Police in riot gear dispersed protestors from a City Council meeting today before a final vote on an amendment to section 41.18 criminalizing homeless encampments within 500 feet of schools and daycare centers—which is now the law. It was the second time that the council has been effectively shut down by protestors since they were removed in last week’s vote on the amendment.
This was the third and final vote because the City Council was unable to reach a unanimous decision the first time, and due to a procedural issue that sidelined last week’s vote, CBS news reported. Today’s vote mirrored last week’s at 11-3 in favor—with Councilman Mike Bonin, Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, and Councilwoman Nithya Raman voting in opposition.
The crowd began chanting after Pete White, the founder and Executive Director of Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN) had finished making his public comments.
“The only way that folks are safe—our social determinance of safety—is not more bullets and not more batons and not more police officers,” White could be heard saying. “For us, safety is defined by housing, safety is defined by healthcare, safety is defined by opportunities.”
Well before the dispersal, here is Pete White from LA CAN speaking: pic.twitter.com/elzAuXR47y
— Jon peltz (@JonnyPeltz) August 9, 2022
As President and Councilwoman Nury Martinez called for the next speaker, a woman by the name of Patrina approached the podium. Soon, she climbed over the bench and began walking toward the councilmembers, at which point officers intervened and began to clear the room.
When the hour-long recess came to an end and Councilwoman Martinez began addressing the public, she again denounced the protests, justifying an earlier comparison to the January 6 storming of Congress made on Councilman Paul Koretz’ Youtube Channel.
“Some people that spoke earlier today were offended by the fact that we compared what happened last week, to what occurred in our nation’s capital on January 6,” she said. “But arguably this is one step closer to that, jumping over a barrier and putting other people’s lives at risk that cannot be the norm around here.”
The amendment to 41.18 has faced much debate in recent weeks—proponents hope that it will provide “safe passage” for school children, preventing them from being exposed to some of the harsher realities that exist in encampments.
“Our students are already traumatized, with socio-economic issues,” Councilman Joe Buscaino said. “Let alone they should not be exposed to sex acts. They should not be exposed to open drug use. They should not be exposed to psychotic behavior that’s taking place right next to our school yards.”
Although opponents disagree, those in favor believe that both solving homelessness and providing safety for school children can be accomplished, just perhaps not both via 41.18.
“Our goal is to get everyone under a roof on a path to wellness. We don’t do that by just sitting on our hands and doing nothing and waiting for some sort of perfect solution,” Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said. Acknowledging that 41.18 doesn’t work to end homelessness, he said, “It never was. It’s about protecting children.”
Besides the difficulty the city may face in enforcing the amendment, opponents believe that it’s a waste of time and resources that could be better allocated to solving the root causes of homelessness and providing housing.
“Every time we discuss this issue, it is a waste of time and energy and attention and by approving this ordinance you are guaranteeing, you’re going to be back into conversations over lawsuits and settlements,” Councilman Bonin said. “You are going to be discussing 41.18 like a nightmare Groundhog Day for years and years to come.”
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