They began showing up at dusk last week, wandering the streets, slumped in wheelchairs and sitting on sidewalks, paper plates perched on their knees. By 6:30 p.m., more than 100 homeless people had lined up at a barren corner in Hollywood, drawn by free meals handed out from the back of a truck every night by volunteers.
But these days, 27 years after the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition began feeding people in a county that has one of the worst homeless problems in the nation, the charity is under fire, a flashpoint in the national debate over the homeless and the programs that serve them.
Facing an uproar from homeowners, two members of the Los Angeles City Council have called for the city to follow the lead of dozens of other communities and ban the feeding of homeless people in public spaces.
Should Los Angeles enact such an ordinance, it would join a roster of more than 30 cities, including Philadelphia, Raleigh, N.C., Seattle and Orlando, Fla., that have adopted or debated some form of legislation intended to restrict the public feeding of the homeless, according to the National Coalition of the Homeless.
There are now about 57,735 homeless people in Los Angeles County, according to the 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development last week, a 23.5 percent increase over last year. Only New York had a higher homeless population.
Bloomberg, the 13th richest person in the world, also tried to implement a policy that require the homeless to prove they had no where else to go before being accepted into a shelter. Fortunately, a judge struck down the decision.
For weeks, the Lords visited the First Spanish Methodist Church on 111th Street and Lexington Avenue, trying to convince Humberto Carranzana, the Cuban refugee who ran it, to open the large basement facilities for the breakfast program (the church was in use only a few hours a week, on Sundays). On Sunday, December 7, when the Lords attempted to address the congregation, police were called in and beat and arrested 13 Lords. The women who were in the church fought back just as hard as the men, and the Party points to this as the awakening of its struggle against male chauvinism. The Lords returned to the church on December 28, 1969. This time they took it over, renamed it People’s Church and began an 11-day occupation. They established an embattled communal enclave with free breakfasts, free clothing and health services, a day-care center, a liberation school, community dinners, films, and on New Year’s Eve a revolutionary service to herald “The Decade of the People.”
Over a hundred thousand people passed through the doors of the church during those days. The Lords explained their programs. They invoked the teachings of Jesus as a people’s gospel of helping those in need.
The barricaded, barred and chained door of the church gave way to police hammers and chisels at 7:15 A.M., Wednesday, January 7. The occupation ended peacefully—as the Lords had promised, for their part, that it would. All of those busted were charged with civil contempt of a January 2 court injunction against remaining in the church. In March all of the charges were dropped. —Frank Browning, Ramparts (1970)
740 Park Ave, New York City, is home to some of the wealthiest Americans. Across the Harlem River, 10 minutes to the north, is the other Park Avenue in South Bronx, where more than half the population needs food stamps and children are 20 times more likely to be killed. In the last 30 years, inequality has rocketed in the US — the American Dream only applies to those with money to lobby politicians for friendly bills on Capitol Hill.
Watch this censored documentary which reveals the truth about our wealth inequality pandemic and gives visual proof that the middle class’ wealth has been nearly entirely engulfed by the super-rich within the past few decades.
Civil rights lawyers say they plan to ask a federal judge to declare the New York Police Department’s spying programs directed at Muslims to be unconstitutional, and to order police to stop their surveillance and destroy any records in police files.
In a lawsuit filed June 18th, the lawyers say the spying has hindered residents from freely practicing their religion. It is the third significant legal action filed against the NYPD Muslim surveillance program since details of the spy program were revealed in a series of Associated Press reports in 2011 and 2012.
The lawsuit says Muslim religious leaders in New York have modified their sermons and other behavior to not draw additional police attention.
In October of 2012, a 19 year old of Bengali descent came out to the media about his role in the spying program. Shamiur Rahman told the Associated Press that in exchange for being an undercover informant, the New York Police Department (NYPD) would pay him $1,000 a month and forget about a case of marijuana possession that he would have otherwise been charged for. He was sent to mosques by the NYPD for the purpose of “creating” and capturing terrorist suspects by befriending Muslims and discussing jihad with them.
Brooklyn prosecutors are examining 50 homicide convictions involving a retired police detective who may have intimidated suspects into confessing to crimes they never committed – with words he chose.
Louis Scarcella was a celebrated member of the Brooklyn North Homicide squad through the crack-cocaine epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s, when he gained a reputation for his unusual ability to draw out confessions. He investigated about 175 murders alone and helped with almost 200 more, but questions have been raised on whether Scarcella coerced, or even entirely fabricated, the admissions of guilt.
The inquiries began after David Ranta was released from prison earlier this year. Ranta, once a drug addict and petty criminal, spent nearly 23 years in prison for the 1990 murder of a Brooklyn rabbi, despite no physical evidence linking him to the crime other than a confession statement he maintains he didn’t write. The investigating detective was Louis Scarcella.
Upon reviewing the cases Scarcella was involved in throughout his 29-year career with the NYPD, The New York Times discovered some alarming coincidences among the confessions. In at least five, the suspects begin their statement with the phrases “You got it right” or “I was there.” Ranta’s statement, which he has always denied delivering, begins, “I was there.”
Scarcella relied on a drug addicted sex worker to act as a witness in at least six different, unconnected murder trials. Teresa Gomez has since died, but lawyers said she was “Louie’s go-to witness,” despite major credibility issues. One prosecutor wrote, according to New York news and culture blog Gothamist, that “It was a near folly to even think that anyone would believe Gomez about anything.”
The Conviction Integrity Unit, a section of the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, refused to identify the 50 cases under inspection, though observers to the investigation fear dozens of innocent men may have been imprisoned only because they were investigated by a corrupt NYPD detective.
Lawyers for other defendants, almost all of whom are still behind bars, said the confessions’ similarities prove the trend was deliberate.
The suit, filed last month by Marilyn Taylor, claims that Officers Maripily Clase, Suranjit Dey and Jermaine Hodge approached Taylor and her family after she used the station’s service entrance to push the stroller carrying her 2-year-old child onto the subway platform — arousing suspicions that she had skipped paying the fare.
According to the complaint filed by Taylor’s attorney, and available at Gothamist:
During this stop, the aggressive language and demeanor of the officer defendants caused the Minor Children to become scared and upset. Ms. Taylor responded to her four-year-old daughter’s question as to whether she was going to be okay by leaning over to tell her daughter that, “everyone is going to be okay.”
At this point, defendant DEY unloaded pepper-spray into Ms. Taylor’s face. The spray caused Ms. Taylor to reel backwards, nearly falling off the platform, and to fall to her knees, blinded and in pain. The pepper-spray struck Mr. McClain [Taylor’s husband] as well, resulting in pain and discoloration of his left eye.
The Minor Children were also struck by the pepper-spray, causing them to scream and cry in fear and pain, and sending [the two-year-old] into fits of vomiting.
Taylor was then cuffed and detained by the officers, according to the lawsuit, and pushed down the station’s stairwell in “an unreasonably forceful manner that caused bruising to Ms. Taylor’s wrists and lower back," after which she was taken to Central Booking for her arraignment.
The complaint says that Taylor and McClain have both dealt with eye problems in the months since the incident, and that their children suffered severe psychological trauma. Additionally, the complaint alleges that the officers proceeded to harass and intimidate the family outside the station where the incident occurred in the weeks that followed.
The NYPD didn’t immediately respond for comment on the lawsuit.
The police department, which was the subject of heated criticism after an officer famously pepper-sprayed peaceful protesters at Occupy Wall Street in 2011, has also been embroiled of late in a number of other controversies — in particular, a stop-and-frisk program largely targeting New York’s minority populations, and the disputed shooting and killing of 16-year-old Kimani Gray.
Workers at a Washington Heights McDonald’s are being forced to work on the hottest day of the year without AC, and one of the workers passed out and paramedics had to be called. Now the workers are walking out. If you want to show support, go to 4259 Broadway right now!
A $1 million government grant will help homeless gay youths in New York state who’ve had run-ins with the law get their lives on track.
The money from the state Department of Labor will fund job training and education.
Carl Siciliano leads the Ali Forney Center in Harlem that takes in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people who end up on the street. Siciliano says many of them are kicked out of their homes by families who don’t accept them.
And some end up in trouble, trying to survive through drugs and prostitution.
The money will pay for them to instead finish school and learn job skills.
The $1 million grant is shared by three organizations: Ali Forney, the Hetrick-Martin Institute and the NYC LGBT Center.
Build a Prison Close a School: 54 schools have been recently closed in Chicago (88% of students were black), 23 closed in Philadelphia (81% black), 26 in New York (60% black). What’s the difference between the Democrats and Republicans again, I forgot? Hundreds of teachers and school staff are being laid off in two of the largest cities in the country — both run by Democrats. In Chicago and Philadelphia, a total of 4,633 people, including many teachers, will lose their jobs. The closing of 54 Chicago Public Schools effected 30,000 students and 850 jobs.
Both cities, run by Democrats, claim they are closing schools because they need the money. Yet near both cities, money for prisons is somehow found. In Philadelphia, Republican Governor Tom Corbett magically found $400 million for State Correctional Institutions Phoenix I and II which will be the second most expensive prison complex in the state’s history. But the will to build prisons is not just a Republicans obsession.
Plenty of political energy by various Democrats, and the Obama Administration, is going into continuing to fund federal prisons in Illinois and Chicago. For three years straight, the Obama Administration has requested more money for federal prisons. In this year’s budget request, the Obama Administration asked for a budget increase for the third year in a row. The federal prison budget is now $8.6 billion. Obama has now surpassed Bush in funding prisons and the number of federal prisons incarcerated — 219,000 — half on drug related crimes. The total prison population topped 2 million in 2003 and shows no sign of decreasing even though states are running out of money to jail people.
Last October, Sen. Durbin announced that the federal government would buy the Thomson Correctional Facility, which can house 1,800 people, for $165,000. The need for jobs is a frequently used justification for building prisons. But how does it make sense to lay off 850 people from the Chicago School System while at the same time spending $170 million prison 150 miles away?
Cops who testified against the New York City Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy have faced retribution from higher-ups and officers who subscribe to the idea that the controversial tactic, deemed unconstitutional by major courts, is fair and legal.
NYPD officer Pedro Serrano told the Associated Press he’s faced harassment at work after testifying that stop-and-frisk, which was enacted in 2002, targets minorities and requires patrol officers to meet (illegal( monthly quotas.
Serrano said that, along with finding a sticker of a rat pasted to his locker, he says he’s been micromanaged - including transferral to a different precinct to work an overnight shift. He also claimed that he was refused overtime hours amid an otherwise erratic schedule.
“A lot of people told me not to come forward because of what would happen – they said the department would come after me,” Serrano said. “But I’ve been thinking about it since 2007. I felt I couldn’t keep quiet.”
Serrano, along with fellow officers Adrian Schoolcraft and Adhyl Polcano, secretly recorded hours of patrol briefings and meetings with superior officers. The audio was played during the current federal trial meant to determine if black and Hispanic men are targeted by NYPD cops seeking to boost their numbers.
Polcano testified that he was told he needed to have 20 summonses, five street stops and one arrest each month.
“I was extremely bothered by what I was seeing out there,” he said on the stand. “The racial profiling, the arresting people for no reason, being called to scenes that I did not observe a violation and being forced to write a summons that I didn’t observe.”
Polcano was suspended from duty and charged with filing false arrest paperwork after he detailed a list of grievances to the police department’s internal affairs. He now works in a video review department. Schoolcraft, who remains suspended, did not testify at the trial because he has filed his own federal suit accusing superior officers of forcefully taking him to a psychiatric hospital in 2009.
Friday’s noise demo outside of MCC for Jerry was a huge success! Despite the hurricane-like conditions, 75 people gathered outside the prison to make noise for Jerry. We unfurled a great support banner and screamed over the roar of the torrential downpour to make sure that Jerry could hear us, and as the noise demo started, we saw a black silhouette in one of the windows raise a fist in strength and solidarity.
He confirmed on Saturday by way of a brief phone call that he could see and hear us, and that the figure in the window was him, and that he had never felt anything so powerful before. He asked that we thank everyone that joined us outside MCC and to let you all know how much he misses and loves you all. Not only did Jerry see us, but his fellow inmates in his wing did as well, and were really into the noise demo.
Join us on Friday, June 28 at 8 PM for our second noise demo for Jerry, and for all prisoners at MCC.
A handful of cops are in hot water after allegedly beating up a 26-year-old gay man outside the 79th Precinct station house, ostensibly for urinating in public. According to a statement from the New York City Anti-Violence Project, the man, identified as Josh Williams, was attacked by police in Bed-Stuy around 4 a.m. on June 2, with the accusing officer allegedly shoving him against a police car and several others “throwing him to the ground and pepper spraying him while he was in handcuffs.”
A shaky video taken by one of the victim’s friends captures lots of shouting and swearing, though the circumstances leading up to the melee are unclear. A cop aggressively grabs Williams toward the beginning of the video, at one point shouting at the others, “You want to go with him, you stupid fuck?" The cameraman retreats around the corner and, upon returning, reveals a crush of at least four officers surrounding Williams, who at this point is on the ground.
“Why is he standing in the parking lot of a police department?" one cop shouted. "Because the police officer right here called him over!" the camera man said. "That’s why he was standing here.”
As Williams is dragged to the car, the cameraman requested the cop’s badge number, and was not acknowledged. Williams was ultimately charged with urinating in public and resisting arrest, said Sharon Stapel, AVP’s executive director.
The NYPD has not responded to a request for comment. According to a statement from AVP, the two other witnesses—Williams’ roommates, also openly gay—were later arrested as well.Watch the full video.
Williams, a waiter in Williamsburg, “suffered a laceration on his face that required four stitches, bruised ribs, a black eye and a scrape on his torso," the Village Voice reports. The officers are reportedly under investigation by the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau—both of Williams’s roommates, Ben Collins and Tony Maenza, allege that one officer used anti-gay slurs during the arrest. From the Voice report:
Maenza was watching the incident from the sidewalk and videotaping with his phone. “Josh is on the ground, he’s surrounded by officers, he’s been maced, and they pick him up and take him into the precinct,” he says. “At that point, one of the officers called us ‘faggots.’”
Collins recalled that the officer called them, “fucking faggots.”… Collins says he was slammed against a parked van and handcuffed. “I asked repeatedly what we were being charged with, and I wasn’t able to get an answer. I believe they arrested us because when the last officer who called us faggots, Tony told him that we had the incident on video, and I’m sure he relayed that information inside and they then decided to follow us outside and arrest us.”
The New York State Senate passed a controversial bill on Wednesday that aims to classify ‘aggravated harassment of a police officer’ as a crime, but will it give the authorities the green light for strong-arm tactics if passed?
Sponsored by Senator Joe Griffo, Bill S.2402 would make it a felony to “harass, annoy, or threaten a police officer while on duty.”
“Our system of laws is established to protect the foundations of our society,” Senator Griffo said. “Police officers who risk their lives every day in our cities and on our highways deserve every possible protection, and those who treat them with disrespect, harass them and create situations that can lead to injuries deserve to pay a price for their actions.”
Griffo said that New York police require extra safeguards because “too many people in our society have lost the respect they need to have for a police officer…. We need to make it very clear that when a police officer is performing his duty, every citizen needs to comply and that refusal to comply carries a penalty.”
The bill, which will now move to the State Assembly, would make it a crime for a person to make any type of physical action aimed at intimidating a police officer. Harassment of a police officer would be recognized as a Class E Felony, punishable by up to four years in prison.