It was a year ago today that a group of us went to L.A. City Hall to fight for a rent freeze. We got there early in the morning. When we got to city hall, I found out that the city was proclaiming May 21, 2010 as Harvey Milk Day. I was glad to find out that the city was celebrating someone like Harvey Milk. His proclamation day was long over due. As we waited for nearly 5 hours for the council members to make a decision on whether they were going to put a rent freeze or give tenants a rent increase, the council members only gave us 20 minutes to speak on why we think a rent freeze was essential. The landlords were also given 20 minutes to speak their mind.
After waiting for over 5 hours and given just 20 minutes to speak on behalf of all the tenants from the City of L.A., councilmember Eric Garcetti decided to postponed the vote and send it back to the Housing committee. By doing so, it meant that tenants from the city of L.A. were going to have a rent increase on July 1st. One can only imagine how we felt after that decision. We were obviously upset. But, bringing in the police to silence our voices by using excessive force was truly unjust.
A friend of mine was beaten down and had his shirt ripped apart. All he was doing was walking back as the police were pushing him. As I was going to observed what was going on, I ended being tased. I had taken two books with me, one on Mons. Oscar Romero, The Violence of Love and another one on Steve Biko, I Write What I Like. I took those books as a mix of my spiritual and political beliefs hoping that I would get some inspiration in case I had a chance to speak to the council members. That never happened.
After I got out of jail, I found out that the police had charged me on some lynching charges and that they thought I had the books with the intention of hurting some officers. My books were confiscated from me as “evidence” and I didn’t get my books until 2 months ago. Evidence? What evidence were they thinking of finding? I was told that some officers thought that I had my books and was using them as a weapon against them. My books are my weapon, only if the cops consider knowledge a weapon. This got me thinking of a quote that says, books and bombs are made from the same chemicals; the only difference is that a bomb explodes one time and a book explodes a thousand times.
Due to this incident, my friend is now facing criminal charges. Made up charges that the police has put on him. He has a court date coming up soon. This is clearly a political battle. The police are trying to go up against any activist who tries to interrupt their agenda and when people stand up to fight their agenda and advocate for human and civil rights, this is the treatment we get. My friend is a well respected organizer in the community. It is no suprise to us that they targetted him because of his involvement in the community.
Let it be known that in Los Angeles we are living in a police state. I would go as far as saying that America has become a police state. When activist are fighting for the rights of people, we either have police beating us down or FBI raiding our houses. We’ve seen this with the activist in Minneapolis and Chicago having their houses raided and more recently a well respected Chicano activist in Los Angeles had his house raided by the sheriffs and was interrogated by FBI agents.
Below are videos and articles from the event last year. This was the city of Los Angeles’ way of celebrating Harvey Milk Day.