Election Reflections: “Law-and-Order,” the Resilience of White Supremacy, and You

Families along Martin Luther King Blvd. celebrate at the King Day parade. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Families along Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. celebrate at the King Day parade. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

“Where do things stand now?” I asked Adonia Lugo as we organized potential discussion themes ahead of this Sunday’s Untokening event.

Election results were just starting to roll in from the East Coast, she replied, and they weren’t looking good for Hillary.

Perhaps we should relabel the event ‘The UnTrumpening,’ I mused.

We were already planning to raise the question of policing in communities of color as part of a larger discussion on street safety. But the potential election of a self-proclaimed “law-and-order” president suddenly gave that question a much greater urgency.

As a candidate, Donald Trump regularly described “the African-Americans” and Latinos as living in “hell,” promoted the (erroneous and harmful) idea that black-on-black crime is a thing, suggested Black Lives Matter advocates were troublemakers who help instigate acts of violence against officers, and sung the praises of “law-and-order” practices like stop-and-frisk. He even went so far as to deny that stop-and-frisk was in any way problematic, charging that the issue was not the policy itself (which disproportionately subjected black and Latino pedestrians and cyclists to opportunistic, invasive, and forceful stops, despite whites being more likely to be found with weapons or contraband), but that the woman who ruled it unconstitutional in New York was a “very against-police judge.”

The problem in our minority communities is not that there is too much police,” he said in August to an overwhelmingly white crowd of suburban supporters outside Milwaukee, a city whose poorest zip code is also the nation’s most incarcerated. “[It’s] that there is not enough police!”

Stop-and-frisk, he said on another occasion, “worked incredibly well” and was a solution he’d like to see deployed in cities across the country.

To many of those taken aback by the unrest seen in their urban cores and feeling threatened by black and brown voices and bodies pushing for change, this approach to governance is reassuring.

To many of the rest of us, it is terrifying.

We already know that biases about the intentions of people of color impact the way in which they are treated by law enforcement, as well as the frequency with which they are likely to have negative encounters.

We saw this in the case of a number of folks in Florida who had their bikes confiscated by officers who assumed they had stolen them. And in the case of youth activists in Boston who were told they “looked suspicious” and that people in their neighborhoods rode bikes in order “to shoot people.” And in the Bay Area, when Richmond Spokes staff members were harassed in front of advocate Brian Drayton’s home because, according to Drayton’s summary of the supervising officer’s remarks, “80% of the cyclist[s] in Richmond at night are involved in drug, robbery, and violent offenses and [officers are] just keeping the community safe by profiling cyclist[s]…in the Iron Triangle.” And in the case of teenager Alvin, who managed to record being stopped “for being a fucking mutt,” as the officer put it. And here in L.A., when a young man riding his bike one night was tackled without provocation, viciously kicked in the head, and then arrested for resisting arrest. And again a few months later, when two separate groups of black cyclists were profiled while participating in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Parade in 2015.

And those are cases that have ended more happily.

The deaths of Eric Garner (put in a chokehold for selling loose cigarettes), 12-year-old Tamir Rice (killed for brandishing a toy gun and not given first aid because officers were busy handcuffing his 14-year-old sister when she came to his aid), Ricardo Diaz-Zeferino, 34 (gunned down in Gardena by the very police he and his brother had called for help while looking for their stolen bike), Philando Castile (shot after being pulled over for having a “wide-set nose”), and too many others all offer potent illustrations of just how easily the combination of biases – implicit or explicit – and the power to act upon them can upend the fates of people of color.

Americans’ ongoing effort to reckon with the way we’ve codified, encouraged, and even rewarded the violent policing of people of color in the public space represents progress, however agonizingly slow and imperfect.

Today, we got confirmation that even these baby steps come at a steep cost.

It is no coincidence that we have managed to elect a man who classifies Mexicans as rapists, drug dealers, taco bowl aficionados, and people to be tossed back over a big and beautiful wall, black people as lazy hell-dwellers who are armed and uneducated, the Japanese as having been rightly interned, women as objects to be rated and/or grabbed at will (or, if they are teenagers, ogled and harassed), Muslims as people to be tracked, banned, occasionally waterboarded, and massacred, Oakland and Ferguson as among some of the most dangerous places in the world (with Chicago also qualifying as “hell”), the disabled as people to be mocked, white supremacists and anti-Semites as having opinions worth retweeting, and LGBTQ-hating governors as suitable candidates for Vice President.

Nor is it a coincidence that Trump’s vision of livability entails the rescue of an America deep in the clutches of decline – a country threatened by barbarians at the gates and menaced by the urban savages within. His “real commitment” to law and order is his promise to this nation’s vulnerable and “forgotten”* inhabitants that he will not stand for the last vestiges of peace and prosperity being wrested from their beleaguered and victimized hands. [*White people, he’s talking to you. Bigly.]

And while it may be true that he probably won’t have the power to reach into our cities with his tiny, tiny fingers and oversee the day-to-day management of our public spaces, he has set an ugly tone for us going forward.

Which is why this is the perfect moment for livability and transportation advocates to step forward.

We’ve already seen how he has encouraged and condoned aggression toward dissenting voices at his rallies, recruited vigilantes to watch for “suspicious” behavior at the polls, proclaimed the overt harassment of people of color to be a “proactive” way to make our cities safer, and aligned himself with those actively denigrating the efforts of people of color to secure more humane treatment from law enforcement, including Milwaukee’s Sheriff David Clarke, Jr., Arizona’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio (thankfully unseated, finally), and the Fraternal Order of Police.

Whether he did these things to win votes or because he truly believed they were the right things to do doesn’t actually matter. He’s freed other people to believe these things are OK.

So while we can and should celebrate some of the victories we’ve seen for transportation funding today, we absolutely cannot stop there.

The public space is now a more overtly hostile place to people of color, to women, to the LGBTQ community, and to the disabled.

That is unacceptable.

And it is a battle no one should have to wage on their own.

Which means that, on a day when our worst fears about ourselves as a nation were confirmed, it is simply not enough to sit around and just not be racist, homophobic, sexist, or able-ist.

If our goal is to build more inclusive, more vibrant, and more welcoming cities for all, then we need to be working more actively and intentionally to do so. We need to be looking beyond cars and physical infrastructure to engage and address any and all barriers that impede safe passage through our streets. We also need to be more pro-active in problematizing and dismantling the structures, policies, practices, concepts, and even vocabularies we participate in, past and present, that have helped fuel segregation, repression, and marginalization in our communities.

There is no single right place to start. Solutions may entail everything from being more willing to look out for the person next to you, to establishing more robust channels of communication with marginalized groups, to working to build trust between the city, law enforcement, advocates, and communities of color, to creatively routing funding to give communities the amenities they need without displacing them in the process, to questioning the way we think about what makes for a healthy community, to just learning to listen, among many, many other things,

Wherever you decide to begin is up to you, obviously. But now that we’ve gone and elected a man who launched his campaign by spewing hateful nonsense, this would be the appropriate time to take that first intentional step.

  • calwatch

    Part of the answer will need to be jury nullification. Jurors need to hang juries if the law is unfair. Defendants who have the financial means to do so need to draw out the system and take things to arraignment and trial, as I do with my traffic tickets. The white occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge did so and got a sympathetic jury to set them free. People need to stop shirking jury duty and start getting on juries and expressing their will.

    http://www.rutherford.org/publications_resources/john_whiteheads_commentary/not_guilty_the_power_of_nullification_to_counter_government_tyranny

  • Slexie

    I would love to read the quotes of Trump saying Muslims should be massacred. I missed that. And right now it’s starting with a bunch of angry protesters ruining commuters drives as they block streets and make life miserable for everyone downtown. The tolerant left are just a bunch of sour grapes. You lost, get over it.

  • sahra

    He was quite vocal on fox news, talking about how entire families of people he considered terrorists should be taken out. That’s pretty well-known.

  • Slexie

    Yea he was talking about ISIS. That’s a far cry from demanding all Muslims be massacred. All Muslims are not associated with ISIS. That’s pretty well known.

  • sahra

    Indeed, ISIS has very little relation to Islam or Muslims. But Trump doesn’t really understand that, which is why he has called for a ban and the tracking of Muslims and a host of other fun things. To him, Muslims represent a threat, no matter their affiliation, and his ability to distinguish between an ISIS member, an ISIS sympathizer or supporter, a wayward kid that got caught up in something and now regrets being part of ISIS, someone who had no choice but to join, either because of economic reasons or because they were conscripted, and random Muslims is pretty hazy, best case scenario. His approach to dealing with a group he has very little understanding of has the potential to put a lot of other people at risk. Especially since he left the door open for nuking ISIS, which opens the door for countless innocents to be massacred.

    May I also say, your need for clarification on this point among the many, many, many other horrible things he has said, listed and not listed, is fascinating

  • Baby goat

    Sorry your morning commute was disrupted by young and marginalized folks crying bullshit on a system that continues to fail them. This isn’t about Democrats and Republicans, about losing or winning. This is about having a voice, representation, equality. Tolerance? We are not tolerant. You are the one tolerating a system that continues to degrade its people and not take responsibility for it. It’s time to check your privilege and take a step back, realize that you are not the only one who matters.

  • Kirsten Tynan

    The Malheur Refuge case was not, despite common misconception, a case of jury nullification, but rather in the words of one juror as best as I recall them without looking it up, a spectacular failure of the prosecution to make its case. Here are the details:
    http://fija.org/2016/10/28/trial-by-jury-crucial-in-malheur-refuge-occupation-acquittals/

  • What jurors say and what they actually did are usually two very different things. Trust me on this. I’m a trial lawyer and have taught trial advocacy and have watched focus groups and mock juries deliberate. When was the last time anyone said to a reporter that they cheated the system by ignoring the jury instructions and voting with their gut. Never.

  • Kirsten Tynan

    That may be true. We also know that prosecutors often want to blame jury nullification for their own lack of skill.

    But in this case, this juror took the extraordinary step of speaking extensively to The Oregonian on why this case is one of prosecutorial failure. The transcript is available at the link below. A few of Juror #4’s comments:
    “It should be known that all 12 jurors felt that this verdict was a statement regarding the various failures of the prosecution to prove “conspiracy” in the count itself – and not any form of affirmation of the defense’s various beliefs, actions, or aspirations. Proving the elements of conspiracy, especially given the body of evidence we were forced to restrict ourselves to consider when judging, was far too great a standard to meet (without using our imaginations, prejudices, etc.).

    The judge floored us when she said that there was no statute against impeding federal officers (by force, threat, or intimidation), nor was there a significant penalty applied to criminal trespass. We all queried about alternative charges that could stick and were amazed that this ‘conspiracy’ charge seemed the best possible option. It was not lost on us that our verdict(s) might inspire future actions that are regrettable, but that sort of thinking was not permitted when considering the charges before us.”

    Source: http://www.oregonlive.com/oregon-standoff/2016/11/transcript_of_juror_4s_emails.html

    Clearly, this juror is expressing regret on his own part and the part of the rest of the jury in not being able to convict on at least something.

  • xplosneer

    Also, to add to your point, IT DOES NOT MATTER. Even if he was speaking about “ISIS” families, it is a war crime to target the non-engaged family of a combatant, especially children. Obama has taken some collateral damage and I really dislike him on that issue, but advocating direct targeting?!

  • Mike

    “He took fifty bullets, and he dipped them in pig’s blood,” Trump said. “And he had his men load his rifles and he lined up the fifty people, and they shot 49 of those people. And the fiftieth person he said ‘You go back to your people and you tell them what happened.’ And for 25 years there wasn’t a problem, okay?”

  • Slexie

    Proves nothing. Fail.

  • Mike

    Those who are willfully blind will never see.

  • Slexie

    Those who post crap without context nothing to see.

  • Slexie

    YOU ARENT THE ONLY ONE THAT MATTERS EITHER EINSTEIN!

    Your voice was your vote and you LOST. You didn’t get your way! Doesn’t mean you get to act like a nut and make the rest of us miserable. The Democratic process happened exactly the way it was supposed to, and you didn’t win. The election was fair and square. No one cheated you out of anything. You don’t get to yell and scream and throw a fit like a 2yr old until you get your way. The people have spoken. Your candidate thought she had it in the bag and she lost. Maybe next time you can campaign for your candidate, go door to door, make calls at their phone bank, put up posters, or do something to help your choice get elected. Bitching about it now is pointless. It’s too late. You lost, own it.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    Donald Trump stated in this interview, when talking about ISIS, that you have to take out their families.

    He was stating in no uncertain terms that the U.S. should be deliberately killing unarmed women and children.

    Which is what the U.S. had done several times to native American tribes Those are referred to as massacres.

    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/horrific-sand-creek-massacre-will-be-forgotten-no-more-180953403/

    http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/u-s-army-massacres-indians-at-wounded-knee

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marias_Massacre

  • Slexie

    Once again he’s talking about ISIS. He’s not talking about the massacre of all Muslims. Unless you think all Muslims are ISIS. So fail. SAydrah said he wants to massacre all Muslims and that is not true.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    Sahra stated in the above article: “It is no coincidence that we have managed to elect a man who classifies Mexicans as rapists, drug dealers…Muslims as people to be tracked, banned, occasionally waterboarded, and massacred…”

    You stated in your first post: “I would love to read the quotes of Trump saying Muslims should be massacred. I missed that.”

    No where did Sahra write, nor did you state “all” Muslims in your first post. Now, you refuse to admit you were obviously wrong in your statement when confronted with a video of Donald Trump blatantly stating he wants to massacre unarmed Muslims because they are family members of terrorists.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    British comedian Russell Brand made several funny and insightful videos about Donald Trump:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPkY9Ik7T7U

    Russell’s thought provoking comments about some of the underlying circumstances that led to Donald Trump becoming president:

  • Joe R.

    No doubt this election will be analyzed to death in the coming months. For starters, this is a great read.

    As is often the case, Streetsblog is failing to see the forest for the trees. Doubtless a disconcerting number of people support the things mentioned in the article. However, in most cases this support is a symptom. They feel left behind both socially and economically. When this happens, it’s human nature, rightly or wrongly, to pick scapegoats. All too often those scapegoats are anyone who is different. Solutions don’t just entail “being more willing to look out for the person next to you.” They entail doing whatever you can to ensure everyone in charge focuses on the economy, infrastructure, student debt, health care, etc. Fix those things and the other problems will largely correct themselves. Sure, there was still be racism, there will still be hatred, but there won’t be enough of it for these to become institutionalized as policy. In the end most people aren’t inherently hateful. They only become that way when they feel marginalized.

    This election was a referendum on an establishment which has failed the populace miserably. Instead of tackling important economic and infrastructure issues we let politicians sidetrack us with abortion, same-sex marriage, racism, etc. Yes, social issues matter but they’re secondary when the economy is literally failing much of the population. I couldn’t care less on someone’s views pro or con for any of the issues I mentioned. In the short term it doesn’t matter. It’s like worrying about what to wear before you run out of a burning house. Despite that, we let the media put the focus more on these issues, and less on the more important ones I mentioned which really affect people on a daily basis. It was like bread and circuses while Rome was burning. The elites distract the masses while they silently pillage anything of value.

    At this point we need economic solutions. We need to tell the 1% much of what you have isn’t really yours. It was built by others who weren’t justly compensated. Worker productivity has increased considerably since the 1950s and yet real wages are down. If that weren’t the case you might be able to support a family now working only 20 hours a week. There’s a lot of wealth in this country doing nothing productive. It’s time it was put into building infrastructure. It’s time we had national endeavors besides war which put lots of people into good jobs. Just researching and implementing renewable energy is one such area. Building an effective transportation system is another. Colonizing space could be yet another. We used to be a nation of dreamers, even as late as the 1960s. Since then, we’ve been happy with mediocrity. It’s time for that to change. If Trump supposedly wants to make America great again then his focus should be on things like this.

  • Slexie

    I asked you to tell me when he said he wanted to kill all Muslims.

    You gave me some bullshit answer, but you’ve given nothing to determine he actually said that. Why are you making things up? You have no idea what Trump “understands”, so why the lies?

  • Slexie

    No Dennis.
    The word Muslim isn’t even in the video. He says ISIS, just like I said that’s who he was talking about. SHE said Muslims, not Trump. And yea, you think it’s just these Muslims and not those Muslims. Either way she is lying because he never said Muslims, even in her video. He clearly says ISIS. Duh. Watch the video. You won’ t hear anything about him saying banning them either.

    Native American stories have nothing to do with Trump.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    Your defending a man who has stated he wants to commit what are clearly war crimes against family members of terrorists. That would include killing innocent children or anyone else that is a family member of a terrorist.

  • Slexie

    Do you think terrorism needs to flourish?

  • Maggie

    Don’t be rude. The Republicans won, and THEY own it. For at least the next two years, come what may, the record of this country is their legacy.

    I keep thinking about people of color possibly having to live with a spittle-flecked racist throwback like Rudy Giuliani as attorney general. It scares the hell out of me.

  • sahra

    Social issues are easily seen as secondary to people that have never been denied opportunity, education, or the freedom to move unfettered through the public space to chase said opportunity or education. But thanks for your thoughts.

  • sahra

    Well, this escalated rather quickly. Please take this debate elsewhere. As someone raised Muslim, I personally am deeply and acutely aware of how Muslims have and have not been categorized, demonized, and utilized to sow fear since 9/11. You, Slexie, are a better human than Trump is – he certainly has not made the effort to make a distinction between who he sees as the enemy that you have. But that doesn’t make his ignorance or dog whistling any less real. Nor is he the first to engage in lumping Muslims together to tap into fears for political gain.

    And no, absolutely no one thinks terrorism needs to flourish. Least of all Muslims, who happen to be its greatest victims.

    All my best,

    sahra

  • Kevin Love

    Seriously? That’s like saying the “Trail of Tears” was only Cherokee so it shouldn’t be called a massacre of aboriginal peoples.

  • Joe R.

    I don’t think Guiliani will have all that long a tenure as AG. He probably scares even members of his own party. From what I’ve seen of him lately, he’s more mentally unstable than Trump, and that’s saying a lot. He might well be in the very early stages of dementia.

    And while we’re talking about potential Trump appointees, I wouldn’t worry much about Christie, either. He’ll likely die or become incapacitated from heart disease or stroke once he’s in a high-pressure cabinet position.

  • Slexie

    Take the debate elsewhere? This is a comment section about YOUR article. Are you serious?

    Yes he did make the distinction because he never said Muslims, he said ISIS. I don’t understand why you insist on judging him on things he never said. He hasn’t lumped Muslims together, YOU did that.

    What I’m really getting tired of are members of the media pushing their own narrative. This is why there is violence in the streets now. Because the media pushed their bs agenda and treated Trump like he’s the anti Christ. Well now he’s the president elect and all the fear mongering the media did, and apparently you are still doing, has come home to roost. Now the rest of us get to pay for the fear perpetrated by the democratic party and the media. So everyone stuck on the freeway can thank the agenda of nearly every media outlet. Lame.

  • Slexie

    It’s “you’re defending” not “your defending” FYI.

    Let me know when that actually happens. Otherwise you’re just fear mongering like everyone else in the media, including Sahra.

  • Slexie

    Well get over it and start thinking for yourself. Quit believing the fear mongering media. Ridiculous fears based on nothing.

  • Maggie

    Yes I hope you’re right that people’s fears won’t be realized.

  • sahra

    Indeed it is a comments section. But you’re having an angry conversation with yourself that began with a tangent about semantics and then was used to segue into your unique brand of nastiness. And not in the fun Janet Jackson kind of way. That is your right. However, it isn’t the least bit productive or interesting or furthering any sort of dialogue, so it isn’t a conversation I can continue with you. I can only wish you the best and that you can find healthier ways to channel your overabundance of anger.

  • Slexie

    Is there something wrong with you? Overabundance of anger? That’s not correct in the slightest. I’ve asked you questions which you refuse to answer and now you’re accusing me of being angry?

    Once again, Trump never said he wanted to kill Muslims. Why are you saying that he did? He clearly said he wants to wipe out ISIS, which is not all Muslims. So why are you insisting that he wants to kill Muslims? If you’re not going to answer that, then just say that. Just say you don’t have to tell me why you made that up. If asking you to explain something YOU wrote is some “unique brand of nastiness”, you should explain that too.

  • Dwimby

    “This election was a referendum on an establishment which has failed the populace miserably.” Precisely. Yes, a 1000 times yes. The establishment has ignored all but itself. And Trump had nothing to do with it. So why is it that everyone, but endlessly villified whites, feel law and order is an anaethma? What is wrong with these people? Didn’t most of them flee from the lack of law and order, and/or opportunity back home? Why not assimilate and grow up. The Nanny State (the USA at present) needs a generational break from giving in to the Big Con that somehow America should sway to the whims of rabble masses, who come, many illegally, then on Day One begin to assume rights and benefits from a patrimony that is not theirs and then quickly also demand rights from a government and people who already do more for the world than any country from which they hail. The lack of mores or grasp of reality that these people evidence is aburd. Being legally a part of what the USA stands for is what it is all about – first step. Assimilating the ways of the host culture is a first step too. The USA does not owe anyone anything. Not a whit. Our legal immigrant class is welcome, but those who sneak in and then assume they can make demands, well, that is delusional -AND- I hope Trump does all he can to plug the absurd holes that exist in all immigration con jobs, of which there are hundreds.

  • Patrick Jackson

    And what defines American?

  • Patrick Jackson

    America is richer than it has ever been. America is more populous than it has ever been. American is more educated than it has ever been. Unemployment is low.America is greater than it has ever been.

  • Patrick Jackson

    Nobody does. Do you think family members of terrorists are necessarily bad people? Do you think killing them accomplishes anything?

  • Slexie

    You don’t know much about how that works do you? They support their family members who are terrorists and they celebrate and honor those who have been successful suicide bombers. Yes, killing them eliminates terrorists.

  • sahra

    Stephanie,

    We debate many things here at Streetsblog and we come at issues from a lot of different perspectives. But one of the things I think we can all agree on, regardless of our political positions, is that this is not a forum that appreciates those who trade in ignorant stereotypes and advocate for the killing of others.

    You already know this isn’t a
    forum that welcomes your particular brand of nastiness. And yet, here we are, having yet another, “Girl, get a grip on yourself” talk.

    Perhaps you think you are being
    provocative by saying stupid hateful things.

    Allow me to disabuse you of that notion: Ignorance is not provocative. It is just sad.

    I am quite literally sad for you – sad that your world is so small, sad that you have so much time on your hands, sad that you waste so much of it being nasty towards other people, and sad that being so angry seems to be the thing that brings you joy.

    You will no doubt retort with some unhappy sentiment – you always do.

    My guess is you just can’t help yourself. Which makes it all the more sad.

    There are countless other places on the internets where you can find similarly unpleasant people who share your unhappy disposition, anger issues, narrow-mindedness, and pathological need to be nasty.

    Go forth, my dear Ms. Klube. Find your people. They are out there.

    Best,

    sahra

  • Slexie

    Who are you? Honestly, who do you think you are? Why are you allowed to tell people what they are and are not allowed to talk about? I have zero regard as to what you think of me as a person. Your snippy little jabs at me have nothing to do with the issue.

    And no, we are not having a “get a grip on yourself” conversation. That’s a conversation you’re having with yourself. I don’t need to get a grip on myself, so I have no idea what you’re talking about.

    You’re just doing your usual thing, trying to make this about me which it is not. I was asked a question and I answered it. In fact, it wasn’t even a question YOU asked me, so you really should butt out. No one was even talking to you. Got that? No one was asking you anything. I get that you’re a Muslim sympathizer, thank God you’re not in charge.

    Everyone can see how you treat people you don’t agree with. I’m surprised you didn’t call me a troll since that’s your go to insult, because you have nothing else. Know this, I don’t care what you think of me, ok? Call me every name you want, uncalled insults from you only shows your true character. Keep in mind, NO ONE was talking to you, and YOU are the one who couldn’t help yourself. THAT’S sad. YOU are the one lashing out. Sit on that. Boo hoo.

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