City of L.A.

Attention! Mean, Sold Out Politicians Being Poor is Not a Crime! or Welcome to Occupied Venice!

Please dear Beachhead readers indulge me for a moment as I get a few things off of my chest. I’m very angry about a few things at the moment and I believe you should be as well. That is unless you’re a sell out “liberal Democrat politician” or a person who makes no claim to even posses a conscience such as say, most Republicans. This rant of mine will tie in a few topics that I’ve written about in the recent past as well as some new developments you need to know about that will directly impact Venice.
First you need to know about two new city of LA ordinances 5611 & 6344 which when boiled down to their bottom line will make it illegal for any human being not living in a home or apartment in the city of Los Angeles to own property. The pejorative, dehumanizing name given to these fellow citizens of Los Angeles is “the homeless.” They will also negatively impact the mostly immigrant street vendors who attempt to eek out a living by selling their wares on LA’s public sidewalks. Though laws already on the books addressed property being stored on LA public sidewalks, for some they just weren’t mean, punitive, or discriminatory enough. Some of the details of these just past ordinances are as follows. The notice time the city will give that a persons property will be seized has been reduced from 72 hours to just 24 hours. If any property is left in a public park after closing time (like the Venice beach or boardwalk after curfew) and a sign is posted that property left in the park will be seized, no notice is needed for seizure. Property seized will be stored downtown for 90 days. If not claimed, it will be discarded. Any mattress, “hazardous material” or item deemed to be a weapon can be seized immediately. All tents must come down between the hours of 6:00 am and 9:00 pm. But the worst part is that any person who’s personal belongings block a public sidewalk in the city of LA can be charged with a misdemeanor. For immigrant street vendors this will put them at risk of deportation, and make getting an apartment much harder. In general this only serves to further make criminals out of the people discarded by the ravages of suicidal, neo-liberal, trickle down, austerity capitalism.
And whom do we have to thank for these brand new, broad sweeping, draconian, open to interpretation by the LAPD, rules for life on the mean streets of Los Angeles? Who else, but our very own City Councilman Mike Bonin. Yes that Mike Bonin, Mister gentrification himself. The guy who hasn’t seen a development or liquor license in Venice he hasn’t loved. Our elected official who only sees one problem with Venice…the aforementioned so called homeless. Let’s be fair, I’m sure he’s not fond of the eccentric artists, counter culture rabble rousers, drum circle types, or the Free Venice Beachhead either. You know, all the folks that made Venice what is (or was). Those same folks who loudly booed him at the Venice town hall he attended after Brenden Glenn was murdered. Bonin is totally in the pocket of developers and big campaign contributors. He comes completely unglued when a mattress smolders near the beach, but expresses no outrage when LAPD shoots and kills two (and counting) “homeless men,” first Brendon Glenn, and most recently Jason Davis.
And then there’s the other liberal Democrat politician to blame for these new city ordinances coming to pass. Mayor Eric Garcetti, our “back door mayor.” A very deserving name he earned as he attempted, but failed to sneak out the back door of the Mayor’s House to avoid confronting “Black Lives Matter” protesters. While Mayor Garcetti expressed his unease with some of the provisions of 5611 & 6344, and wants them amended to make exemptions from seizing personal papers, ID, or medications. And while not comfortable with the potential for a misdemeanor, he failed to veto them and let them pass without his signature. In other words, he took the back door approach. But let us cast blame evenly. These two mean spirited LA City ordinances passed overwhelmingly, with only two council members expressing concern over the new rules, most notably Gil Cedillo. Mayor Garcetti is holding off on enforcement of 5611& 6344 for now, until they are amended to his liking.
But basically he’s all in with the spirit of these new ordinances.
Let’s talk about having fellow human beings for what ever reason, roaming, sleeping and living on the streets. Is it an eye soar? Most of the time, yes it is. At times can it be a nuisance or inconvenience? Of course it can. Can seeing people dirty and broken make you feel uncomfortable? Let’s hope so. Though it seems that compassion fatigue has gripped the LA City Council, the Mayor, and the US body politic as a whole. Is “homelessness” just the way things are these days and solving this problem beyond the comprehension of mere mortals? OH HELL NO!!! I’m old enough to remember a time in America when there was no such thing as homelessness. You only have to go back to 1979. Oh sure there were hobos, transients, and a few individuals who chose to live off the grid by choice. And after President Lyndon Johnson gave us Medicare, Medicaid, the war of poverty with his Great Society programs, “Bag Lady’s” and senior citizen poverty was cut by 75% in the US.
These programs would have been even more successful if it had not been for a thing know as the Vietnam War. Remember these are the very same successful programs that the Republican Party has dedicated itself to dismantling. That dismantlement began in 1980 with the swearing in of B-Movie actor and right wing corporate tool, Ronald Reagan as President. Under Reagan federal housing subsidies and mental institutions had their budgets slashed, and almost overnight we had a phenomenon not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930’s, homeless Americans. Undue the damage done by these insanely cruel budget cuts by restoring funding to these programs, and we could go a long way in reducing, or eliminating homelessness in America. This is not an oversimplification. Political will created this problem, and political will can fix it. Public policy matters, and its up to us to make it matter to politicians.
Let’s look at the city of LA to further prove my point. The Office of the City Administrative Officer just recently released a report on the money that the city of LA spends on programs dealing with the homeless. The first report to ever look at what homelessness is costing the city. The city spends more than $100 million per year coping with the homeless issue, and $87 million of that goes toward law enforcement. Re-read that sentence and let it sink in. The report also found that there are an estimated 23,000 “homeless” folks in the city of LA. This number is low by other estimates I’ve seen. This population grew by 9% from 2011-2013. City Administrative Officer Miguel A. Santana stated “There seems to be no consistent process across city departments for dealing with the homeless or with homeless encampments.” I’ve just told you what Councilman Bonin, Mayor Garcetti, and the City Council’s plan to deal with them is. Now a practical person might come to the sensible conclusion that it would be much more cost effective for the city to house rather than to harass and arrest its homeless population. The money is there, but not the political will.
I’ve watched over the years that I’ve lived in Venice the bungalows being torn down and the boxes built to replace them. Just this year two men have been shot and killed by LAPD. We have a City Council person that views the old guard of Venice with contempt and hostility. As the Abbot Kinney types (the street, not our founder) take over more and more space, rents both commercial and residential continue to rise. Then Google buys up Venice by the block and has their hired security intimidate the homeless living near its campus. For me as a long time resident, this is starting to feel more like an occupation than it does a community. And there are concrete reasons why this is. Any time you have hyper gentrification taking place the police become the storm troupers on the front lines to protect and serve that gentrification, not the people of the community that were living there prior to gentrification. Property, not people is what matters in this country.
The police prove that every time they gun down another American, mostly black, then brown, but almost always poor Americans.
By now we’ve all heard about the insane, out of control militarization of US police forces and school district police through the Pentagon’s 1033 surplus equipment program, but where are these police departments increasingly recruiting from and trained by? A large number are returning veterans from the Middle East conflicts, some with undiagnosed PTSD. Former vets get priority when it comes to being hired by police departments. Now I’m all for giving vets first crack at a good job, but am I the only one who thinks that maybe, just maybe becoming a cop might be problematic for a newly returning vet? Then there’s the training. More and more police departments, FBI, ICE and other law enforcement agencies of the US are going to Israel to be trained by the Israel Defense Forces, Israeli National Police and other Israeli security agencies, over 9000 American officials and counting. Yes, the LAPD are one of them. I can hear the skeptical readers now saying, “come on Anthony are you really drawing a connection to Israel’s occupation of Palestine to your alleged theory of Venice becoming an occupied part of Los Angeles?” Not exactly, but the parallels are there if you open your mind and your eyes. Now it is true, we here in Venice are free to leave Venice at any time, unlike the Palestinians who are being held in the worlds largest open air prison and have no freedom of movement. And leave is exactly what the developers, Bonin, LAPD, and nouveau riche of Venice want us to do. To encourage us in making that decision comes increased policing, hostile Councilman with discriminatory city ordinances such as 5611& 6344, as well as the looming threat of another police shooting. My point is this. By training with Israeli agencies who view all Palestinians as an enemy, all Israeli settlers as doing good. This mind set is being programed into the US police departments who receive this training, and thus the ability to distinguish the proclaimed duty of the police to protect and serve civilians, and a military response to a war situation can become blurred to the point of the police acting as, and being perceived as an occupying army. The examples of Ferguson, Baltimore and other cities make this all too clear. As the box houses get built they are becoming the settlers of Venice that need to be protected from the rest of us by the LAPD. The violence that the US exports through its foreign policy of empire, and funding Israel’s military to the tune of $3 billion annually to brutally oppress the Palestinians is coming home in the form of police violence being carried out all across the US. Who do the police see as the enemy? Any one who protests, speaks out to demand basic justice or economic equality. And who are they protecting? The folks with money who want to maintain the status quo and protect their higher property values by ridding itself of who they see as the undesirables.
Here’s an update on the USA Patriot Act and Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that I wrote about in the May 2015 #403 issue of the Beachhead. The provisions of the USA Patriot Act that were scheduled to sunset, did so, well sort of. Section 215 the provision the National Security Administration (NSA) used to justify its mass surveillance on the entire US population was revived through the passage of the USA Freedom Act, all be it now with more transparency and accountability from the NSA and FISA court, that here to now has been rubber stamping almost everything and anything the NSA wanted. Am I the only one who hates the names of these fascistic laws? There is nothing patriotic about the USA Patriot Act and nothing free about the USA Freedom Act. The US Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled prior to the passage of the USA Freedom Act in no uncertain terms that the NSA’s telephone records collection program went far beyond what congress had authorized when it passed Section 215. The court also completely rejected the government’s secret reinterpretation of Section 215. This ruling may have had some baring on a timid Senate doing anything at all to even attempt to curb the NSA’s spying on each and every one of us. It may not be as good as it could have been, but it also wasn’t as bad as it could have been either.
The TPP is a much worse story. Thanks to the Republicans and a handful of turncoat Democrats, President Obama got his fast track authority to pass his pet “free trade” deal. Remember, when Harry Reid was Senate majority leader he would not allow any discussion or vote on Fast Track or the TPP to even come up in any committee. But thanks to the swing in the mid term elections to the Republicans becoming the majority, President Obama got his Fast Track, as did the next President, because this Fast Track authority will last for the next seven years. But again, if not for some sell out corporate Democrats, Fast Track would still have not passed. The TPP itself has yet to be passed, but now it will be much easier for it to do so. Oh, and remember when I wrote about our victory on Net Neutrality in the March 2015 #401 issue of the Beachhead? Well once the TPP becomes law, we can all kiss that goodbye. Just one of the many lovely things foreign corporations will be able to roll back once they have more power than the US government, state governments, or local governments to control US domestic laws. Like I said at the start of this piece, I am very angry. The fight is not over yet. We can still stop the TPP. So get educated and get involved. Pick your progressive organization, almost every one of them opposes the TPP.
From Obama, to the turncoats in the Congress, to Garcetti, Bonin, Ben Allen and Jerry Brown, there’s not a progressive voice among them . You know the Republicans are out to screw you, and no amount of crumbs from the Democrats will make the damage they do any less harmful. The TPP alone may sink this country once and for all. My conclusion is that electoral politics is worthless with out militant citizen actions. What if we were to picket outside of Mike Bonin’s office or his home to get him to stop demolitions in Venice and stop all new development? Much the same way the Black Lives Matter did at the “back door mayor’s” place. Or how about every time a new development is proposed, concerned Venice residents showed up in mass to stop it. We need a movement! Will there be police repression? You can count on it. But we can’t let that threat stop us. Just some ideas, because what we’ve been doing so far hasn’t worked and we’re running out of time. We have to be creative, committed, militant, and yes righteously angry. Ever forward on our feet, never on our knees.
– Anthony Castillo