Last night, more than 120 people came out to the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council meeting at Micheltorena Elementary School to voice their concerns on the proposed Echo Park / Elysian Valley / Silver Lake / Angeleno Heights area gang injunction.
The Silver Lake Neighborhood Council (SLNC) began by trying to stop the community from speaking on the topic before their vote. The 1st video is a response to that- the community took the mic and spoke out anyway until the SLNC voted to adjourn for fifteen minutes.
Here are the links to see footage from the meeting shot by Art of Existing Community Media:
- Part 1 Community Demands to Speak: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/38270253
- Part 2 Meeting Resumes http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/38270963
- Part 3/4 President votes and Board Member arrives to skew vote : http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/38272071
- Part 5 Meeting Shutdown : http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/38272333
- Part 6 Reactions from the Community and Documented Police Presence: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/38272851
- Part 7 Community Member Reflects on City Processes: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/38272871
An Echo Park resident, one of the courageous leaders in the struggle to stop the injunction, and a grassroots media genius who has been documenting the movement against the injunction, said: “Watch or share the videos – at least the first and the SHUT DOWN one. They are beautiful and raw moments of community empowerment in rejecting bureaucratic processes that allow those with access to privilege and power to vote on the lives of marginalized communities. UP WITH EMPOWERMENT, down with oppression. Your voices are beautiful and WE ARE THE MEDIA.”
Before the Start of the Meeting
Before the start of the meeting, dozens of people filled out speaker cards. But neighborhood council members told the crowd that the Council president Renee Nahum declared that the members had “already gathered enough information from previous hearings on the issue” and would not allow any testimony at tonight’s meeting.
It was suggested that people could speak during public comment as long as they didn’t speak on the proposed injunction. So, people determined that they would speak during public comment on their experiences with other injunctions, as a way to illustrate the impact of injunctions on youth and communities.
Start of SLNC Public Comment
The crowd waited patiently during the start of public comment, but that section of the meeting ended before any of the community’s names were called. Kim McGill from the Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) shouted out a question that the full community hadn’t been called for public comment and asked that everyone in the audience who were there to oppose the injunction stand. Nearly the entire auditorium stood up. Rio Contreras from S.T.A.Y. and Julio Marquez from the YJC started to chant “let us speak” and soon the whole room was filled with the chants of the crowd.
One community member came to the mic and began to deliver his speech in opposition to the injunction highlighting the displacement of poor and working class people of color caused by injunctions. A YJC youth leader, Dayvon Williams followed him. “L.A. has the world’s largest Probation Department, the world’s largest county jail system, the world’s largest juvenile hall system. Isn’t it time that we think about solutions other than incarceration?” Once Dayvon was finished, many other people began taking the mic one by one.
Veronica Arellano, who has lived in Echo Park her entire life, urged the SLNC to reject the City Attorney’s proposed plan. “The police are already stopping the youth, patting them down and searching their back packs. They are asking them, ‘Who is you father, your uncle, your brother? Tell the neighborhood that the injunction is coming. You can’t stop it.’ No teenager deserves to live in fear of law enforcement.” Arellano’s sister, Irene broke down in tears as she described the arrest that day of her son. “He has never been arrested and they are taking him to County Jail. Please see how unjust this is!”
Rio Contreras grew up in Echo Park and recently returned to live in her family home. “We love our communities, we love our freedom. Please open your eyes at least to empathy.”
Several Neighborhood Council members also raised concerns that public comment on the agenda had been cancelled by the SLNC president Nahum without the involvement of the full council.
Due to the fact that the Neighborhood Council couldn’t reclaim control of the mic, the President Nahum called for a 15-minute recess. The council then reversed the President’s decision and allowed for public comments – although limiting it to 30 seconds per individual.
Testimonies against the injunction.
Residents, researchers, families who will be targeted by the proposed injunction, and youth who are living in injunction raised numerous arguments against the injunction:
- Loss of family stability and connection
- Loss of employment
- Expulsion from school – both high school and college – for missing days due to arrest and/or court
- Loss of college financial aid due to arrest and/or court and the inability for people to re-enroll until the financial aid spent is repaid
- Gentrification and displacement
- Eviction of entire families from both public and privately owned housing; and
- The fact that police violence – including police killing of civilians – is higher in injunction zones than in areas directly adjacent with the same demographics.
Other Neighborhood Councils Representing
Several members of the Echo Park Neighborhood Council also urged Silver Lake to make history by standing in solidarity with another Council. Just one week ago on August 27th, the Echo Park Neighborhood Council voted NOT TO SUPPORT the proposed gang injunction.
Only one person, Randy Miller, a member of the Westlake North Neighborhood Council, spoke in favor of the injunction. “If you vote against the injunction you are voting to support graffiti, you are voting to support drug dealers, you are voting to support robbers.” However, materials distributed to the SLNC members reminded them that the California penal code exists to prosecute people for criminal acts. Te only reason gang injunctions are created was to prosecute and jail people for non-criminal acts – particularly associating in public with any other alleged gang members, including the family and neighbors they live with.
The crowd broke into chants several times during the testimony – including “We don’t need no gang injunction, we’re just out here trying to function!”
Silver Lake Neighborhood Council Members Realize Injunction is Not Needed
The SLNC members then discussed their views. One member mentioned that she was glad that tonight’s hearing – as well as previous hearings on the issue in Silver Lake and Echo Park – had happened. “When I fist heard of this issue I was ready to support it. But, in hearing so many community voices in opposition, I decided to talk to the people in the area of Silver Lake that will be included in the injunction zone. Of course, I couldn’t talk to everyone. But every resident I spoke with except two said that they did not want a gang injunction. Had this been raised in the 1980s or 1990’s when violence was dramatically impacting the community, it might have had support. But we don’t need an injunction here now.”
SLNC member Charles Herman-Wurmfeld was one of the people – along with SLNC member Teresa Sitz who proposed the resolution not to support the injunction. In his comments, Herman-Wurmfeld quoted Martin Luther King: “As Dr. King described, ‘The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.’ By voting not to support the injunction, I vote to reject the spiral into darkness and hate that an injunction represents.”
Silver Lake Neighborhood Council Votes
Only 14 of 21 SLNC members were present but that was enough for a quorum. The first roll-call vote for an amendment to the original motion passed with 11 in favor, and the crowd erupted in applause. SLNC President Nahum recused herself from the vote, claiming that Presidents typically don’t vote. (Under the bylaws, neighborhood council presidents are supposed to vote only to break ties.) The final vote began again with a roll call. When it came to SLNC President Nahum, she stated again that as President, she would not vote. But the vote for the final motion was much closer – 8 to oppose the injunction, 7 to support.
Council President Nahum Illegally Reverses Her Decision
At this point, Council President Nahum reversed her decision and stated that she would vote to support the injunction – in effect creating a tie. The crowd shouted its opposition. Several members of the Echo Park Neighborhood Council in the audience exclaimed loudly that this was a violation of the process.
One person produced a copy of the Neighborhood Councils’ procedures from their pocket and held above their heads. Several people also yelled that several people on the Council had conflicts of interest including at least one member who serves as staff for a City Councilmember who stands to benefit from law enforcement and developers’ support of the injunction.
At the last moment, SLNC member Anthony Crump entered the auditorium and declared he was there to vote. As would only happen in Los Angeles, actor Anne-Marie Johnson who was in charge of rules, declared that Crump could not vote, because he hadn’t been there for the debate.
Actress Ann Marie Johnson Violated Community’s Rights
But after a feverish exchange of whispered directions from the President, Johnson reversed her decision – as it appeared to the crowd that Johnson had been told that Crump was there to support the gang injunction. Johnson had also voted in favor of the injunction of both votes.
YJC youth leader Tauheedah Shakur mentioned how ironic it was that an actor famous for roles that “encourage Black people to stand up for our rights, just violated our rights tonight.”
The final vote: 9-8 in favor of the proposed injunction.
Community Gets Vocal at Neighborhood Council’s Shenanigans
At that point, nearly the entire auditorium jumped to its feet. Many shouted “foul” and “shame.” The police in attendance and/or SLNC members called for additional LAPD officers. The audience continued to chant for at least 20 minutes making it impossible for the meeting to move on to other agenda items.
Eventually, approximately ten additional LAPD officers arrived including the Captain of Northeast Division, Jeffery Bert. Simultaneously, Hamid Kahn of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, Pete White of Los Angeles Community Action Network and Luz Flores of the Youth Justice Coalition all engaged Crump in a discussion of why he voted to support the injunction despite overwhelming community opposition.
Meanwhile, the crowd continued to shout “shame” as the SLNC members exited the back of the auditorium under police escort.
Captain Bert asked the young people from the YJC for a meeting to discuss his support of injunctions. Then, he told McGill to have the crowd disperse, or he would have to declare it an unlawful assembly and begin to arrest people. McGill made the announcement and the community re-convened outside to debrief the night’s events and discuss next steps.
The Eastsider Community paper wrongly accused the Youth Justice Coalition of disrupting the meeting to the point of shutting it down. In fact, approximately 30 people attending were with the YJC, while nearly the entire auditorium – the vast majority of who were residents of Echo Park and Silver Lake – forced the meeting to end because of their anger over the failure of the SLNC leadership to follow their own by-laws regarding fairness in the conducting of a meeting.
Here is the link to the Eastsider article on last night’s meeting: http://www.theeastsiderla.com/2013/09/gang-injunction-foes-fail-to-win-support-of-silver-lake-neighborhood-council/