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Monday, Apr. 17, 2006 at 8:07 AM
An update on the situation due to the late night harassment of the South Central Farm by the Los Angeles City Council Member Dennis P. Zine.
Elected Representative of the South Central Farmers
South Central Los Angeles, CA, April 14, 2006 – At approximately 10 pm on Tuesday night (April 11, 2006) a grey unmarked sedan, license plate “4KWR891,” was observed flashing a spot light on the South Central Farmers camping at 41st and Alameda, where they have been doing nightly vigils to prevent destruction of their community farm. The automobile contained three individuals dressed in plain clothes. The automobile was observed circling the community farm. Members of the South Central Farmers went outside to investigate. They were confronted by the driver of the automobile who had drawn his weapon and pointed it at an unarmed teenage girl who was present with her father. One individual identified himself as Council Man Dennis P. Zine from the 3rd district. He was also identified as such by members of the South Central Farmers, who have been going to City Council twice a week for the last three years.
Tuesday night Mr. Zine also declared to Fernando Flores, Co-Chair of the South Central Farmers’ Support Committee: “I am going tomorrow to the Council and tell them how I was treated here.” The next day, on Wednesday, our 13-year old Farmer’s daughter gave testimony about the incident. Mr. Zine was not present in Council chambers during the Farmers’ testimony. However, he entered Council chambers late and then broke protocol and civility by berating the young girl, her brothers, and the women that support the South Central Farmers. Please hear the testimony for yourself:
On April 13th, 2006, Mr. Zine’s office put out a press release proclaiming that he would not be able to support the struggle of the South Central Farmers because, “I am outraged at the baseless lies which are being put forth by the South Central Farmers and will be unable to support their cause given their use of harassment as a tactic to gain media attention," Zine states.
Please see Mr. Zine’s press release:
We, the South Central Farmers, are extremely disappointed that Mr. Zine has withdrawn the possibility of supporting the South Central Farmers. We are also disappointed that over the last three years that we have been going to City Council he has not expressed any interest whatsoever in what he would now chose to deny us in retaliation for his own lapse in judgment under cover of night. We have been looking for the possibility of educating the City Council on the successes of the South Central Farm and the positive asset it has become as a model for a more just and sustainable urban policy for all Los Angeles.
Mr. Zine has chosen to take a retaliatory and pre-emptive position against the South Central Farmers, and their supporters. He is denying us the chance to make ourselves known to him. All Mr. Zine had to do is admit committing a “FOJ,” that is a Failure of Judgment. As an elected official I have made FOJs. I had to admit them and correct and apologize for them. All that we were asking from him in the City Council Chambers was for Mr. Zine to own up to the FOJ and apologize to the community as a demonstration of respect to the stakeholders of the 9th district.
Mr. Zine has used his failed effort to intimidate and harass the Farmers as an excuse to deny us our voice in City Council chambers. His provocative actions reveal a mean-spirited streak of anti-democratic tendencies, a despotism that seeks to control others through intimidation. A democracy must be judged by the degree to which it is inclusive and respectful, in which policies are made transparent and under the light of day. Democracy does not work well when any one feels they can just come unannounced in slow moving cars, training spot lights on people, with guns drawn in the middle of a dark night.
Instead of owning up to this FOJ, Mr. Zine chose a line of defense similar to that of the officers that beat Rodney King. Let us be reminded that on March 3, 1991, four police officers beat and arrested King while some twenty other law enforcement officers stood by and did nothing. When, “The judge imposed relatively light sentences of thirty months in prison, departing from the seventy to eighty-seven months mandated by federal sentencing guidelines. The judge justified the lower sentences on the grounds that the victim's misconduct contributed significantly to provoking the offense…” In his press release Mr. Zine’s has chosen this line of justification.
Perhaps it is the ability of the South Central Farmers to successfully protect the community farm that gives rise to Mr. Zine’s harassment and provocation. The South Central Farmers did not go into Mr. Zine’s district. The South Central Farmers did not drive around in an unmarked grey car in Mr. Zine’s neighborhood flashing a spot light into people’s premises. The South Central Farmers did not pull a weapon and point it a 13-year old unarmed girl, without identifying themselves as Police officers.
Let us make further corrections to Mr. Zine’s statements: “…while driving through in an unmarked police car, we were nearly struck by a white sport utility vehicle. This vehicle proceeded to tailgate our car as we drove through the area. Out of concern for our safety, we pulled our vehicle over to the curb.”
As we declared to Sergeant Kelly and Sergeant Palka, from LAPD Internal Affairs Group Administrative Investigation Section D: As the driver of the white Suburban did his usual night watch round of the community farm he observed a suspicious grey vehicle spot-lighting the Farm. This drew his attention and as usual procedure we take down the plates and call them into Newton street division, in cases where people are littering or dumping trash. The cars were driving very slowly and Mr. Zine’s car was never threatened or “nearly struck.” The white Suburban pulled up next to the grey car when it stopped. Immediately, the driver opened his door and pulled a gun on the occupants of the white Suburban. Our press release never stated that Mr. Zine pulled the gun as he claims in his press release. We did state: “They were confronted by the driver of the automobile who had drawn his weapon and pointed it to an unarmed teenage girl who was present with her father.” No one stated that it was Mr. Zine.
Mr. Zine further states in his press release that, “This was my intention - to visit the farm without fanfare - and to see firsthand where the site is located and how it is utilized. This was my first visit to the location.” We have been fighting for three years to bring awareness to this issue and inviting Council Members to visit when we are working or doing other activities at the farm. Plenty of fanfare is due! We deserve the same respect that Mr. Zine has shown for other community stakeholders. People like James Callison (LAFD Firefighter/Paramedic); and Don Cocek (Deputy City Attorney). There is no need for clandestine operations. You cannot see anything in the darkness; you cannot meet any of the community members under the cover of night. Community farms are best visited during the day time hours as any self-respecting farmer will attest.
We would like to remind Mr. Zine that as a member of the Los Angeles City Council Public Safety Committee he is just as responsible for the Rampart scandal that has already cost City taxpayers well over 0 million dollars. The LAPD is under a Federal Consent Decree to, among other things, monitor excessive use of force or coercion. As part of this consent decree, the LAPD must closely and accurately monitor citizen complaints, and we would like to add, we have filed one against reserve officer, Zine. Per our preliminary information from Newton Street Station, reserve officer Zine was not assigned to do reconnaissance on the farm, yet he made several passes around the property in an unmarked car and left his LAPD business card, not his City Council card with a farm organizer.
We, additionally, hope that Sgt. Kelly and Palka’ Internal Affairs report will not merely be a Rodney King Verdict white-wash of what possibly could be abuse of power under two colors; one, under color of authority as an LAPD police officer and the second as abuse of authority under color of authority of a Los Angeles City Council Man.
In Los Angeles we need angels of hope, amnesty, empathy, and equality. We do not need “Angelinos of Retribution”. This is the role that Mr. Zine presented when he publicly humiliated a 13-year old girl who went to testify about her traumatic experience in a dark night in South Central Los Angeles.
 Garcia, Robert, The Rodney King Legacy and a Testament of Hope, http://www.clipi.org/publications/articles/rodneyking.html
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