The chants by the South Central Farm supporters could be heard from the South Lawn portion of the Occupy LA Camp.. The demonstrators, who numbered 50 according to media, were in front of the City Hall entrance on Spring. As always, the banners (some new, some old) were beautiful, creative, and poignant.
At one point we marched down to the South Lawn and through the Occupy camp. Several campers were quite happy to see us. Others, who were still trying to sleep, may not have been so happy. We shouted chants calling for green spaces--not more warehouses--in South LA.
The City Council Chamber was full of blue-shirted people, many of them residents of the low-income housing project Pueblo Del Rio, others from PIMA (an acronym for the clothes manufacturing companies Poetry, Impact, Miss Me, and Active). But there were plenty of Farm supporters there, too. The blue shirts had PIMA written on them and boasted having been made in the USA (However, as the LA Times has reported: “All but one of the Los Angeles-based companies makes their clothes overseas. The proposed development in South LA would be used primarily as a design and distribution site.” (See: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/10/south-central-farm.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+lanowblog+%28L.A.+Now%29
Jan Perry led everyone—well, almost everyone—in the Pledge of Allegiance. (At the Huntington Beach City Council, meetings are opened with both the Pledge and Christian hymns, before the councilmembers screw over the people.)
The period for open comments was fairly short with only about 15 minutes allowed for each side. Thus, numerous people in both camps had signed up to speak but got left out.
As usual, throughout the comment period, most City Councilmembers were looking down at their desks (texting?). On various occasions, comments directed specifically at Jan Perry were stopped (in one case, the speaker's microphone was actually shut off). City Council now has a rule against directing remarks to specific Councilmembers. It has been reported that this rule is the result of South Central Farmers' statements to Perry back in 2006.
Many of the comments on both sides reiterated what had been said in recent hearings, but there were some notable new ones. Various people said that Jan Perry was using the ancient "divide and conquer" strategy and that she succeeded in dividing the community in and around 41st and Alameda.
Long-time South Central Farm supporter Daryl Hannah(1), who engaged in civil disobedience during the farm's demolition in '06, was present and spoke:
“I find it shocking and deeply distressing that five years longer [later] we're still here fighting to save the South Central Farm. And now even this small vestige of it, the soccer field, is being taken that you yourselves approved. The people of the South Central Farm community have already suffered the great loss of their farm, which was their source of food, their [inaudible word], their safety safe haven, and their green space. In the four-and-a-half years since the shameful eviction of the farmers and the bulldozing of the farm it has sat as an empty dirt field when it could have been feeding thousands.
“The South Central Farm spearheaded and inspired the National Urban Farm Movement. It has been recognized internationally as food sovereignty with a food sovereignty award. And we as a species have now hit the seven billionth person two weeks ago. There is now a global recognition of the importance of creating and sustainable, self-sufficient, local food security, and liveable cities. We need green jobs, not sweatshop labor jobs. We need green open space, not more pollution. And I find it very upsetting to witness the blatant and corrupt manipulation that Jan Perry has brought to the [words drowned by applause and cheering] community.”
Myung-Soo Seok, a hired spokesperson for PIMA, later vehemently denied the jobs would be anything like those in sweatshops. As in the October 24th hearing of the City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee (see: http://la.indymedia.org/news/2011/10/249181.php
) he mentioned 600 local jobs being created with another 600 added at some point in the future.
Two long-time garment workers spoke, one talked of a need for better jobs than the ones being offered. The other spoke glowingly of her experiences with PIMA.
Jan Perry spoke triumphantly about this proposed scheme of “turning land into cash.” (Although, given her own lack of consistency and accountability--and that of City Council itself--it seems dubious that the community would actually benefit from any “cash” provided by land owner Ralph Horowitz.)
She reminded us all that the land under discussion is private property. Albeit, she left out the part about the illegality of the city's land sale as ruled by a Superior Court judge (see: http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jan/12/local/la-me-ruling12-2010jan12
A police officer described how a park at 41st and Alameda would have safety problems. (Why didn't Perry consult with him before proposing the park?)
The occasion was lively throughout with people on both sides applauding their respective speakers. When the open statement period was deemed over, a crying mother carrying an infant stood up and lambasted the City Council for their sleazy conduct regarding the disputed land. Many other Farm supporters began chanting about green spaces not warehouses in South Central.
A recess was declared--but those watching the TV monitors noticed that the Council had unanimously—and quietly-- voted for Perry's proposal. Many people did not realize this until after they had exited the chamber.
Perry's measure must still be approved by Environmental Impact.
Both Perry and Eric Garcetti (District 13), who presided over the meeting, are planning to run for mayor. It seems unlikely that LA will have a decent mayor within our lifetimes, but a Mayor Perry or a Mayor Garcetti would be one more major injustice.
Garcetti gives a lot of lip service to "green," but he does not seem to practice it other than driving a hybrid (a green-colored one?) In the documentary Escape From Suburbia (sequel to End of Suburbia) he talks about his support for "green," but when the interviewer brings up his failure to support the South Central Farm, things seem to get a bit awkward for him.
Also, both Garcetti and Councilman Ed Reyes supported increased development on a wildlife corridor in Echo Park over the strong objections of those of us who live around it (see: http://la.indymedia.org/news/2007/11/209930.php
)--and even though the developer was clearly lying about his intent to actually build there. (At the time of the hearing, he was advertising pieces of the land for sale.)
The mayoral bid by former Councilman Mike Woo was fatally undermined by a group of unhappy constituents, who formed a group called Anyone But Woo.
As for city council, hopefully one of the outcomes of the Occupy Movement will be the demise of this institution. (Naomi Klein has been encouraging us to think big.)
(1)In the aftermath of the meeting, some PIMA supporters talked about offering a PIMA shirt to Daryl Hannah from the large box they were carrying. This author did not stay around to see the outcome of that. He wanted to get the hell out of City Hall.