South L.A. Town Hall Ends in Protests but Residents Hope Dialogue with Mayor Is Just Beginning

Mayor Eric Garcetti tried to pacify activists by discussing his efforts to humanize policing just before the South L.A. Town Hall was finally shut down. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Mayor Eric Garcetti tried to pacify activists by discussing his efforts to humanize policing just before the South L.A. Town Hall was finally shut down. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Really? A helicopter?? I sighed as I heard the aircraft swoop in low and fast outside Holman United Methodist Church Monday night as Mayor Eric Garcetti’s first ever South L.A. Town Hall came to a rather unceremonious close.

It was a little after 8 p.m., and pleas from an exasperated Reverend Kelvin Sauls that those “interested in having a civil conversation…remain here” while the rest left in peace had fallen on deaf ears. When members of the Black Lives Matter movement — who, throughout the meeting, had turned their backs on Garcetti and his staff when they spoke, interrupted speakers, broken into chants of “Black Lives, they matter here!,” and ascended to the stage to take the mic — began shouting Garcetti down in earnest, dialogue was finally rendered impossible.

The next thing we knew, the mayor was being whisked off the stage and out the door, buffered on all sides by city staffers and police. The meeting was effectively over. Adams Blvd. between 5th and Arlington was quickly shut down as protesters surged outside to surround the mayor’s car and the aforementioned helicopter arrived shortly thereafter.

Exchanging glances with some of the South L.A. friends and community advocates in attendance, it appeared we had some of the same questions on our minds:

What were we supposed to make of what just happened? And, just how hysterical was the coverage of the meeting going to be the next day?

As for the latter: pretty hysterical.

Right wingers from Breitbart.com and The Blaze (neither of which was present at the event), wrote of the mayor being “forced to flee” the event and needing to be “escorted to safety,” giving their following the ammunition needed to declare the protesters to be (in some of the more G-rated comments, at least) jobless “thugs,” “racists,” and “terrorists.”

Local coverage of the event wasn’t a whole lot better, focusing on the “chaos,” the meeting as a “hotbed of civil disobedience,” the “aggression” of speakers, and the actions of activist Jasmine Richards, who jumped on Garcetti’s car, prompting viewers and readers to post many of the same kinds of ugly denouncements found on the right wing websites. Weirdest of all was seeing a Fox11 reporter, who had not been at the meeting the night before and who had absolutely no idea what was behind the protests he claimed had “nearly ambushed” the mayor, stand outside a city administration building the next morning and wonder on air why no protesters had shown up to heckle the mayor as he met with HUD secretary Julian Castro about homelessness.

None of which is surprising, of course, but is disheartening all the same.

As for the former query — what were we supposed to make of what just happened? — the answer was much more complicated.

These were South L.A. residents and advocates. There was nobody I spoke with that did not understand where the anger was coming from. While the core group of protesters may have been small (anywhere between 20 and 50 people), their concerns had the empathy of many in attendance. At least, up to a point.

When Melina Abdullah, a professor of Pan African Studies at Cal State L.A. and organizer for Black Lives Matter, had taken the mic toward the end of the meeting and explained why people were turning their backs on the man she called the “back door mayor,” there were nods and murmurs of understanding.

Black Lives Matter had consistently asked the mayor to sit down with them in quarterly town halls to work with them on addressing police brutality, police reform, and community empowerment. Over the summer (just prior to the Police Commission’s ruling on the fatal police shooting of Ezell Ford), they had even staked out Garcetti’s home trying to get him to agree to a meeting, only to have him sneak out his back door on his way back East to do some fundraising. Abdullah told town hall attendees that because all their requests had been ignored — they had not even been formally invited to the event, despite having been the ones that had asked for it — they were resolved not to sit down until they were given seats on the stage (which they eventually did with the help of transportation advocate Damien Goodmon).

“We are appreciative of this space,” she said, “but [Black Lives Matter] created this space.”

It was a claim many of the elders in the community might have disputed. Some I spoke with after the meeting were shaking their heads over the fact that they found themselves confronting so many of the very same issues they had gone up against as activists in their youth, that young men were still dying at the hands of police and there was still no accountability. And Reverend Sauls, an important advocate for the South L.A. community on a wide range of issues since his arrival at Holman in 2012, had been the one to moderate a meeting between the Black Lives Matter advocates and the mayor at Holman this past July.

But her larger point stood: they were being excluded from a process that they felt they had helped set in motion. And hearing the mayor talk about the importance of respectful dialogue and communication was only adding insult to injury.

And the question she had for African-American entertainment lawyer Matt Johnson, newly appointed head of the Los Angeles Police Commission, about whether he would “authentically represent the black community” was not an inconsequential one. Concerns about the public’s inability to access body cam footage and about the extent to which police officers’ ability to review footage before writing reports or giving statements to internal investigators could impact cases where the use of force was in question have been front and center since before body cameras first hit the streets last month.

So have questions about whether or not bad behavior will be duly punished; officer Sharlton Wampler was found by the commission to have used tactics against Ford that violated LAPD policy, resulting in his death, yet LAPD Chief Charlie Beck has yet to announce any charges against Wampler or his partner Antonio Villegas. And few seem convinced by Johnson’s promises that a “full day” of “state of the art” training on preservation of life, de-escalation, the handling of the mentally ill, and constitutional policing would help ensure that “we have as few abuses of power as possible.”

For those in the room who had grown up having their own mobility curtailed by law enforcement and who now watched their own children or other young people experience the same struggles, it was not hard to agree with Abdullah when she insisted, “We are here because this is real for us… This is not about politics, this is not about your re-election, this is about our lives!”

Protesters alternately held up their hands in support of a speaker or turned their backs on them. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Protesters alternately held up their hands in support of a speaker or turned their backs on them. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

But attendees had a number of other concerns they wanted heard, too.

How would the mayor address the structural violence perpetuated by decades of disinvestment, disenfranchisement, discrimination, denial of opportunity, and the criminalization of poverty in South L.A.? Together, these factors had created the conditions that allowed for the negative stereotyping of particular groups and the sanctioning of the suppressive tactics used against them. Yet, both policy and wider public opinion have been slow to acknowledge and adjust to that reality.

“There is no such thing as black-on-black crime,” Chimbuko Tembo, associate director of the African American Cultural Center, declared emphatically. Saying that there is such a phenomenon only “racializes crime and criminalizes a whole people.”

When the mayor agreed that the problems facing areas like South L.A. were indeed deep, structural, and “brutal,” a second speaker joining Tembo on stage interrupted to ask what specific partnerships and strategies the mayor had put in place to address those issues and the resulting poverty-driven violence. To too many in the community, it had felt like the only response had been increasingly intensive policing.

Searching for a way to answer what is actually a complicated question and, it seemed, to speak to the activists that kept their backs turned to him, Garcetti began, “Let me say, you’re right, your analysis… I hate this back-and-forth we hear nationally, where people say, ‘Black lives matter,’ and politicians say, ‘All lives matter.’ Black lives matter in a unique way, and you and I see eye to eye on this.”

“If you just try to say, ‘All lives matter,'” he continued, picking up some momentum, “you write people out of history. You write slavery out of history. You write oppression and violence out of history. You write racism and lynching out of history. So, I get why it is important — just hear me out for one second — you’re right.”

Policing wasn’t going to be enough, Garcetti agreed, “We have to have strategies” to address the violence of homelessness, joblessness, poverty, foster care, and the like.

“It’s why I ran for mayor,” he said. “If we don’t break the cycle, we are lost.”

To that end, he continued, he had pledged to see 100,000 units of housing built in eight years. He had expanded the domestic violence response program (DART) within the LAPD so that all 21 divisions now had DART teams. He had invested more money and time in building relationships with gang interventionists and had extended Summer Night Lights programming into the fall to give young people a safe place to go. And these programs were all in addition to the effort he had spoken about earlier to create jobs that provided a “pathway to progress,” including the hiring of a coordinator to aid those returning from prison (because “they [were] getting out of jail and there [was] no plan for them”), finding summer jobs for 12,000 young people, raising the minimum wage, winning a $6 million grant to aid those that are hardest to employ, and offering employment assistance to veterans.

Not satisfied with that answer, the young man asked again about the specific relationships the mayor had built that would help ground any fixes in the community and make them more sustainable over time. Garcetti looked to the coordinator for GRYD — the office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development that runs the Summer Night Lights programs and other intervention work (and which has sometimes been seen by some as being overly bureaucratic and/or not able to play well with others) — to ask how many groups they were working with now on those issues. Around thirty groups, came the answer.

Instead of taking a moment to elaborate on what that meant in practice, however, Garcetti passed the mic to Metro’s new CEO, Phil Washington.

And, yes, that was just about as awkward a transition as it sounds.

Metro CEO Phil Washington introduces himself to the crowd and lets them know he understands their concerns. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Metro CEO Phil Washington introduces himself to the crowd and lets them know he understands their concerns. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

It would have made more sense to bring Washington into the conversation when Damien Goodmon asked how L.A.’s 2024 Olympics bid might make it possible to extend the Purple Line underneath Wilshire Blvd. on an accelerated schedule but no such funds could be found to protect the city’s last black commercial corridor along Crenshaw, where the train is set to run above ground. Or when trained construction worker Cornell Jones spoke of the challenge black workers faced (himself included) getting and keeping good jobs in an industry where black workers are the minority and “it is not what you know but who you know that matters.”

Awkward timing aside, Washington seemed to relish the opportunity to introduce himself to the crowd, telling them that he understood them and knew their concerns. He had grown up in the projects, he said, and, referencing concerns about the lack of black workers working on the Crenshaw Line, “saw what it was like when people [working in my community] didn’t look like me.”

He was committed to “leveling the playing field” by offering aid to small businesses so they could stay in communities where transit construction was underway and preparing workers to be able to work not just on the Crenshaw line but “all over this region.” He had recently delayed a proposal, he said, to make sure that the language in it supported small businesses and job creation for the community.

We have to be concerned about our communities being displaced through transit construction, he concluded, and we must work to make sure transit benefits the communities and businesses around it. He was, he reiterated, “totally committed to getting our young brothers and sisters jobs.”

It was the last upbeat note of the night.

Melina Abdullah, at center, is joined by other members of the Black Lives Matter movement. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Melina Abdullah, at center, is joined by other members of the Black Lives Matter movement as Reverend Sauls calls for peaceful conversation. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Shortly after Washington spoke, Abdullah took the mic to explain the protesters’ rationale, to declare, “We don’t need to get close to the mayor to have power!,” to introduce the mother of Kendrec McDade, to lead the community in chanting “Black Lives, they matter here!,” and to interrogate the motives of both Garcetti and police commissioner Johnson with regard to police reform.

Garcetti found himself calling for respectful dialogue just as the sanctuary began to erupt in noise, and was unfortunately never able to regain control of the crowd.

He was ushered out soon after, taking the noise, the protesters, and, of course, the TV crews with him.

He would make no other statement to the press that night, save an official one sent out after he left:

Tonight, we had hundreds of South LA residents attend a community meeting  — leaders, business owners, mothers and children, who took time out of their evening to discuss the critical issues that matter most to all of us. I am disappointed that our conversation was cut short when there is so much work for us to do together to make our neighborhoods stronger and safer. I believe in our City and my commitment to our shared concerns continues, stronger than ever.

The meeting may have officially been over, and folks may have been disappointed and even angry that that was the case, but this was South L.A. The attendees — many of whom were long-time community advocates — had come ready for a dialogue, and dialogue they did. They continued to talk amongst themselves about the future of the community for another hour, concluding their parking lot conversations only after being told leaders needed to lock up the gates. They had needed that time to process how they felt about what they had seen and heard and to talk about what they had been hoping to hear.

Many wanted to hear more about jobs — black unemployment in some areas of South L.A. hovers around the levels seen just prior to the 1992 unrest. African-Americans were the first to lose their jobs in the 2008 recession and have been the last to get them back. What kinds of jobs and community investment might the Olympics bring, and for whom? How would improved transit help take people to jobs, or provide better, more stable, and more lucrative jobs?

Others wanted to hear about housing and gentrification. Metro’s Phil Washington might be deeply dedicated to creating Transit Oriented Communities, but what did that really mean in practice for the renter looking to buy in the neighborhood they grew up in where transit is fueling real estate speculation? And what about when that speculation was facilitated by the subprime mortgage crisis in which so many families of color lost their homes? How would historic and cultural communities be acknowledged, preserved, and elevated? And how would renters be able to avoid displacement?

What real investments were being made in at-risk young men of color? This past summer had been deadly in a way that would have been framed as a heartbreaking emergency of national concern had it happened in a whiter, well-to-do suburb. How could we ensure that these youth were being reached and nurtured rather than targeted, harassed, victimized, and criminalized just for moving through the public space?

And what about the Latino community and their needs? There had been a modest number of Latinos in the audience, many of whom were younger activists supportive of Black Lives Matter and many of whom take great pride in standing in solidarity with their African-American neighbors. But the meeting was explicitly geared toward addressing the needs of the African-American community, especially with regard to jobs and policing. While it is true that the two communities’ needs, concerns, and even issues with the police don’t always overlap, the reality is that they share many of the same spaces. A more inclusive dialogue, therefore, seems important. It would not necessarily be easy, given that the two groups co-exist more harmoniously in some areas of South L.A. than in others. But having segregated conversations (or marginalizing one group altogether) doesn’t make much sense either, and only helps fuel the zero-sum notion that if one group wins resources or concessions it must be because the other group has been denied those things. How and when would the needs of the Latino community be acknowledged and addressed? And how would resources be directed to help both groups thrive together?

And, finally, where would we go from here?

Disruption (and the threat of disruption) has become an important tactic in getting the attention of those that have been either unable or unwilling to assign any value to the struggles of those on the margins. And it has forced long-standing structures to reckon with a whole new set of constituents and acknowledge a new slate of issues must be incorporated into the political decision-making process. All of which is truly exciting.

But what comes after disruption? Is there a point at which it becomes counterproductive? At present, it has kept the issues of police brutality and police reform front and center. And it has given young activists a platform to connect to and learn from. But it also seems to have resulted in reactionary policies, like the cracking down on protesters. The police commission recently tightened its rules on protests during meetings to curb disruptions. And Abdullah herself was thrown out of a police commission meeting yesterday morning in what she described as record time — just 60 seconds. Get thrown out of meetings enough times, and you run the risk of being excluded from the conversation altogether. If there aren’t structures and people in place that can institutionalize a group’s concerns by incorporating them into policy and decision-making, then how does that group and that conversation move forward? Can short-term victories be sustainable without such structures? How is such a balance struck? And who is responsible for putting those structures in place and making sure they are representative?

These are just some of the questions to which nobody seemed to have an answer.

Those I spoke with, however, hoped that this would not be the end of the conversation — there is too much work to be done, too much left hanging in the balance, too many lives at stake. And with so much in flux — many of South L.A.’s more vulnerable residents are feeling the squeeze as their historic neighborhoods undergo transitions — residents do not have the luxury of time on their side.

A statement issued by the mayor yesterday morning acknowledged the urgency of this conversation and reiterated his commitment to continuing to work with South L.A. residents on their “shared concerns.”

Here’s hoping that happens sooner (and more frequently) rather than later.

  • Stvr

    This is so tangential to SBLA’s mission that I question its publication. I’ve sounded this bell before but I think this is where I draw the line. I’m deleting my subscription.

  • calwatch

    I do feel for Garcetti here, because there are a lot of issues on his plate. The only major thing that he has, fortunately, not tried to tackle unlike previous mayors are the schools (which is important since there are a significant number of LAUSD students who do not live in the City of Los Angeles and were disenfranchised under the proposed Villaraigosa takeover), but you could spend all day “dialoguing” and not get anything done.

    Also, there are different concerns elsewhere in the city. You and the people in South Los Angeles may poo-poo the concerns of the Palisades and Brentwood, but they are seeing an increasing homeless population and higher break ins that are causing some of the neighborhoods that can afford it to hire private security. These people have millions of people in audience every week on talk radio (Doug Macintyre and John Kobylt). On transportation, he is pushing Great Streets and the new sales tax; you have the Olympics; and so forth.

    And what BLM wants, as goals, are not going to happen under the current legal structure. You can’t fire police officers without due process due to the Peace Officers’ Bill of Rights; if you fire Charlie Beck (which you can do post-Daryl Gates since he is not protected by civil service) someone has to do the job; and representatives for officers will strenuously object to opening up police commission meetings due to, again, the Peace Officers’ Bill of Rights. The fact that black people are dying in police brutality, in numbers greater than their population, is a major issue, but for better or worse it’s not relevant to the majority of the public who is not black.

    All the voters are seeing, most of whom are disproportionately white and middle class and higher, is disruption and chaos and Garcetti trying to rise above the fray. BLM wants to try to change the agenda but through creating fruckuses just turn voters off.

  • sahra

    The issues folks were concerned about — their ability to move through the public space and their ability to stay in their neighborhoods as transit construction invites speculation and gentrification — are in no way tangential to Streetsblog’s mission. But to each his own.

  • sahra

    I haven’t poo-pooed Brentwoodians that I am aware of. But as to the rest, yes, he has taken the reins at a tough moment where so many of LA’s communities are transitioning and transforming, and they are doing so at a pretty rapid pace, making the needs a bit more urgent in many of the city’s neighborhoods.

    I think if there was one thing I could generalize with regard to what folks I know would like to see, it would be commitment and action on some of these deeper structural issues. Right now the perception among so many folks (not just in South LA, but also in the wider advocacy community), is that there is a lot of talk and interest in addressing surface level stuff (e.g. Great Streets) that looks good on paper, and not enough follow-through on deeper issues. In South L.A. in particular, Garcetti didn’t win the vote among the black community, so there are bridges that need to be built there, as well. People talk about him having a group of folks that he connects with and uses as a buffer between him and the wider community, but whether that is the reality is something I don’t know for sure. And his reluctance to step up and address the BLM concerns looks shady, but I am guessing he is also trying to avoid what de Blasio went through in NY when he voiced some of his concerns. So, it’s complicated for sure, and the perception the wider public has of BLM as only being disrupters doesn’t help move things forward either. And listening to folks after the meeting Monday night made it clear that, while the issues they raise resonate, the tactics, for some, might not. I’m not sure how that gap will be bridged within the African-American community. But I can say it was really nice to see so many young faces at the kind of event where you usually see retirees and established advocates.

  • Joe Linton

    SBLA tries to express a breadth of voices. Not every article will appeal to everyone. If you find it offputting to read an account of the Mayor and Metro head addressing a South L.A. audience, just skip it and read another article… or maybe try Curbed or People magazine!

  • MaxUtil

    Well I’m white and middle-class and BLM’s “fruckuses” don’t turn me off. I’m not sure they are always making the absolute best strategic choices in how they make themselves heard. But I do notice that it is rare they get any attention for the issues until they start interrupting some people and make a few uncomfortable. I’m not sure accusing them of being impolite is really a strong rebuttal to their tactics or goals.

    And I’m also not really sure that pointing out the people in Brentwood have to look at homeless people is much of a rebuttal to their point either. Of course the mayor has many issues and constituencies to deal with. But police and criminal justice reform isn’t a minor issue like filling potholes. The militarization of police essentially began in LA and while LAPD has come a long way since the Gates days, it’s not like there still aren’t some pretty serious issues.

  • calwatch

    But the issues are not as urgent as they once were, and if you turn off too many people, there may be a spillover effect affecting other goals that the mayor wants to accomplish. For instance, in transportation, the constant RTD labor strikes of the 1970’s dampened the electorate’s enthusiasm at supporting rapid transit, since it exposed its unreliability. The fact that there’s been labor peace since 2003 certainly helps in getting a sales tax passed, since the fact that transit can shut down if employees don’t get a big enough raise is no longer top of mind.

    Policing issues have been dealt with outside of the activist-driven structure. Indeed, at the County, the Board of Supervisors is dealing with jail violence and sheriff oversight through collaborative meetings that bring in the community. People always forget about the County but they seem to have accomplished a lot without having activists shut down their government.

    If we are going to state racial bona fides, I am not white, and I do not support BLM’s tactics. My mom, who is also not white, was more amused and confused at the white people marching for black lives at CicLAvia.

  • sahra

    These processes are still quite problematic, and the question of how oversight is managed is not resolved in a way people have found satisfactory. And the Sheriffs are still far more distrusted than the LAPD in most areas of South LA, in my experience. The fact that the Sheriffs begin their tenure in the jail before policing the streets also trains them to see people a certain way — as potential criminals. And the culture within both the Sheriffs and the LAPD that places more value on the confiscation of guns and drugs than preventative work and community policing also adds to the problem.

    The issues are incredibly urgent, if you are in one of the groups that gets targeted regularly and whose community feels like they can’t call on law enforcement as an ally when they need them. And, they’ve taken on a new urgency as communities transform and millenials move into gentrifying communities… law enforcement activity often increases as communities turn over and the public space receives more investment (inviting people to spend more time out in the streets), police can help reinforce segregation (new arrivals call police about “suspicious” people of color, and stop folks of color regularly, transmitting the message that these are people the new arrivals should be wary of), and increased policing sends lower-income residents of color the message that they are not part of the vision for the future of the neighborhood. So it is indeed an issue that is continuing to be important and is taking on new forms as communities grow, change, and integrate. You don’t have to support BLM’s tactics to see that those issues are real and pressing.

  • MaxUtil

    I’ll agree there’s a debate to be had about what the most effective tactics are. But I don’t think it’s reasonable to talk about policing issues like they’re getting resolved on their own without outside action. The sheriff’s office has only started to deal with some issues due to community action and intense FBI involvement. It’s not like they’re cleaning up their own act.

    I also don’t think it’s fair to describe BLM actions as “shutting down the government.” They were disruptive at a community meeting. I’ve seen lots of people do that at various times. Somehow when black people do it it they are portrayed as ‘thugs’, ‘threatening’, etc.

    I only mentioned my race because you made this statement, “All the voters are seeing, most of whom are disproportionately white and middle class and higher, is disruption and chaos.” I’m just one person, but thought it was relevant to say that that is not what I am seeing.

    I’m really not so sure why it’s considered odd for white people to be in any way active on these issues.

  • ubrayj02

    If this group has the numbers to fill an auditorium and coordinate their efforts, if they are able to sustain themselves doing it, they don’t need to beg the powers that be for help – they need to scare them into doing their jobs.

    I recall a mention in a documentary of the Black Panthers following around police cars while they went on patrol in black communities. That is something that a cell phone camera video after the fact can’t do: prevent abuse.

    It takes an awful lot of coordination and a few charismatic leaders to make that happen, and you need something more than a slogan to do it as well, but it’s there.

  • ubrayj02

    It is tangential, but it is honest to God journalism about an event that you won’t find covered this way elsewhere. I think it fits in, somewhat. The politics of safe streets in South Central has always been a huge question mark for me (personally). This part of LA controls a number of council seats and how it swings could build a block of safe streets votes (or not) on the council. If core issues of personal security are so severe that people are marching in the streets, shutting down freeways, to highlight the issue and you DON”T want to read about it … happy trails?

  • If the Mayor of a city has avoided visiting, let alone meeting with the residents of a large part of his city over issues occurring on the public streets, don’t you think that SBLA should be covering that? As we read in the coverage, the CEO of Metro was in attendance, and had some positive interaction over issues of concern to the Crenshaw corridor.

    That Garcetti allowed “20 to 50” persons to dictate the agenda of the meeting and then ran out like a scared child confirms volumes about his more-and-more apparent inability to lead this city as well as the other government bodies he serves on. That or he need to fire his personal security advisors, but I am afraid its the former.

  • calwatch

    In the interests of fairness, Najee Ali, a veteran Black activist (Project Islamic Hope and now the LA political director of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network), who did attend the meeting, was apalled at what he saw:

    “The mayor was escorted to his car, which was quickly surrounded by Black Lives Matter activists, when all of the sudden Black Lives Matter activist Jasmine Richards of Pasadena jumped on the top of the mayor’s car. What type of activism is that?

    I have never seen such a disrespectful and idiotic display of activism in my life. Hundreds of residents came to hear the mayor speak and have their questions answered. They didn’t come to hear Black Lives Matter.

    Those activists betrayed and disrespected the black community and church. Mayor Garcetti, to his credit, remained calm and cool during the chaos around him. In my opinion, he continues to have the potential to be one of the greatest mayors in our city’s history.”

    http://wavenewspapers.com/najees-notes-black-lives-matter-disrespects-rev-sauls-holman-mehtodist/

  • sahra

    Yes, but Najee Ali himself has been known for unusual displays of his opinion and is at present, very intent on having a close relationship with the mayor. There is a real division between the older activists and the younger ones on tactics — no question…that’s pretty old news. But like in the white community, no two people have the same opinion about what happened or how causes should be promoted… some were unhappy with the results but proud that folks had stepped up, others were angry that BLM had hijacked the meeting, others stood in solidarity with them, and others did not know how they felt about it and are probably still processing it. It’s an interesting time…there’s a movement afoot and it is in a moment of transition and doesn’t seem to have a handle on how it is going to sustain itself or to what end just yet. So it’s going to be messy for a little while yet. And that’s probably OK.

  • calwatch

    Right, but when you cite the negative coverage, you only cite the “hysterical” coverage from the right wing web sites (which just rewrite what they see in other sources). It’s important to emphasize that many black leaders, not just Ali but also the host of the event, were very displeased at the tactics used by BLM, and that the criticism is not just comment jockeys and conservative web sites.

  • sahra

    There’s a very significant difference between what he’s doing and the way that NBC, CBS, and Fox 11 covered it. They all used particular images, with very little to no discussion of what BLM’s actual specific beef was, and the language billed it as a scary scene. The local Fox guy even wondered why they didn’t show up in the morning because no one bothered to really see what BLM was so unhappy about…they just kind of assumed BLM is just mad all the time. Ali is someone with a history in the community, who is known by the community, and who is critiquing tactics from the position of someone who knows what he is talking about, and he is speaking to a community who knows what he is talking about and who the players are he refers to and what their roles have been. It’s a comparison of apples and teapots. And I did note in the story that people were angry. More than one person said so directly to me. But those weren’t the only sentiments I heard, either. And it’s hard to cite him when he published after I did…I mean, I knew it was coming. He had posted his unhappy sentiments on FB with some photos and then deleted them later, but I can’t cite what isn’t available. And like I said earlier, the source also matters and he is… a unique source with a unique history and complicated reputation in the community. He has always tended to speak for himself and the rest be damned, so he is not a representative voice in the way Breitbart or the Blaze might be.

    I’m not sure what you’re looking for from me. You’re welcome to question BLM’s tactics. I myself still am not sure what to make of the meeting. But I know the tactics arise from never having been able to be part of the conversation before, never having been able to get their issues on the table, never having been given the benefit of the doubt when it was their word against an officer’s. When I started writing about profiling here, the pushback was pretty significant. Thanks to BLM’s tenacity, there is a wider understanding that it is a significant issue and it is now part of our national conversation. But, like I’ve said before, the question is how do you move forward from there and really make the most of the doors you’ve cracked open before they slam shut again? And I think we’re still waiting to see what that transition looks like.

  • Bill

    Come on! He lied to their faces in front of his mansion as he drove off to Washington for re election funding. He should have stayed and dealt with them. What kind of inept leader is he!? He didn’t show up at the Ford hearing. He screwed south LA communities pushed them aside in favor of Hollywood and East Hollywood bringing home Govt. Promise Funds to his Millennium boss’s project area, Promise Funds get Millennium huge tax breaks and will help build his boss’s East Hollywood Central Park, a ruse for more development and west coast version of Millennium’s Chelsea, NYC Highline which pushed out many generation families and businesses as mega developers moved in changing the historic area and who is paying for it? ..this GovtGovt. Windfall was bragged about by Mitch O’farrell who Garcetti put in charge of Recs& Parks to make sure his biggest funders Park all goes smoothly and Millennium head on their websites. He consorted with his buddy, another huge funder, head of Youth Policy Institute manipulating this windfall for years, and all YPI staff and employees contributed to his campaigns regularly, like church tithes, for years. An org. His family foundation funds. Betty Pleasant African American writer did detective work and wrote about this cozy corrupt relationship and how he shut out needier communities. The LA Times wrote about how he left out the neediest south LA communities. He did damage control on the Tavis Smiley Show lieing Promise Funds would be spread over these needier areas. Councilmembers Price and Parks, at the end of a city council meeting meet with and question HUD with attorney sitting next to her monitoring her answers this was such a hot button issue, about Garcetti ‘promise’ of Promise Funds being spread to their areas only to find out it was not true nor will they ever get Promise Funds as it is very competitive and LA got theirs. Garcetti was able to get this swept under the carpet but it was a hugely controversial issue, and one of many affronts to these communities. He was ushered out that night because he is a coward. And can’t deal with anything he hasn’t staged. He should have rolled up his sleaves and dealt with them. Heaven forbid we have a terrorist attack. He will be the first to jump ship.

  • sahra

    This might be the better piece to pull from if you want a critique of the movement. It offers some food for thought. http://wavenewspapers.com/black-lives-matter-members-come-under-fire/

  • SZwartz

    Black Lives Matter, Act Up, like Jewish activists in the 1930’s have one thing in common — they see the rank hypocrisy and the mass of lies. When one is part of the victim class. it is easier to see the corruption in the group wielding power.

    Those who are familiar with Garcetti know that “reasonable discussion” means he get to spew forth his propaganda and the chosen few who are his cohorts get to praise Garcetti. End of discussion.

    There is no discourse with Garcetti — reasonable or otherwise. He listens to no one! When a judge gives Garcetti a direct order, Garcetti thumbs his nose at the judge. When the City Attorney tells Garcetti that a course of action is unlawful, he ignores him.

    Here’s the difference I see between Black Lives Matter and people who want “civil discourse.” Black Lives Matter are not dumb; they know Garcetti has no intention of doing anything other than he has done since 2001, i.e. funnel as much money to his developer pals as possible.

    Black Lives Matter are correct. There cannot be reasonable discourse with a mayor whose main achievement has been the diverting billions of tax dollars away from city services and to his 1%er, billionaire buddies. Garcetti shows how the 1% steal the wealth of the 99%. He should be studied in college business courses along side with Enron and Bernie Madoff.

    Anyone who thinks that Garcetti has any intention of changing doesn’t know Garcetti’s track record. He is a true believer and the only thing that every matters is what Garcetti wants.

    Here’s the problem which I see for Black Lives Matter and for myself. After people realize that Garcetti is corrupt beyond salvation, what can we do that is constructive to improve the quality of life?

  • stvr

    “The issues folks were concerned about — their ability to move through the public space and their ability to stay in their neighborhoods as transit construction invites speculation and gentrification — are in no way tangential to Streetsblog’s mission. But to each his own.”

    Oh give me a break. As if that were what your article was about…

  • stvr

    Joe, I’ve been a loyal reader since the blog’s inception. Telling me to shove it isn’t really the response I would have expected from you.

  • calwatch

    What I’m looking from you is a greater acknowledgment, in the article and not just in the comment section, of the dissent internally within the African American community on BLM tactics.

    And I’d like to hear more about the Latino community, who is now the majority of South LA and suffers through some of the same policing concerns. One paragraph is more than they normally get in the binary coverage that dominates LA media, but we need to here more from them. Do they support BLM, do they have other goals that they want to accomplish, do they feel that a BLM gain is a loss from their issues like not cracking down on street vendors or elected officials using bandwidth spent on BLM issues not advocating for things they care about?

  • calwatch

    Quite frankly, I did struggle to read this piece because it could fall in the tl;dr category, yet somehow failed to break out some of the transportation issues discussed by people like Phil Washington and Damien Goodmon. More section breaks and subheadings would have helped.

  • calwatch

    He may not be a great leader, but short of starting a recall, he’s the only person we have. I wasn’t thrilled with either mayoral candidate – Greuel was too flexible, as shown in how she got the DWP union to back her. Garcetti is right to concentrate on small ball issues rather than the Tony Villar home runs of a million trees, 10,000 cops, etc. There is the usual cronyism going on but I don’t see it being unusually better or worse than past administrations. Overall, the government there reinforces why I have vowed never to live in the City of Los Angeles.

  • sahra

    Well, I gave you what I heard at the meeting in the story. People proclaimed their positions in the following days. I’m not trying to hide things from anybody or gloss over things in any sort of way to obscure or highlight what I do or don’t agree with. It feels like you have something in particular you want to see/hear, but that something isn’t actually there in reality. The reactions are complicated, and I’m more interested in what everyday people felt about the meeting and the tactics than what some of the leaders (and the self-proclaimed leaders) felt. And what everyday folks felt seemed to be complicated and nuanced. They understand the anger. Absolutely and without question. How they want to see that anger manifest is complicated and varies. Maybe they don’t want to see it happen in a house of God and in a way that disrespects a beloved community leader like Rev. Sauls, but they do support those tactics in other forums, for example. And so that’s what I wrote about — that it is complicated. If you don’t want to believe that, that is, as Bobby Brown would say, your prerogative. And with regard to the Latino community, I also gave you what I saw. And their reactions are also mixed, but they weren’t there in big numbers because when politicians and leaders think about South LA and reach out to South LA, they tend to ignore that community. As Move LA did at their “South LA” forum last winter. There were a total of TWO Latinos there. There was a moment at a Days of Dialogue (police-community) forum last year when a Latino mother stood up and said African Americans were lucky to get the press they did, even if it was bad press, because Latinos got no airtime at all. And she’s kinda right, in that they face many of the same forms of discrimination and brutality that African-Americans face, but no one seems to notice. And their relationship with the police is a bit different in that, because of immigration and other issues, they are reluctant to connect with the police. But there are cross-cultural coalitions in SLA where Latino advocates are very much on board with Black Lives Matter. Take a look at the work of Community Coalition, for example, or the campaigns of the YouthBuilds, Youth4Justice, Youth Justice Coalition, Chucos, etc…These are black and latino youth and leaders standing side by side and advocating for justice on these issues. There is no easy summary of opinions, and no clean categorization. I wish there was — it would be easier to write about. But there’s not. You’re asking for something that isn’t there. What I can say, though, is that if political leaders and city agencies don’t make an effort to ensure that both communities are equally acknowledged and engaged, it absolutely fuels the sense that one benefits at the other’s expense, and that does not help race relations on the ground, which can be tense in some, but definitely not all, neighborhoods.

    And this is all in the comments because I get enough flak for writing about these sorts of issues at all on Streetsblog… regular readers don’t see what this has to do with livability. Whereas I see livability as a broader concept. But it also doesn’t mean I can write ten think pieces on BLM. Although, now that we have had this long of an exchange in the comments, it feels like that is what I’ve managed to do. I hope that that helps… it’s really the best that I can give you. I gotta peace out on this topic… But I appreciate the questions.

  • neroden

    The LA government has lost legitimacy.

    The LAPD lost legitimacy a LONG time ago. People don’t call the cops even in the tony areas, because the cops are typically thugs. (Yes, I know, #NotAllCops, but seriously, the good cops seem to be an oppressed minority.) The department as a whole is corrupt; it hasn’t gotten any better since Rampart or Rodney King; they pumped an innocent old Asian lady full of bullets and none of the trigger-happy cops got arrested for it.

    By failing to rein in the *armed occupying force* which acts as if it is *above the law*, the LA government is slowly losing legitimacy.

    How long until the people are willing to elect a mayor on the platform of arresting and imprisoning killer cops? Because that’s what needs to happen. The killer cops need to be serving terms in San Quentin. They’re already gang members, they’ll fit right in. LA is going to need, sooner or later, a mayor who will clean up the LAPD with extreme prejudice, throwing hundreds or thousands of cops into prison, firing most of the rest of them, and smashing the police union.

    In sharp contrast to the street gangs, LAPD has proven unwilling and unable to clean up its act. And it has a much worse reputation than the street gangs.

  • neroden

    Get a political movement big enough to win the mayor’s office and the city council. Get an articulate, committed, and ruthless mayoral candidate. Get a trained militia of bodyguards big enough that you have someone to defend your new mayor from the killers in the LAPD while he arrests, imprisons, and fires hundreds of criminal cops — because criminal elements within the LAPD *will* try to murder him for exposing their crimes.

    I know, that’s a tall order. A *very* tall order. It’s been done before within history, but don’t underestimate the scale of the problem. The last examples I can think of in the US were in the 19th century.

  • neroden

    I think a lot of the BLM folks are using bad tactics. Disruption is a valid tactic for situations as bad as this (LAPD is completely discredited due to its long record of violent gang-like behavior), but disruption really has to be much more carefully organized to be effective.

  • neroden

    This may be a white (though actually multiracial) guy’s view, but I really do think the most important color problem is blue. You have a deeply, deeply corrupt police department which NOBODY trusts. Not even other COPS, as Dorner showed. And the reaction of the LAPD to Dorner’s plan of targeted assassinations of corrupt cops was to go into psycho-killer mode gunning down random people in the street, which proved *that Dorner was right about them*.

    The LAPD actually needs to be *liquidated*. I think it’s legal for the Mayor and City Council to fire every last one of them simultaneously and start fresh. If it isn’t legal, they should do it anyway under a state-of-emergency declaration or whatever, because it’s *necessary*. The whole culture in the LAPD is corrupt, and corrupt organizational cultures don’t get fixed, because they’re self-perpetuating. If you want to eliminate a corrupt culture in an organization, you usually have to destroy the organization and build a new one.

  • neroden

    Fire the police officers anyway. The “Peace Officers Bill of Rights” is unconstitutional and should be unilaterally abrogated. This is a *STATE OF EMERGENCY* — the LAPD is basically controlled by a criminal gang, which has declared itself above the law and goes around harassing and assaulting civilians.

    The “Peace Officers Bill of Rights” is a violation of the 14th amendment. They don’t have any more rights than the rest of us.

    And here’s the thing: it’s not just black people dying in police brutality, although *far more* of them are being assaulted. It’s not just Hispanic people, either. It’s Asian people. And it’s white people. And it’s even middle class white people. In several cities, including NY and LA and Oakland, the cops are a completely out-of-control gang at this point.

  • neroden

    “But the issues are not as urgent as they once were,”

    Really? Cops are still assaulting people routinely and getting away with it. This teaches them that they can harass, murder, assault, beat, and steal from anyone, and so the department attracts sadists who do exactly that. These criminal cops need to be going to prison for assault and battery. Until that happens, the issue is very very urgent.

    It’s a criminal gang who acts as though they’re totally above the law, and goes around harrassing, assaulting, and occasionally murdering people who were minding their own business. This is worse than most of the street gangs!

  • neroden

    I have heard that the Sheriffs have an even WORSE reputation than the LAPD. It’s completely outrageous.

    I mean, dammit, I live in a small town in the Northeast. We had one of the most awful and horrible police evidence-tampering / fraud scandals ever to come to light — the New York State Police Troop C scandal. Once it surfaced, every cop involved was sent to prison and the whole community, of all colors, banded together to make sure it happened (including lots of pro bono work by local lawyers).

    We had a county sheriff who was accused by multiple people of sexually harassing his staff, and he was thrown out of office by the voters.

    We had a case where a policeman was shot dead by a black man in self-defense; the black man said that he was being chased at night by a threatening armed man with a gun who never identified himself as a cop, and the evidence showed that he was correct. The black man was charged, but the jury acquitted the black man, because duh!

    We had a grossly botched case quite recently where a woman’s house was destroyed because her husband had locked himself in and was threatening to commit suicide — the new sheriff (who wasn’t there personally) has apologized and the cop who refused to apologize has been forced out.

    We have *accountability* for police here.

    Where is the accountability in LA?

  • neroden

    de Blasio needed to fire Bratton and arrest Lynch. (In NY, interestingly, the mayor *personally* has the power of arrest. I don’t know about LA.)

    “Trying to avoid what de Blasio went through” is not appropriate behavior!

  • SZwartz

    When has that game plan ever worked? Never. Your solution is to replace bad people with worse people. That is not a formula to improve society.

  • SZwartz

    We have someone else. We have ourselves to stop being so naive. Angelenos lose by default.

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