and our values as a nation…We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution.” – James Mattis, Former Secretary of Defense of the United States with more than 50 years of experience in the U.S. Marine Forces

J.T.

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A line of police officers forms a barrier at L.A. City Hall in downtown Los Angeles

LAPD officers Now Face a Crucial Choice: To stand with policies as they are, or stand for a change, even in their own ranks

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 78)

As of 2018, according to Police Chief Michel Moore, Black, Asian and Latino police officers make up at least 60% of LAPD’s force in Los Angeles.

However, the Board of Directors for the police union, known as the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which works to “protect, promote, and improve the working conditions, legal rights, compensation and benefits of Los Angeles police officers,” is made up of nine officers, including just one Black woman, two white women, and six white men.

In other words, the board is not an accurate representation of what the majority of police officers in L.A. look like, and by extension, what their values are, as well as where they may see room to work along with members of the community in Los Angeles for the betterment of the public good.

The board of police commissioners, on the other hand, which “sets overall policy while the Chief of Police manages the daily operations of the Department and implements the Board’s policies or policy direction and goals,” is slightly more representative, but might be said to still fall short of “a fair share.” Made up of five mayor-appointed representatives, overseeing a police force where 60% of officers hail from Black, Asian and Latino communities, one could expect these groups to have, say, three out of five seats on the board.

Instead, two white women and one white man take up 60% of the board seats, while one Black man, and one Latina woman account for 40%. In a democratic country, numbers like these suggest we still have a ways to go before achieving an actual functioning democracy.

It’s therefore a good time for every LAPD officer to ask themselves: In the best case scenario, what might the future of policing look like in Los Angeles? For whom should police work, and how?

If there was ever a time for departments, organizations, and individuals everywhere in America to reflect on their own practices and representation, clearly that time has now arrived. And if there’s going to be any meaningful process of change and perhaps even reconciliation, these are just a few key questions to start with.

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.

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By Escalating the Police State, Mayor Garcetti Is Officially L.A.’s First White Supremacist Mayor of 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 an annual budget of more than a billion dollars 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 skin.

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 designation of the so-called “ANTIFA” (abbreviated from 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 either to 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 civilians in the United States 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 government to stop sanctioning the killing of unarmed Black people?

Additionally, I encourage every reader in Los Angeles to consider the following: exactly what gives Garcetti the right to escalate police forces at this time? And why is L.A. City Council not convening during these hours to veto the mayor’s invitation of the national guard to our city? What expertise for crisis management has Garcetti shown during seven years of shoving & arresting unhoused citizens instead of sheltering them? And how competently has his team performed during just the last two months in which they’ve failed to house even two-tenths of L.A.’s 15,000 most vulnerable unhoused residents? Are these failures actually precisely what qualify Garcetti to play as top cop?

Moreover, L.A. City Council’s failure to convene at this time
also exposes that the body is weak outside the realm of green lights for real estate tycoons, with its council-members sitting disparately at this time and apparently without prior knowledge of any of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s orders. This is a clear example of what democracy does not look like.

J.T.

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How arrests in our community stoke memories of collective trauma

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 53)

On the drive back home the other night I found myself behind the steering wheel looking for a parking spot. It must have been just slightly past 7:30 pm. When I made the turn onto my street-which rarely has an open space but which I gave a shot anyway-I was struck by an unnerving sight: a police car parked in the middle of the street, its doors wide open, situated behind another car a few feet away that sat idly and without any passengers inside. I slowed down to survey what was going on. It was an arrest.

I slowly lifted my foot off the break to ease the car forward, when through the windshield I saw one of two police officers taking to a young man who looked to be somewhere in his early twenties, in a baseball cap and face-mask, and with his arms behind his back, presumably just moments away from being placed into the patrol car.

Less than ten feet away, I saw the second police officer pinning another young man likely in his early twenties in a baseball cap against the wall of the apartment complex a few feet removed from the curb. The police officer was searching him. From my open window on the passenger’s side, I could hear the young man pleading with the officer to ‘take it easy,’ that it was all an overreaction.

Ages ago when I was fifteen years old, a similar experience befell me and a group of other young folks in the neighborhood. But even if our experience at the hands of the Rampart police department was an anomaly, or something extraordinary, today I wouldn’t be able to count how many times over almost thirty years in the community I’ve seen police cars in the neighborhood just like the other night, escorting young people into custody more often than not.

I’m not alone in that sight. After maneuvering my car fully past the scene, I continued toward opposite side of the street from where I entered to try my chances for a curb elsewhere. A couple of minutes later, a few blocks away from home, I found a spot and quickly pulled my car alongside. I thought that would be the end of it, and that the police would just be gone by the time I walked back over. But some ten minutes after I first caught sight of the arrest, on turning the corner onto my street, things had barely moved an inch. The young man against the wall was still there, while the other was no longer in view, presumably inside the police cruiser. There were a few neighbors out, some walking their dogs, but none of us were exactly in the mood then for our usual polite greetings then.

As I paced forward, closing in on the gate outside my building meant literally getting physically closer to the arrest. I sped up my pace then, but found myself wrought by feelings of embarrassment for the young men, and feelings of inadequacy with myself for simply walking away, for not speaking up to ask what was going on and why they had to place these young men into handcuffs like that.

I asked myself if I should photograph the scene, if only to create a citizen’s record of the arrest, but decided against it. I understand it’s already humiliating enough to be subjected to the will of a police officer. A photograph of the event, which can be shared widely and haunt one for years, is all that less necessary.

Making my way past the gate and into the building, as sunset edged along the sky to leave the street with evening, I realized mom would be home soon. I thought of calling her to warn her about the miserable spectacle outside, but decided against that too, figuring the arrest would conclude just before she turned the corner with her cart along the sidewalk.

Turning the knob and stepping into my living room brought little reprieve. I took a set and sought anything to distance myself from wracked feelings, a simple distraction to shake it off my mind. But a few minutes later, I heard the familiar sound of mom’s cart rolling through the hallway. On arriving outside the door, she let the cart go roughly against it, which made a loud thumping sound, and which was unusual for her. On opening the door, I could see that mom was shaken. The arrest had lingered on and she saw everything; it brought back a trove of memories for her too.

J.T.

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