Police Commision Speech
November 18, 2008
Hello, my name is Michael Hubman I am a human rights and homeless rights activist. My opinions are my own. However, today I am speaking to you as a member of the Coalition for the Abolition of Safer Cities Imitative. The goal of our Coalition is to end the oppressive policing and selective enforcement that is being visited on the poor and homeless people, who live on Skid Row in Los Angeles. The city government and the police call this activity Safer Cities Initiative. I call it Socio-Economic cleansing.
I have been lobbying the Los Angeles city government, promoting the human and homeless rights of the poor and the homeless people of Skid Row Los Angeles, for over a year.
So what is new? It is time to name the problem.
What problem? The problem is the assault on the human and civil rights of the poor and homeless people of Skid Row Los Angeles.
What are the manifestations of this problem? Oppressive policing, selective enforcement, violence under the cover of authority, taking of property without due process, using court supervision and questionable police practices, to debase and humiliate poor and homeless people and using mean spirited strategies to persecute and harass poor people, who have nothing, and have no place to go.
Naming this gentrification war on the poor and homeless people of Skid Row Los Angeles, Safer Cities Imitative is a clear example of Orwellian double-speak. This hostile social policy, deserves a place right up there with George Bushes Clear Skies Initiative.
Here are some specific examples of the magnifications of the problem.
The other day, I was sitting at the conference table at United Coalition East Prevention Project, on the corner of 6th and Stanford in eastern skid row.
Right outside the widow, on the corner, the police had a middle age black man up against the window he was handcuffed with his nose against the glass.
After awhile the police left, but the man remained. I went outside and asked him what had happened. He told me; “the police pulled up in their car and asked me if I was on parole or probation”. He said, “I was obligated to say yes”. He told me that without any further interaction he was pushed up against the building and handcuffed. Then they interviewed him. Then they left him there and moved on to interview somebody else.
None of us would put up with this kind of policing in our neighborhood; we would be down at city hall or the police commission. We would be asking; why are you profiling people? Why are you stopping people without probable cause? What about our constitutional right to presumption of innocence?
But this is skid row. When you are homeless and living on the street you are made to feel powerless. When you are engaged in a full time struggle for survival, all the while being persecuted by the sovigern, it does not occur to you that you should go to city hall to stand up for your rights.
If you have no identification you won’t get past security. If all of your wordily possessions are in a large plastic bag or a shopping cart you can’t afford to leave them un- attended while you are visiting city hall.
This is just not right, using probation to harass people just because they live on skid row.
Chief Bratton brings his broken windows policing to Los Angeles. What we get is a gentrification task force coming into the only home these poor people know, and symbolically breaking their windows.
On a recent day at the northeast corner of 6th and Gladys I saw the police squeeze a man between two horses. They didn’t detain him. They didn’t even get off of their horses. They just gave him a little extra-judicial squeeze.
At the same location I saw a lead officer j-walk against the light. I said, “You just
J-walked” He said, “this light is too long”. In some other time and / or place this would be less than remarkable. However considering the thousands of j-walking citations given to the poor and homeless people of Skid Row Los Angeles, this hypocrisy takes on a new meaning.
If you issue a nuance citation to a homeless person the next thing you know, they may not show up for court. They may not be able to post bail or pay a fine. Next thing you know they are being housed in the county jail. Likely they wind up probation, and being stood up against the building like the man on 6th and Stanford.
The last example I have is the beat down of Faith Hernandez. In this incident the police chased down and beat small woman in front of over 100 witnesses. It caused quite a stir in the community. You may or may not remember it. I was not there. I did take a statement from a witness who was.
Here is his statement.
Hello, My name is Gary Lett.
On June 3rd 2007 I witnessed four Los Angeles Police chase down, hold down and beat Faith Hernandez. On 6th Street just west of Gladys Street. During the above incident I also witnessed Los Angeles Police take a video camera away from a woman who was filming the beating of Faith Hernandez.
I am a supervisor at Gladys Park and can be found there most days.I wish to make myself available to the court so that my testimony can be heard.
(end of statement).
This statement was signed and dated. The original is with the public defender. You see, after the police chased down and beat this woman they charged her with a felony. I wonder if the woman whose video camera was taken ever got it back. I wonder if the images ever saw the light of day.
I have a suggestion. If the police should feel the need to take images and or voice recordings away from by standers who are witnesses to an incident, they should use the following procedure. The confiscated equipment and or images should be handled with best practice chain of custody procedures. They should then be handed over to the Human Rights Commission. Copies can be given to interested parties while the originals shall be preserved as evidence. Equipment should be returned to owners.
Recently, I spoke to a program director of a Skid Row charity.
By all accounts this charity does a commendable job of helping the people of Skid Row Los Angeles to cope with overwhelming adversity. We were discussing the relative merits of Safer Cities Imitative. He said he would not join me in my opposition to Safer Cities Imitative.
I spoke of the 18,000 arrests and the 24,000 citations issued in a two-year period, far more than the rest of the city combined.
He tried to do the math in his head. He came up with a number less than 10 per day, something like three or four or something. I am here to tell you that he misplaced the dismal.
He told me that a police intervention saved him from serious drug addiction. He told me that he was 30 years clean and sober. I asked him, what about the people on who live on Skid Row that don’t take drugs. He didn’t have an answer for that.
He told me that there were positive things that Safer Cities Imitative was doing.
This may be true. I have yet to attend an outreach meeting. However, in two years of operating a street based charity, I haven’t heard about any of them. All I see is mean spirited policing, directed at the poorest of the poor, many who are sick and old.
Is this any way to treat your elders?
Look, Los Angeles; the United States of America is the most incarcerated nation in the entire world, both per capita, (even more than Russia), and also in raw members. We beat out both China and India in total number of people incarcerated. California leads the nation. Are we that evil or is there something else wrong.
Is Los Angeles trying to win a war on poverty by criminalizing the poor? It is only common sense that housing is more cost effective than jail.
Quick! What is America’s longest running war, Vietnam, the Iraq mess, The Cold War? No it’s the war on drugs. The United States has been waging war on plants and molecules since near the turn of the 20th century. It is a common human trait to want to modify ones mood, or shift ones perspective. Some are allowed to do it with the blessing of the sovereign. Others are forbidden and criminalized.
Consider this, it is legal to drink at home, or in a bar. What if you have no home and cant afford to drink in a bar? Does that mean that you are criminalized for drinking?
I don’t claim to have all the answers, and nobody has been asking me either. However the current approach that Los Angeles is taking to address abject poverty and homelessness by declaring war on the poor and the homeless is an abomination.
With the current economy tanking, and downward pressure pushing on the poor and working class, creating a stampeding race to the bottom, it is time for Los Angeles to ask itself some questions.
Do we step up and follow the example that Jesus Christ has set? Do we look after those who are the least among us?
Or, do we build virtual walls of gentrification and hide behind these walls, thinking I have mine, to heck with them.
For the love of god, Los Angeles, if we cannot do better than this, we are in a whole lot of trouble.