One day after helping to deliver, according to last Friday’s, headlines in Los Angeles’ second largest newspaper, the Daily News, a “beating” to Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo --at a dramatic Union Rescue Mission press conference, that was called by the city to announce yet another highly-publicized lawsuit over hospital “dumping” on Skid Row --a grassroots coalition, currently headed by a homeless man on Skid Row itself, is denouncing the City’s dumping lawsuits as a fraud and a waste; and the group charges that Delgadillo’s lawsuits are, in fact, a part of a city-wide massive cover-up of LAPD’s own, unprecedented, recent mass arrests of homeless people.
The coalition of homeless activists, led by the group WorkingDemocracy!, which helped bring last Friday’s press conference with City Attorney Delgadillo to a dramatic halt, is calling now for a face-to-face meeting of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa –and with the coalition’s homeless people –in an emergency meeting to discuss mounting issues on Skid Row.
Under the guise of a policing theory touted by LAPD Police Chief William Bratton as “Broken Windows," the LAPD’s most recent preliminary arrest figures for the Skid Row area, also obtained by WorkingDemocracy! at community meeting later arranged through the City Attorney’s own staff Friday, shows that while the city is very publicly fighting against six cases of alleged hospital “dumping” on Skid Row --in a city campaign that has now received international media coverage –Bratton, at the LAPD, has, in fact, directed the biggest campaign of mass-arrest of homeless people in Los Angeles’ history.
At the City Attorney staff’s meeting, which also took place the Skid Row “Union Rescue Mission,” Skid Row’s Central Division LAPD Captain Andy Smith, using department records, stated that in the last three months the LAPD --in a huge arrest rampage of pretext stops for minor offenses like sleeping on the sidewalk and jay-walking --has arrested 2,157 homeless people.
This is the most arrests for any three-month period in Los Angeles’ entire history on Skid Row.
Bratton’s “Broken Windows” policing is currently involving foot, car and motorcycle --and even huge numbers of horse-mounted police, and also dump trucks --combing skid row in daily waves of arrests of homeless people since August. Referring to the tactics used by police a homeless man recently called it “Beruit.”
According to statements at the Friday meeting, made by LAPD Captain Smith --of the 2,157 arrests, 1,066 were “narcotics” arrests; yet only 700 of the arrests will be prosecuted; suggesting lack of any real evidence of dealing --or drug-connected violence in these mas arrests --and, further, contradicting the massive publicity from the city (and also Smith himself), in the months leading up to the present, unprecedented, Skid Row police crackdown ---that it would only target serious drug-related crime; and repeated promises from city officials that minor crimes and mere drug users in need of treatment would not be targeted on Skid Row under its “Safer Cities Initative.”
200 of all the arrests included DEA law-enforcement --and further suggests that only a small minority of the overall arrests involved any heavy criminal drug activity of any kind.
Captain Smith brazenly defended the numbers; claiming that the 900 other homeless people in these statistics --who most often have been searched and warrant checked; originally for small offenses like merely sleeping; or even sitting on the sidewalk; under a controversial city ordinance 41.18(d) which, when directed towards the homeless, was recently labeled “cruel and unusual” by a Federal Court –-that these other homeless, according to Smith, were thereafter “taken down to the station to see the ‘social worker;’” further suggesting that few of the arrests, either, were for violence.
Smith says --that out of all the arrests, moreover, only 50 were actually made for violating the sidewalk ordinance --even as they used the ordinance as a pretext for hundreds of police stops to harass and intimidate homeless people.
More importantly, too, the overall figures do not also include any of the stops that the police did not classify as arrests --often including in these the searches, interrogations, and warrant checks. When asked about this, Smith stated that they, these “encounters,” might even out-number “arrests” by as much as five times or more.
The WorkingDemocracy! Coalition is calling for official written release by LAPD of further comprehensive details of all of these arrests, “encounters,” and outcomes.
“The crime in America is not being homeless, it’s now this mind-boggling State harassment in LA for having no housing, and refusing to settle for pathetic, coercive, ‘shelters’ in the richest, supposed ‘democracy’ on earth” --stated one WorkingDemocracy! spokesperson.
The activist coalition says that it’s own month-long investigation shows clearly that those found with mere drug possession (as opposed to sales) and in need of effective drug treatment --in these massive sweeps and searches --have been unlawfully held, searched, and heavily coerced by police thereafter to “voluntarily” enter mostly religious-run shelters; and be subjected to heavy, mostly Protestant, mostly fundamentalist, religious indoctrination: or be sent to the jail.
Many of the LA homeless with past drug convictions do not even qualify for public housing under recent harsh laws.
Many more of Skid Row’s homeless people, also, have repeatedly been subjected to what they describe in these sweeps as prolonged, intentionally intrusive, pressuring, and harassing questioning by police --even without arrest; and under the guise of these “encounters” on the street. Or they have had their possessions unlawfully taken from them; or callously and unlawfully left behind during these “Broken Windows” procedures; as is confirmed in numerous community videotapes made in recent weeks by the grassroots group Los Angeles Community Action Network, (LA CAN).
States WorkingDemocracy! member David Busch, (Bush) “What’s really going on Skid Row is not merely a few cases of over-publicized 'hospital dumping.' It’s a scam. I myself even have the paperwork from the fire department to show that the city is still ‘dumping’ people at the county hospital in apparently greater numbers than the hospital dumping on the Row --that’s what I confronted Delgadillo with at the press conference --and what I want him held accountable for; and that the story, even beyond this is, really, a massive, shocking, failure of recent policing in LA under this disgusting lie of ‘Broken Windows,’ and ‘Safer Cities;’ and a massive violation of homeless people’s rights that is almost totally being ignored in the global reporting in the media of local LA hospitals’ ‘dumping.’”
Busch himself is homeless; and has lived on and off Skid Row since 1999; and it was he who finally helped make the Daily News headlines on the issue --with his dramatic confrontation of Delgadillo.
Busch, living on Skid Row for the last month, and looking obviously homeless; threadbare; and clad in a serape --speaking out along with reporters at Friday’s Union Rescue Mission press conference and brandishing evidence --brought the conference to a hushed and rapt halt with his charges.
Bratton’s “Broken Windows” theory was first heavily criticized and attacked as a “police state” tactic when he used it as a Police Chief in New York, and before coming to Los Angeles.
Hospitals have also charged in the Daily News that Delgadillo’s office rushed the city lawsuits --and refused to negotiate solutions.
Says Busch, a leading Los Angeles area activist who, last year, was chosen by the Lincoln Place Tenants Association in Venice to help fight high-profile evictions there: “The City’s forced lawsuits over patient dumping have been a shocking cover-up. What Skid Row really needs is more day beds for the sick; not Rocky’s pernicious lawsuits and callous political exploitation of us homeless people --and now Bratton’s rights-violating sweeps.“
States Busch, “‘Broken Windows’ is a failure; and full of civil rights violations; and lies; these numbers from the police now prove it --and we at WorkingDemocracy! demand that the Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, meet with the homeless from WorkingDemocracy!, and LA CAN, and others in our coalition immediately next week to look, first-hand, with us, at the persuasive records, and our video, and written evidence; hear our own voices, and that the Mayor call an end to the sweeps.”
“We want real law enforcement by peace officers; not this: a police state for the homeless on Skid Row,” states Busch. “And we will be demanding also that the mayor insist Skid Row providers immediately set aside some day beds --and not just Delgadillo’s lawsuits --for all the sick on Skid Row.”