(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 73)
History now records that every injury inflicted on defenseless protestors in L.A. this week comes from a mayor whose billion-dollar police force could bulldoze and bully unarmed citizens protesting the modern-day lynching of Black bodies only so much. Even after an annual budget of more than a billion dollars for weapons and training for this force, to still call for Governor Newsom’s support to smother free speech and the right to assembly in Los Angeles says a lot.
At this critical moment in our nation’s history, by calling the National Guard to intimidate and arrest defenseless protestors, Mayor Garcetti is now the first white supremacist mayor of L.A. in the 21st century, no better than a “Proud Boy” thug in Atwater Village claiming “defense” of white supremacy as his uniform glorifies blood spewed from Black & Brown skin.
If that sounds like an exaggeration, consider that the mayor’s curfew and call for the national guard on Saturday night comes less than 12 hours before the president’s designation of the so-called “ANTIFA” (abbreviated from ANTIFASCIST) association as a “terrorist group,” despite providing no evidence to support the claim that the group, which is known as a loose coalition of anti-racist activists, engages in anything related to terrorism.
That is, unless the official policy of the state is that any movement against white supremacy is so offensive to whiteness it must be deemed “terrorist.” The open-air prison is now in plain sight. Enter prison warden Garcetti.
But the mayor’s decision to escalate police reinforcements rather than deescalate their numbers doesn’t just place him in the company of Donald Trump. It also comes at a time when mayors across urban cities in the United States have a choice to either stand with their fellow citizens in calling for an end to Jim Crow policies for Black and Brown bodies, or stand against them, supporting only an extension of those same policies. Just one of these choices historically costs Black and Brown civilians in the United States their lives. Garcetti has chosen the latter.
Consider also that the mayor, like Governor Newsom, certainly calls on the federal government to support the state and L.A.’s economic shortcomings this year due to reduced tax revenue. So why can’t they stand with L.A. calling on the state and federal government to stop sanctioning the killing of unarmed Black people?
Additionally, I encourage every reader in Los Angeles to consider the following:
Exactly what gives Garcetti the right to escalate police forces at this time? And why is L.A. City Council not convening during these hours to veto the mayor’s invitation of the national guard to our city? What expertise for crisis management has Garcetti shown during seven years of shoving & arresting unhoused citizens instead of sheltering them? And how competently has his team performed during just the last two months in which they’ve failed to house even 3,000 of L.A.’s 15,000 most vulnerable unhoused residents?
Moreover, L.A. City Council’s failure to convene at this time also reveals the body is weak outside the realm of green lights for real estate tycoons, with its council-members sitting disparately at this time and apparently without prior knowledge of any of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s orders. This is a clear example of what democracy does not look like.
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This weekend is another that will go by without meaningful action from the city’s elected officials to address the crisis posed by tens of thousands of unhoused people lingering on the streets while COVID-19 continues battering our communities.
It’s also a weekend that will go by with Jose Huizar retaining his seat at L.A. City Council even as the world can see that his commitment to Chinese real estate tycoons disqualifies him from being able to meaningfully serve his constituents in the 14th district.
The weekend is also one in which Jose Huizar’s successor, Kevin de Leon, will once again fail to make a meaningful statement condemning the Huizar case’s embarrassing exposure of the L.A. City Council during this critical moment for Los Angeles. De Leon is seen by many as likely running for mayor when Garcetti is termed out in 2022, and so it’s probable that the future candidate doesn’t want to stir the pot regarding real estate’s endemic connections to decision-making at L.A. City Hall.
Is this the best that Los Angeles can do?
A few years ago, during an LAUSD board race for the 5th district, a panel was held at Los Angeles City College featuring the various candidates vying to represent the area’s constituents on the board. For the panel’s moderator, a high school student who couldn’t have been more than 17 years old was chosen. We can call her Monica.
The candidates seated for the panel were adults of various walks of life and credentials, and thus people with much to say. As a moderator, especially one still in high school, Monica would have been forgiven for being overly polite, or for making a few too many mistakes in her facilitation of the discussion. But that was not the case at all.
Monica read each question for the candidates clearly, and stood at the podium facing the candidates emitting nothing but confidence. Most of all, when it came to the strict time limits for each candidate to make their statement, while even another adult might show some flexibility for the limits out of respect for the candidates, or simply to let them finish what they had to say, Monica, by contrast, was fearless.
At every indication that their time was up, it didn’t matter that most of the candidates making their statements were more than twice her age. And it didn’t matter if they spoke with conviction or if they spoke with experience.
Fair was fair, and Monica stuck to her moderation of each statement so consistently that by the end of the discussion, it was clear she had upstaged the candidates for the evening and left many people wondering when she would run for public office.
That panel was held a little over three years ago, which means that soon, probably as early as next year, Monica should be graduating from college. As I look around at Los Angeles, I know that the city will benefit greatly from leadership like hers and that of her peers, but also that such things are easier said than done.
Even with all her talents, Monica and other young professionals like her cannot reshape the city’s politics alone, and much less so if they only inherit those politics in their current form, which, as so many of our current elected officials make clear: are not only antithetical to fairness, but steeped in loyalty to foreign capital and the interests of the more powerful.
As Monica demonstrated in her moderation, fair is fair no matter whose name it is, but it will take something special before Los Angeles can reach such fairness under the current circumstances. We the people have got to demand it.