SILVER LAKE NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL - SilverLake Neighborhood Council got to experience a taste of mob democracy Wednesday night when an 8-8 tie vote failed to support a motion NOT to support the proposed gang injunction aimed at about three hundred members of six criminal street gangs along the Glendale Boulevard corridor.
At first, the six dozen protesters in the audience cheered when NC Secretary Rusty Millar announced an 8-7 vote in favor of the "not to support" motion, but then Treasurer Anthony Crump announced that he had not voted, and cast his vote against. It was a little confusing since a "yes" vote was to "not support" the proposed injunction.
Just prior to the vote, meeting chairperson Renee Nahum asked everyone in the audience to quietly leave the MicheltorenaSchool auditorium after the vote, so that the neighborhood council members could get through a long list of items on the rest of the agenda. But instead, the audience broke into a demonstration cheering the supposed 8-7 count in their favor.
After a few minutes of chaos, Ms. Nahum grabbed the microphone at the center table and announced, "Since you all don't have the courtesy to allow us to continue our meeting, I'm going to cast a vote against the motion." Several board members objected that the SilverLakeNC has a practice of the chairperson voting only to break a tie, and the audience quickly seized the opportunity to cry foul.
But when Mr. Crump's vote was added to the "no" total, the motion failed anyway on the 8-8 tie. This was followed by a very angry demonstration shouting down any chance for the meeting to continue. After a half hour, the council members agreed it was hopeless to continue.
The failed vote does not mean that the SilverLakeNC supports the proposed injunction against some members of six local gangs. Several members of the NC board said that they felt intimidated. Anyone who spoke up at the meeting favoring support of the injunction was heckled by some in the audience, which was also angry that public comment was limited to 15 minutes total, and each person could speak only 30 seconds.
This was the third opportunity that injunction opponents have had in the past month to voice their dissent. The SLNC Public Safety Committee sponsored a public forum August 19, and at the August 7th regular meeting of the Governing Board, the matter was debated, resulting in a vote to postpone consideration until September.
The irony of the situation is that it really doesn't matter how the local neighborhood council votes, or the fact that the Echo Park NC voted 15-0 last week not to support gang injunctions. The reality is that the issue is currently a legal matter -- not political. A hearing will take place in Superior Court on October 30, when Judge Abraham Kahn will probably allow the City Attorney to proceed with the injunction against known gang members, who must be served with a copy for the police to take any action.
The two primary arguments opponents use are that the injunction is simply a tool for "gentrification" of the community, forcing many current Latino residents to move out, and the problems that families of gang members will experience as a result of the police having an additional stick to crack down on "people of color."
The fact that almost all criminal gang activity is directed against other "people of color," including the undocumented residents who are afraid to go to the police to make crime reports. The local street vendors are continually victims of extortion, and the growing sale of "meth" provided by the Mexican Mafia to local criminal gangs are some of the arguments the "silent" majority of the community have expressed in supporting law enforcement's use of these injunctions.
In the nearby Westlake, where a criminal gang injunction has been in effect since 1997, against ten local gangs, the community has experienced a marked reduction in criminal activity, especially around MacArthur Park, which used to be "crime central" only a couple of decades ago. The gangs themselves have contributed to the drop in violence by allowing only their own associates to commit criminal activity on their "turf." Any "outsider" who wants to come into the community to sell drugs is dealt with harshly.
One elderly resident commented tonight that the protests "were right out of the 1960s. I almost saw myself shouting against the Vietnam War and racial inequality. Those were the good old days." He added that it was wonderful that young people have not lost the spirit of demonstrating against "the system."
(Jennifer Solis is an elected board member of the Westlake North Neighborhood Council and an occasional contributor to CityWatch. She can be reached at: Cyberdiva@ca.rr.com)
Vol 11 Issue 72
Pub: Sept 5, 2013