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Farmers Fight To Win

by Leslie Radford Monday, Mar. 13, 2006 at 8:53 PM

Community pressure moves the Farmers cause forward step by step.

Farmers Fight To Win...
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LOS ANGELES, March 12, 2006--Thursday, the South Central Farmers got word:  the City of Los Angeles would hold off enforcing an eviction of the Farm as long as developer Ralph Horowitz kept negotiating with the Farmers, in talks mediated by the Trust for Public Land.  The eviction was anticipated for March 13 after a court hearing.  The Farmers held a small celebration and emailed supporters to call off a planned drum circle scheduled for that night at Mayor Villaraigosa's home.

Earlier in the week, Horowitz had filed a suit against the Farmers for nearly $730K, citing in part his fear that the Farmers might exercise their right to use civil disobedience in protest against the eviction.  One Farm protest organizer remarked that Horowitz was particularly stung by the week's protests at his home.

The announcement came in an email form the Mayor's office at 5:30 p.m.  In a conversation an hour and a half earlier, a staffer in the Mayor's office confirmed that the Mayor had made no progress with his effort to negotiate an option to buy with the developer.  She also reported that the office had been deluged with phone calls since the Farmers asked their supporters to call--over two thousand in the intervening week.

The City Council has been less than welcoming to the Farmers, who have taken time each week for the past two years to press their case before the Council.  Councilmember Greig Smith was overheard making disparaging remarks about the Farmers at their appearance a week earlier.  This week, the Council held Friday's meeting and public comments an hour earlier than its usual 10:00 a.m. start, apparently to avoid a rally of Farm supporters.   In spite of the Council's dodge, four Farmers and six supporters appeared before the Council.  In a move that may or may not be related, the Council has cancelled all Council and committee meetings from March 13 through March 16, at least.

After Friday's Council meeting, as a wet, windy, and cold stormfront blew in, 130 Farmers and supporters marched in front of City Hall and on the pavilion at City Hall East.  Protestors with papier mâché trees and cardboard fruits and vegetables sat in the Spring St. crosswalk between stop lights, to the approval and delight of downtown motorists.

Some in unseasonal short sleeves, hands buried in pockets and folded arms, and others in sweatshirts, team jackets, and ponchos, protestors circled the sidewalk chanting "This is not a game of Monopoly--three hundred and fifty families!", "Familias Si!, Horowitz No!", and "La lucha sigue--Zapata vive!"  And the ralliers always returned to the Farmers battle cry: "¡Aqui estamos y no nos vamos!"

new farm supporters

On Thursday morning, Green Party gubernatorial candidate Peter Camejo toured the farm and committed to being on the Farm "if it came to civil disobedience," according to a Farm  spokesperson.

After Friday's rally, the Farmers introduced two new supporters: poet Zack de la Rocha, former lead singer of Rage Against the Machine, and environmental activist Julia Butterfly Hill, best known for a two-year stay in an ancient redwood she named Luna.  A third, former U.S. Attorney General and recipient of the Gandhi Peace Award Ramsey Clark signed on to a letter of solidarity.

De la Rocha put it bluntly: the City's treatment of the Farmers is "inhuman, disastrous, and racist." And he added that, along with City Hall and developers, "the fate of . . . this 14 acre plot of hope and resistance now also rests with the people."

Hill explained that the Farmers had visited her some months ago, and she had promised her support.  When she learned of the eviction notice, she changed her plan she was, as she explained, "really excited to rabble-rouse with the Farmers."  She added her message to City Hall.  She was urged to leave Luna after the first 100 days because, she was told, she had made her point.  She said her response then was the same as her City Hall message now: "No matter how far you've gone down the wrong road, turn around."

John Parker, LA coordinator of Independent Action Center, delivered Clark's "enthusiastic support" for "the fight of South Central Farmers to keep their land" and an "emergency appeal to long-time activists dedicated to building economic, environmental and social justice."  Parker reminded supporters that "the Mayor's job is not to help the rich and privileged," adding a comment directly to the Mayor: "You're at a fork in the road between your 'career' and the people."

Organizers ended the rally with a call for increasing the pressure on the Mayor, the City Council, and Horowitz, more of the pressure that had brought the Farmers this much closer to success. For Los Angeles activists who plan on ending the War in Iraq and bringing down the Bush administration, saving fourteen acres from development should be a walk in the . . . farm.

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Julia Butterfly Hill

by Leslie Radford Monday, Mar. 13, 2006 at 8:53 PM

Julia Butterfly Hill...
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Zack de la Rocha

by Leslie Radford Monday, Mar. 13, 2006 at 8:53 PM

Zack de la Rocha...
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