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WHO OWNS THE FARM?

by Lila Garrett reposted by Juan Santos Sunday, Jul. 16, 2006 at 2:58 PM

Garrett describes developer Ralph Horowitz as venting his wrath against the South Central Farmers in an hour - long migrant-bashing tirade.

WHO OWNS THE FARM? by Lila Garrett

In Los Angeles, the 16 million dollar question is who owns the 14 acres in South Central Los Angeles, affectionately referred to as The Farm. Is it the City? Is it developer Ralph Horowitz? He certainly thinks so and before the courts had a chance to disagree he had a bulldozer come in last week and level a big patch of edible green into a mud hole. It was heart stopping. Aside from the legal issues, there are gnawing questions like, do you rip 350 people from their land which feeds their families, beautifies the area and provides blocks of clean air in the middle of industrial pollution? Someone paid for the land, true. But other people gave it life. So the question is, to whom does that land really belong?

We found that question so compelling, six of us formed a committee and went to see Mr. Horowitz to ask him to reconsider. Our purpose had to do specifically with the spate of anti Semitism he said he had suffered from the Farmers. The farmers denied that any anti-Semetic remarks were made by any of their people. In fact they felt so bad about it they sent him a basket of fruits, vegetables and flowers as an apology for a crime they did not commit.

Our committee’s first concern however was that this accusation of anti-Semitism, which was rumored by Horowitz himself, could have a ripple affect which would be bad not only for the Jews, but for the city. Any group can grab onto a hate movement, and use it as an organizing tool for its own agenda. It may have nothing to do with the original issue which is invariably forgotten. Nothing works to as an organizing tool like prejudice. Milosovich used to with the Serbs against the Croats. Hitler used it against the Jews. The Hutus used it against the Tutsies. You know how that goes.

We sat down in Mr Horowitz comfortable office and introduced ourselves. Our all Jewish committee of six was clearly progressive, so Horowitz, also quickly identified himself as a conservative. He spoke bitterly about the farmers, although when pressed he could not come up with who called him an anti-Semitic name. When we asked if he had accepted the farmers’ apology he nodded, I thought reluctantly, but then added he wouldn’t sell them the land if they gave him a hundred million dollars. His bitterness was palpable. And we couldn’t really figure out the root cause of it until he suddenly burst out: "These immigrants, they come over here, they think they own the place"R30;And behold, immigrant bashing filled the room and we spent an uneasy hour being regaled with it.

In the end of our attempt to stem the tide of violence and anger in our community, we realized that our meeting with Mr. Horowitz had fallen on deaf ears. He proudly announced that he was a hero to his conservative friends. When we asked if he was concerned about the ripple effect of his accusations of anti-Semitism, he said "No". As long as he was true to himself, that’s

what mattered. Then he referred us to Councilwoman Jan Perry, and we suddenly got the impression that she’s the one who’s really running this show. Horowitz is the man in the middle. ‘Show me the money’ is all he really needed to say and we all could have saved a lot of time.

Our little committee did contact Councilwoman Jan Perry, who agreed to have a meeting with us. Her agenda promises to be a lot more interesting.

In the meantime, it felt good, as a person with no particular portfolio to help avoid violence in our city. It felt good not to leave it to the other guy. It felt good to decide to be on the side of the farmers, not just for their talent, courage and perseverance, but for their lack of violence. Yesterday was their first day in court. If they prevail the land will revert to the city and they’ll have a chance to restore their gardens. Maybe. Wherever it goes I’ve decided to go with it. I like people who hang tough for a good

cause. I like to be one of those people. They may have leveled the land, but the farmers are still standing. Tall.

It’s not over till it’s over.

I’m Lila Garrett

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