Zombie Cops Chase Youth on Bikes in Echo Park
By Paula Guadron and Miguel Bravo
On Saturday, October 26th, 2013, S.T.A.Y. (Standing Together Advocating for Youth), Youth Justice Coalition, members of the Echo Park & Silver Lake Neighborhood Councils, community residents, local students, and your other community organizations of Echo Park, Silver Lake, Elysian Valley, Temple-Beaudry, Vista Hermosa, and Frog Town, joined together in a beautifully massive action encircling 10 miles of the recently injuncted “Safety Zone”. The Bicycle Ride for Freedom and Police Zombie Take-Over was a creative response by community leaders to voice their proposal for more effective, proven, and prudent alternatives to the injunction in light of being shunned from open community dialogue by City officials such as Mike Feuer.
Ride for Freedom : Stop the Injunctions
S.T.A.Y. led a bicycle ride to promote awareness and share accurate information to the community in protest of Judge Khan’s decision to grant Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer his proposed “gang” injunction.The term gang injunction is a euphemism for criminalizing various segments of traditional Echo Park community cultural and social activity that are eurocentrically viewed and labeled as potential gang activity and/or public nuisance. This includes street food vending, evangelical churches, car shows, family gatherings, Quinceaneras, Baptisms, Graduation Parties, gathering in public areas, or on one’s own property, for example– simply gathering in front of one’s own porch with family, friends, and neighbors.
This social activity and association is deemed a problem primarily when it is long-term families of color who are engaged in it. In summary, the main design of this so-called ‘gang’ injunction, is that of a tool of political strategy to deceivingly remove the large remainder of long-term and Echo Park working class families from their generational family homes. Increased racial profiling and incarceration of students and other youth are a primary result of the injunction and the foremost concern for the long-term community members.
The Bicycle Ride for Freedom demonstration was topped off by Youth Justice Coalition’s local youth re-enactment of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” at the junction on Echo Park Ave. & Sunset Blvd. which shut down traffic for approximately 10 minutes. The “Ride for Freedom” day of action culminated with a thanksgiving gathering including a series of video screenings, teach-ins, and poetry expressions in Echo Park.
The uplifting community action was a positive experience for all people that participated. It continued to sow the fertile ground of opportunity for Community Building, which was demonstrated by the warm manner in which people greeted, welcomed, cheered, and helped one another. Most of the community participants who joined in this action were local residents, and already knew each other through previous collaborations and dialogue.
The Four Symbolic Stops of the Bike Ride for Freedom
The ride consisted of 4 stops which encircled 10 miles of History and Meaningful Memories for these long time residents. The first stop was Chavez Ravine, whose historical relevance to the current injunction parallels the eviction process that took place in the 1930’s.
The second stop was the L.A. River which was a pause to honor the river and the Tongva people, who were the first people to be displaced in the area. Speakers also pointed out how green/sustainable projects meant to restore and contribute to the environment can be a force of displacement if planned irresponsibly.
The third stop was Rampart Police Station, where LAPD’s Corruption Scandal was remembered and Stop LAPD Spying Coalition brought awareness to how the scandal contributed to mistrust from the community towards police, and in return, the heavy surveillance on our community by LAPD.
The 4th stop was to commemorate David “Dizzy” Martinez, who was shot at Echo Park Ave. & Sunset Blvd. LAPD when a cell phone he carried was mistaken to be a gun. Betty Plasencia was also commemorated for being a dedicated, caring, and supportive community member, who was born and raised in the Temple-Beaudry area, and whose message to youth was to seek to obtain education.
Attention was also brought to Peace Park/Parque de Paz on Court St and Bixel St. which was recently cleaned up by community members, whose goal is to create a peaceful community space.
Youth Justice Coalition: Thriller Flash Mob
Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was a creative protest to the discriminatory and disrespectful Injunction policies put into effect by City Attorney Mike Feuer. It was definitely a thrill to see how the community slowly gathered at the Walgreen’s corner and moved in a unified concentric circle of positive chants as they blocked the entire intersection.
The bicyclists joined the moving circle like a battalion, generating a stage of utter and complete joy. People who were gathered at the four corners moved into the circle as the Zombie Cops stepped to the center and performed their Flash Mob dance. It was a very moving, exciting moment, as the air blasted Jackson’s catchy tune through the neighborhood.
The onlookers and supporters were made up of so many smiling, peaceful, happy faces. Only one LAPD helicopter made it to the scene, adding context to the demonstration. Cars were stopped in all four directions, some cars honked in support, others in impatience. The action was a great success because it involved all the people from the community– It was a perfect concentration of various ethnic, cultural, gender, and age groups.
Community members from different backgrounds participated in expressing about the negative impacts gang injunctions have on youth & family stability. These negative impacts include loss of school, employment and financial aid opportunities; eviction from housing; deportation and imprudent incarceration efforts. A noted huge impact was the psychological distress described by many local youth as they narrated personal experiences of feeling isolated, emotionally and physically hurt, rejected, violated, and angry.
Mike Feuer Shuns Echo Park Community
The organizers and participants of Ride for Freedom and Police Zombie Take-Over did so as a creative responsive to being shunned out of the community dialogue by Mike Feuer and City officials who ignored their proposals for more effective and prudent alternatives to the injunction. Alternatives such as Cultural and Historical Education, Safe Passage Programs, placing Interventionists & Peace-Builders in and around schools, Job Training, Investing in Arts & Literature, Environmental & Physical Health Education, and Transformative Justice Programs were among those mentioned.