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Poor People’s Campaign Comes to Orange County

17 Apr

Inspired by the civil-rights movement, the Poor People’s Campaign, on Thursday, April 11, brought its “Truth and Poverty Tour” to four stops across Orange County “to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and the nation’s distorted morality,” according to the meetup.com about page of the Orange County Poor People’s Campaign.

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On the second stop of the Orange County Poor People’s Campaign, a crowd of about two dozen people, on Thursday, April 11, gathered to hear speakers across the street of the Theo Lacey Facility in Orange, which houses detainees for the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement; Photo by Barry Saks

The second stop was across the street of the Theo Lacey Facility, which houses detention centers for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  The public leader of the OCPPC, Lisa Pedersen, who characterizes herself as “a community activist for human rights and social justice,” also on the same meetup.com site, introduced Jan Meslin.  Meslin, who helped, in 1984, found the Friends for Orange County Detainees, which visits detained immigrants, emceed.

In her introduction, Meslin, said, “There are several thousand men right now, right across the street who are in maximum security prison…. Each of these men has a story, each of these men has a family… a lot of them have lost their jobs, their apartments and they could be out here thriving…. A little more than 500 are there simply because they don’t have proper documents.”

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Jan Meslin, who is from Freedom for Immigrants, addresses, on Thursday, April 11, the crowd gathered across the street from the Theo Lacey ICE detention center in Orange at the second stop of the Orange County Poor People’s Campaign.

Meslin, who is now the director of social change development for Freedom for Immigrants, introduced Roberto Herrera as a Community Engagement Coordinator for the Resilience Orange County, which according to its website, is “a youth-oriented institution that works towards social-systemic transformation while promoting healing, trauma-informed and culturally relevant practices that are inclusive of all members of the community.”  Meslin said, “Roberto (Herrera) has worked to advance and defend the rights of immigrants and the undocumented community in Orange County, specifically those most marginalized, including the LGBTQ community, those with past criminal convictions, overly-criminalized youth and people of color.”

Herrera said, “The (California) Attorney General (Xavier Becerra) in February of this year released a report detailing the conditions inside this detention center.  What confirmed was what we already know, the egregious conditions inside.”  He added that this center doesn’t have a “proper grievance process.”  If detainees are “experiencing excess force by the sheriffs,” the detainees have no recourse because the grievances are not collected.

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Carlos Alexander Hidalgo, who had been detained at ICE detention centers in Adelando and the Theo Lacey in Orange, speaks, Thursday, April 11, across the street of  Theo Lacey about his incarceration and becoming an immigrant-rights activist; Photo by Barry Saks

 

After Herrera spoke, Meslin introduced Carlos Alexander Hidalgo and said she met him after he had been transferred from the Adelanto ICE detention center to Theo Lacey in retaliation to a hunger strike he started.

“He was born in El Salvador in 1967, came to the U.S. when he was 11-years old, he graduated from Bell Gardens High School (in Los Angeles County) and he made a life, got married, he had some children, he worked, and found himself in some legal trouble…served a little bit of time and instead of going on parole as if he were a U.S. citizen, he found himself in the detention-deportation system….He was able to get bonds and be released,” Meslin said.

Hidalgo, who is on the leadership council of Freedom for Immigrants, said, “The last five years with all that has happened to me, I’ve become an immigration activist.…I lost custody to my kids just because I couldn’t make it to court, (I lost) my business….I’m going to be the thorn in their eyes.”

After Hidalgo spoke, the Rev. Michelle Harris-Gloyer of the First Christian Church of Orange, Disciples of Christ, led the crowd in the song, “Someone is Hurting My Brother” and the second, which the reverend characterized as a mantra, “I am not Afraid.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Los Angeles Board of Supervisors Votes to Cancel Plans to Build Women’s Jail in Lancaster

17 Feb

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, after more than two and a half hours of public comment and before an audience of hundreds, voted on Tuesday, Feb.12, on the motion of the Third District Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, to cancel the plans to build a woman’s jail at Mira Loma in Lancaster, California.

Before public comments, Fourth District Supervisor Janice Hahn said more than 150 people were to speak.

Of the speakers providing public comment, about six spoke in favor of the project, mostly from the building trades unions.  The others spoke against the plan to build the women’s jail.

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Crowd gathers, before the press conference, on Tuesday, Feb. 12, outside the meeting of the Board of Supervisors to protest the building of women’s jail in Lancaster; photo by Barry Saks

To hear the entire Justice LA press conference, click here,

Earlier on the steps outside, Justice Los Angeles and its coalition members, held a press conference, emceed by Eunisses Hernandez, who is the Los Angeles Campaign Coordinator for Just Leadership USA and who said she is a member of the Executive team for the Justice LA Coalition.  Before the press conference, Hernandez, 29, said, “I am here today because I would like the county to prioritize building community-based services in all the districts of the county, instead of focusing on building…one main central facility.”  Hernandez added what is needed are “regional community centers that provide mental health services, health and human services, employment services.”  She was confident the plan would be voted down.  She supported the motions for the studies addressing the problem, “about four.”

After the press conference those gathered marched into the building chanted “Care not cages,” led again by Reggie Bush.

 

 

 

Before the press conference, rallies were held.  At the first, about 50 people, led by Reggie Bunch, the crowd briefly chanted: “Hey, hey, ho, ho, this jail system has got to go;” “Women’s jail has got to go; Men’s central jail has got to go, no more jails, no more jails.”  This toxic jail system has got to go.”  They also chanted: “We need care, we don’t need cages.”

 

 

 

At the second, immediately before the press conference, the protesters outside had grown to more than 100, sometimes chanting, “Jobs not jails,” sometimes chanting, “No more prisons, no more jails” and other times, “We need healing, mental health.”  The chants ended with “Black lives matter here” and “Brown lives matter here.”

Before the press conference, James Nelson, 52, said he was wrongly convicted of murder in 1986 and served 29 years.  I got out because I demonstrated I was suitable for parole.”  Nelson, who is featured on the Dignity and Power Now website, said black and brown are being “locked up” for profit, including the mentally ill, that the mentally ill need services, not criminalization.  Nelson said he first volunteered at DPN, but now works full-time for it.  He said DPN was a grassroots organization.  He said he was planning to speak before the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

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Formerly incarcerated James Nelson, who said that he was wrongly convicted of murder and that he got out because he demonstrated he was suitable for parole, planned to speak, on Tuesday, Feb.12, before the Board of Supervisors; photo by Barry Saks

Also before the press conference, Mateo Nagassi, 40, said while he has never been incarcerated, he has two brothers, who are now in state prison, one serving 20 years and the other 24 years.  Nagassi, who identified himself as a member of Reform LA Jails and Dignity and Power Now, said besides being there because of his two brothers, he wants “to stop this cycle of incarceration.”  He added, “We need to start at the bottom, local and move countywide and then statewide.”  He also said instead of spending the money on more prisons, the money would be better spent on focusing on rehabilitation, treatment of addiction and on homelessness.

 

 

 

While UTLA Strikes—UTLA Leaders, LAUSD Settle

23 Jan
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Teachers, students and community allies, Tuesday, Jan. 22, picketing outside of Phineas Banning High School in the Wilmington community of the City of Los Angeles; photo by Barry Saks

A couple hours before the news conference announcing a tentative agreement was reached between the United Teachers of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Unified School District, the teacher strike continued into its sixth and last day, on Tuesday, Jan. 22, with students and community members picketing with the teachers, and among the schools being picketed was Phineas Banning High School in the working-class community of Wilmington, a few miles north of the Port of Los Angeles.

Soon after daylight, the picketing began and after a short while at least a hundred people were picketing in front of the school in a circle. Slightly north of the picketing were a couple of school buses. Each had a handful of students stepping down onto the sidewalk.

Among the picketers was Lucia Rodriguez, who teaches English for 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grades at the high school. Rodriguez, who has been teaching 18 years, before the picketing began, said she was a member of the Contract Action Team and the school had about 120 teachers with all of them on strike. She also said it was good the teachers had a chance to vote on the tentative agreement while on strike because “what if we don’t like the agreement that they reached and we already came back to work.” She added, “It’s fundamentally democratic to do that (vote) while we are out.”

Also, among those out on strike and in support was Dan Castillo, who’s a history teacher at the high school. Castillo was with his two daughters—Daniela Castillo, who’s in the 9th grade at Banning and Dahlia Castillo, who’s in the 12th grade also at Banning. Daniela said, “We support him because we believe in the cause as well. She defined the cause as “more nurses, more funding for our schools, more counselors and librarians, smaller class sizes, control of charter schools and co-locations.” Dahlia said, “We know why we are here and we…fully support our all teachers and all the staff that’s out here with us….and we know that public education is important.”

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On far left, is Dan Castillo, high school history teacher at Phineas Banning High School, the father of Daniela Castillo, who is a 9th grade student at Banning, holding bullhorn, and to the right is Dahlia Castillo, the other daughter of Dan Castillo, a 12th grade student at Banning, leading chants; photo by Barry Saks, Tuesday, Jan. 22.

Dan Castillo, 45, who’s been teaching for 23 years, said he was a product of public education. He added, “I really believe this is ground zero for a war for public education. I don’t think it is just about Los Angeles. I think with the growing charter school movement. I believe there is a serious threat to public education right now and I believe we have to win this war because if we lose here in L.A., they we’ll repeat this formula nationwide.”

While picketing, the teachers, students and community allies chanted: UTLA, UTLA; I don’t know but it’s been said, “Billionaires on the Board of Ed;” Everywhere we go people want to know who we are. So we tell them, “We are the mighty, mighty union, fighting for justice and for education;” Tell me what democracy looks like. “This is what democracy looks like;” We teach, we care, our contract should be fair; Look up, look down, Wilmington is a union town.

Before retirement, Barry Saks was a Service Employees International Union Local 660 (now 721) Shop Steward. He was at different times the Vice Chair and Chair of the bargaining units he was in.

UTLA to Strike LAUSD

12 Jan

United Teachers of Los Angeles, representing more than 33,000 teachers, is poised to strike Monday, Jan. 14, the Los Angeles Unified School District, which UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl recently characterized, as “a strike for our students….for our schools, for educational justice, for racial justice, and to defend the future of public education.”

The district’s website, on Friday, Jan 11, said, “We are extremely disappointed…UTLA has rejected Los Angeles Unified’s revised offer without proposing any counter offer. UTLA has refused to continue contract negotiations. More than 48 hours remain until Monday when UTLA plans to strike, and we implore UTLA to reconsider. A strike will harm the students, families and communities we serve, and we have a responsibility to resolve the situation without a strike.”

Meanwhile, an email in part from the union, also on Friday, said, “Today, just as LAUSD representatives were passing out a new proposal, UTLA bargaining team members began to see on social media that (Superintendent Austin) Beutner was holding a press conference downstairs to review the same proposal. More disrespect – Beutner saying he’s able to bargain “around the clock” but skipping the last two sessions. More bargaining in the media rather than meeting face-to-face with educators (sic).  More lies about what the district has and what the district can do.”

An email from the union sent Thursday, Jan. 10, said that a Superior Court ruled the union could strike.  An email the previous day from the union said it was postponing the strike to avoid confusion.

Scott Mandel, who is the chair of UTLA (San Fernando) Valley East Area, on Monday, Jan. 7, said, “I went through the ’89 strike 29 years ago, we are so much better prepared now than we were then.  Our teachers are more unified now than we were then.”

Mandel, who is also the chair of the union’s National Board Certified Teachers Committee and has a Ph.D. in Education: Curriculum and Development from the University of Southern California, added if there were a strike, it wouldn’t be about money.  He said the union was asking for 6.5 percent and the Los Angeles Unified School District had already agreed to 6 percent.  He said it would be “ridiculous” to strike over the difference.  A strike would be about support for the students.  The union’s demands are for a “class size reduction,” for “a nurse in every school, every day,” for “a full-time librarian in every secondary school,” for more counselors, for the elimination of all testing that isn’t federal or state mandated and for “the regulation of charter growth.”

The UTLA Valley East Chair, who’s been teaching for 34 years at LAUSD, ended passionately.  He said, “Beutner wants this strike, especially after (the) Janus (Decision).  Beutner thinks he can destroy the teachers’ union and turn this into a portfolio district, where schools are given over to privateers and charters…The heart and soul of public schools in LA Unified is on the line right now…This is our Armageddon.”

Kyle Stokes of KPCC, on Wednesday, Jan 2, interviewed Beutner, who became Superintendent in May 2018 and according to the district’s website, a business executive, served as First Deputy Mayor of the City of Los Angeles and publisher of the Los Angeles Times.

The Superintendent said, “We all want the same set of things.  We all want to make sure everyone, who works in the schools, is better paid.  We all want to work to reduce class size and hire more nurses, counselors and librarians.  The challenge is how we do it with the resources we have.”

On the existing contract provision giving the district discretion on class size, the Superintendent said, “We have said for months and the fact-finder agreed with us is we should eliminate that provision and we need to agree on a new provision….UTLA said eliminate that provision and they will not sit down with us to try to agree on a new provision.”

Beutner, regarding the almost $2 billion reserve, said that almost $200 million had already been spent for raises to bus drivers, cafeteria workers, clerical staff and engineers who keep the air conditioners; that about $300 has been set aside for the 6 percent increase for UTLA members; that about $300 million because of law for certain students, as part of a local control funding program; about $250 million has been sent to schools to be spent at school principals’ discretion; and about $100 million for legal settlement, which he said left $700 million.  He insisted the reserves are being spent.  He said, “From an accounting standpoint, you wind up with some funny accounting because the reserves to pay UTLA members continue to grow.”

He added near the end of the interview the experts have told him the district is spending more than it’s bringing in.

 

Long Beach City Council Passes Motion to Fund Immigration Legal Services for the Undocumented

4 Dec

The Long Beach City Council on Tuesday, Dec. 4, passed a motion to establish the Long Beach Justice Fund, which will be set at $250,000 and administered by the Vera Institute of Justice.

In favor were 1st District Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez, 2nd District Councilwoman Jeanine Pearce, 6th District Councilman Dee Andrews, 7th District Councilman Roberto Uranga, 8th District Councilman Al Austin and Vice Mayor and 9th District Councilman Rex Richardson.

Opposed were 3rd District Councilwoman Suzie Price, 4th District Councilman Daryl Supernaw and 5th District Councilwoman Stacy Mungo.  The three council members who voted against the motion said during the discussion in principle they supported establishing the fund, however, each voted against the motion for different reasons.

The fund will be used to pay for immigration legal services for resident and people working in Long Beach, who earn less than 200 percent of federal poverty level.

 

Long Beach Residents Rally in Solidarity with Central-American Immigrants at US-Mexican Border

30 Nov

 

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Jonathan Solorzano of the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition emcees, Thursday, Nov. 29, the rally in solidarity with Central-American Immigrants at the US-Mexican border; photo by Barry Saks.

While the Long Beach rally in solidarity with the caravan of Central-American immigrants at the United States-Mexican border, was canceled because of wind and rain, about 40 people, on Thursday, Nov. 29, braved the weather at Harvey Milk Promenade Park, 185 E. Third St. to show their solidarity with the migrants and to collect donations for them.

According to the press release issued before the rally, the organizers for the rally were the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition and other community groups.

Jonathan Solorzano, the lead organizer for the LBIRC, emceed.  Solorzano began the rally with the chant: “When immigrants are under attack, what’ll we do?  We’ll stand up and fight back.”  He apologized for the sudden cancelation of the rally and said, however, a short program would follow.  He said, “There was a blatant human rights violation that happened on Sunday, in which the Mexican police attacked the Central-American caravan….This administration (U.S.) has time and time again shown that immigrants south of the border are not welcomed.”

Solorzano introduced the 2nd District Councilwoman Jeanine Pearce.  Pearce said, “I don’t want to target one administration (over another)….We as America has to do right by citizens of the world…. Having a border is one thing.  Having a disagreement on how we go through a process of making sure that people that are seeking asylum, that refugees have a safe place is another thing.  Gassing people at the border is completely unacceptable.”

 

 

Gaby Hernandez, the program manager for the LBIRC, said donations may be delivered to the LBIRC office at 525 E. 7th St., Long Beach until Friday, Nov. 30.

In the same press release, Hernandez said, “Long Beach is against the human rights violations happening at the southern border.  We stand in solidarity with refugees because seeking asylum is their human right.”  “Whether white, black, or brown, we want to join together across our differences and show our support for the refugee community by speaking out on these injustices and collecting essential donations for people in need.”

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Donations collected, Thursday, Nov. 29, at solidarity rally with Central-American immigrants at US-Mexican border; photo by Barry Saks

 

 

Friends of Sabeel of Los Angeles and Orange Counties to Host Educational on Palestine and Israel

7 Nov

Friends of Sabeel of Los Angeles and Orange counties will host an educational conference, which it titled, “No Way to Treat a Palestinian: Gaza, UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) and Jerusalem,” on Saturday, Nov. 17, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Christ Lutheran Church, 6500 Stearns St., Long Beach, which will feature Donna Baranski-Walker, who is the founder and executive director of the Rebuilding Alliance, a nonprofit organization that helps Palestinian villages build affordable homes and schools.

Barranski-Walker, who was awarded the Medal of Gratitude at Poland’s Gdansk Shipyard in 2010 for her work nearly 30 years before in support of Solidarity, the independent trade union, will speak on the difficulties of working in Gaza.

To visit the Rebuilding Alliance website, click here.

Besides Barranski-Walker speaking, a panel will focus its discussion on Jerusalem.

According to a flyer distributed online before the conference: the conference costs $20, cash at the door; scholarships are available; and inquiries may be sent by email to NW2TAP@gmail.com.

The same flyer listed the conference endorsers as Al-Awda: The Palestine Right of Return Coalition, Episcopal Peace Fellowship/PIN-LA (Palestine-Israel Network), Jewish Voice for Peace, Kairos (propitious moment for action) USA, LA Jews for Peace, ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) SW (Southwest California) Synod Middle East Task Force, PAWA-SC: Palestinian American Women’s Association of Southern California, People for Palestinian-Israeli Justice, Presbyterian Synod JPIC (Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Committee) and the United Methodist Holy Land Task Force.

To view the flyer, click here.

In emails before the conference, Tony Litwinko, who characterized himself as a member of the conference organizing committee, said, “We in Friends of Sabeel LA and Orange County are very concerned about the decision of the Trump administration to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem, but more importantly, in its decision to stop supporting UNRWA and to radically cut support to the Palestinian Authority, impacting educational and health facilities in East Jerusalem and the occupied territories, (w)e offer this conference for the general public in order to educate them about the deep humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the continuing unjust annexation and manipulation of land in the Jerusalem area. We especially welcome people who have recently begun to understand the importance of the struggle for justice in Palestine.”

According to the Friends of Sabeel North America website, FOSNA “supports Sabeel, an ecumenical liberation theology movement founded by Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land. We share Sabeel’s mission to amplify the voice of Palestinian Christians and work with peace builders of all faiths who stand with the oppressed and promote a just peace in Palestine and Israel. FOSNA challenges distortions of the Bible and theologies that lead to racism, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and condemns all acts of violence, whether committed by states, individuals, or groups. We organize and participate in events and nonviolent advocacy campaigns that advance peace and justice for both Palestinians and Israelis.”

To visit the FOSNA website, click here.

Barry Saks is a member of JVP.  He may be reached at barry@barrysaks.com.