Los Angeles Justice Organizations, In the Wake of the Pandemic, Demand ‘People’s Budget’ Funding Services, Not Police

22 May

A coalition of Los Angeles justice organizations, on Tuesday, May 19, held a virtual town hall meeting by Zoom featuring Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles activist Melina Abdullah, Julianne Malveaux and Pastor Stephe “Cue” jn-Marie to demand a “People’s Budget” to fund services, not the police.

Mike de la Rocha, of Revolve Impact, which according to its website, “combines policy advocacy, grassroots organizing and broad-based communications strategies to directly improve the lives of millions of people,” moderated.

De la Rocha, who is the founder and CEO of Revolve Impact, in his opening remarks, said, “Today we plan to discuss with leading organizers and intellectuals what a budget that reflects the needs of the community looks like.  This includes services for unhoused (sic) Angelenos, including housing in the thousands of empty hotel rooms throughout our city, more mental health services, rent suspension and forgiveness for the 55 percent of Angelenos who are currently unemployed, so they don’t have to go back to work in unsafe and potentially deadly environments, more funding for education and a lot more.”

Abdullah, who holds a doctorate in political science from the University of Southern California, said, “(B)y overspending on police, the Mayor is cutting every other department… So, every other department is facing a 10 percent cut to its bottom line… At a time when houselessness (sic) is soaring…he is cutting the spending for housing…(W)hen we talk about crime or so-called crime, we know the best way to address it is by prevention and intervention work and he has cut the budget….(I)t’s everyone else other than police who will be harmed.  We also know more spending on police leads to more brutality and harassment and police killing.”

Abdullah, who teaches at California State University Los Angeles, added, “This is a healthcare crisis with an economic fallout.  So, we don’t need police responding to something they don’t have any expertise or business doing.  Instead, why don’t we employ unemployed people?  Have them go to the grocery stores, and hand out masks and gloves…. We can really make an impact that is positive on communities.”

Abdullah, who is one of the founders of BLM-LA, argued the city’s budget process was undemocratic because “this is the first time ever that the budgeting process did not go through the City Council’s Budget Committee.  So normally, people would have a chance to weigh in at multiple points of engagement…This time he sought to have the budget process fast tracked.”

The Pastor of the Row Church, also known as the “Church Without Wall,” said, “Historically communities, such as skid row have been underfunded… and LAPD has been overly funded … $100 million was allocated toward homelessness in Skid Row …for a number of years and 85 percent of it went to law enforcement.”

Malveaux, holds a doctorate in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said, “We know that this pandemic has done so many things to so many people.  We know that …50 percent of those who are dying are black and brown.  We know that we’re on the frontlines.  We are the people who basically stock the grocery shelves.  We are the people, the CNAs, Certified Nursing Assistants, who help the hospital.  We’re the people who are doing the work. We’re driving the buses…but they’re being starved, so we can have more money for policing.”

Malveaux, who is a past president of Bennett College, added, “I think that we need to look at this pandemic as an opportunity to look at all inequalities that exist in our society.  The people who have been celebrated have been the elite.  The people who have not been celebrated are the people at the bottom.”

According to the press release for the event, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti has proposed a city budget that expands LAPD funding by nearly $50 million for a total of $3.15 billion despite clear and measurable decreases in crime; with this budget, the city will spend 54 percent of its general fund on the LAPD, while other departments experience furloughs, pay and budget cuts limiting critical care capacity and necessitating cuts to the essential services.

The coalition, which sponsored the event, included Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, ACLU-SoCal, Justice LA Coalition, Dignity and Power Now, People’s City Council Los Angeles,White People for Black Lives, Ktown for All, DSA LA, Ground Game LA, La Defensa, StopLAPD Spying, LA Voice, Students Deserve, Sunrise Movement Los Angeles, and Africa Town.

According to the People’s Budget website, the coalition Mayor Garcetti was “trying to push his budget through a vote next Thursday, May 21.”  The coalition was asking the vote to be delayed.

The video of the virtual town hall is available at the People’s Budget website, https://peoplesbudgetla.com/.

The Los Angeles City Council voted, Thursday, May 21, to refer the budget to a committee, according to a press release of the People’s Budget Los Angeles. The coalition called it a “victory.”

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