3:25: THE MAYOR AND THE CHIEF OF POLICE COME OUT AND SAY A FEW WORDS
Villaraigosa said of Chief Charlie Beck: “He’s someone who understands that Constitutional policing is the only way to go for Los Angeles.”
Charlie Beck said that 1400 officers took part, and there were around 200 arrests. (There were 292 arrests, as it turns out, a great many of whom, cops and Occupiers both say, intended to be arrested. Last night Occupiers were repeatedly asking each other, “Are you arrestable?”—meaning, are you willing to be arrested or do you need to go home to put the kids to bed or feed the dog?)
“I’ve never been prouder of Los Angeles police officers than I am tonight,” Villaraigosa said.
By the way, one of the big stars among citizen journalists to have emerged from the Occupy movement is Spencer Mills who tweets and broadcasts under the name OakFoSho. He was great tonight!
12:59: Arrests definitely taking place. But slowly, as the tents are slowly and carefully dismantled. The cops have been very disciplined, actually, at least thus far.
12:26: UNLAWFUL ASSEMBLY DECLARED, OCCUPIERS HAVE 10 MINUTES TO COMPLY… Only problem: the 10 minute warning was given around 15 times at various intervals.
Fox 11 reporter chick to an LAPD spokesperson regarding the plethora of 10 min. warnings: “At what point does this become the boy who cried wolf?”
12:14 am – POLICE POURING OUT SOUTH DOOR OF CITY HALL
Now at 12:20 am – the police are moving into the crowd. The mood of the crowd has changed. Everyone seems to sense that the the eviction is about to commence.
12:02 am – LAPD COMMANDER ANDREW SMITH SAID THAT PRESS WILL NOT BE ALLOWED INTO PARK ONCE AN UNLAWFUL ASSEMBLY HAS BEEN DECLARED
Okay, that’s the tip off. That’s what will be the signal to move in. The LAPD will declare an unlawful assembly. And they WILL declare an unlawful assembly tonight. When? We don’t know. But tonight is the night.
11:56: LAPD HAS REPORTEDLY ISSUED A FINAL WARNING. (Or something of that nature. Trying to confirm. The TV folks certainly aren’t reporting any such thing. But they’re five steps behind through all of this. No, nothing seems to be happening. False alarm.)
11:28 pm: The OccupyLA crowd, plus onlookers and press, is estimated to be between 1500 to 2000.
10:58 pm – COMMANDER SMITH AFFIRMS THAT A PERIMETER HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED AROUND OCCUPY LA ALLOWING NO CARS IN
Commander Smith, the LAPD spokesperson, is saying that he’s “really optimistic that this will be peaceful.”
10:41 FOLKS IN PINK SHIRTS ARE “PEACEKEEPERS” FROM OCCIDENTAL COLLEGE
10:31 pm: LAPD officers have arrived on a fleet of big buses.
10:23 pm: FINDING LAWYERS: Lawyers from National Lawyers’ Guild and legal observers are reportedly wearing lime green baseball caps.
9:30 pm – LAPD is on a tactical alert. A raid could come anytime after 10:30 pm. At least that’s the word going around. It isn’t officially confirmed that tonight is the night. But everyone seems to know. This is it. Game on.
More than 16 million American kids are living in poverty right now, one out of every four, the highest rate since 1962. And because unemployment has stayed so high for so long, in recent months an increasing number of those kids and their families are sliding past poverty and into homelessness. In a new trend, almost third of the country’s homeless now live in cars. They are often those who are the recently homeless, the newbies still reeling from shock and denial.
On this past Sunday’s episode of 60 Minutes reporter Scott Pelley talks to four such families whose home is now their vehicle.
This 60 Minutes story is a Must Watch. Period. You can find the show here.
SUPREMES AGREE TO TAKE ON 2 CASES THAT TEST WHETHER OR NOT THE LAW CORRECTING THE 100 TO 1 SENTENCING DISPARITY BETWEEN CRACK AND POWDER COCAINE SHOULD BE RETROACTIVE.
In catching up on a bunch of significant appeals cases, I direct you first to this story Tuesday’s New York Times by Adam Liptak on an issue that has affected many lives. Basic fairness would seem to dictate one outcome for this case, but when one looks at the legal questions involved, things ain’t quite that simple.
Here’s a clip from Liptak’s story.
The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to resolve a question that has vexed the lower federal courts since Congress enacted a law to narrow the gap between sentences meted out for offenses involving two kinds of cocaine.
Selling cocaine in crack form used to subject offenders to sentences 100 times as long as those for selling it in powder form. The new law, the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, reduced the disparity to 18 to 1, at least for people who committed their offenses after the law became effective on Aug. 3, 2010.
But what about people who committed their offenses before the statute came into force but were not sentenced until afterward?
For such defendants, Judge Terence T. Evans wrote in one of the pair of cases the Supreme Court agreed to hear, the law “might benefit from a slight name change: The Not Quite as Fair as it could be Sentencing Act of 2010 (NQFSA) would be a bit more descriptive.”
The usual rule is that new laws do not apply retroactively unless Congress says so, Judge Evans wrote, and here Congress said nothing….
AND WHILE WE’RE ON THE TOPIC OF MANDATORY MINIMUMS, HERE’S SOMEONE THE PRESIDENT MIGHT WANT TO PARDON (NOW THAT HE’S BELATEDLY GOTTEN HIS PARDONING SELF IN GEAR).
Syndicated columnist Debra Saunders thinks that President Obama needs to keep on pardoning, now that he’s finally started, and she’s got someone whom she feels should be first on the list.
I have an even worse criminal-justice horror story. In 1993, Clarence Aaron received three sentences of life without parole as a first-time nonviolent drug offender. Aaron broke the law and earned time in prison. But he received a longer sentence because he didn’t know enough to turn on the bosses behind two large cocaine deals. He foolishly pleaded not guilty and lied under oath. Because the buyer had planned to convert the powder cocaine into crack, his sentence was extended.
Like attorney Means, Molly Gill of Families Against Mandatory Minimums believes Eugenia Jennings is an “extraordinary case.” But also, Gill says, Obama should be “bold” and “unafraid” to do more. “This isn’t political scandal, it’s just doing justice.”
Aaron has taken responsibility for the actions that put him in prison. He has a good prison record, and he’s ready to start leading a normal life among a supportive and anxious family.
Readers of this column know how tough I can be on violent career criminals. Vicious crimes deserve serious time. But career criminals aren’t doing hard time, their small-time subordinates are.
Besides, it is obscene that a young African-American man will spend the rest of his natural life in prison for a nonviolent, first-time offense committed when he was 23 years old.
Next month, Aaron will have spent 18 years in prison. As his commutation application notes, Aaron shows promise to be a law-abiding citizen, but he “continues to serve his life sentences, while all those who testified against him are now out of jail.”
President Obama should free him.
IN AN UPCOMING CASE THE SUPREMES MAY ASK: WWLCD? WHAT WOULD LOUIS AND CLARK DO?
I love this case—in part, admittedly, because it originates in the state of Montana—but mostly because it deals with the fine print embedded in an intriguing and potentially precedent-setting question: Who owns a state’s rivers? The answer it seems depends on whether or not the river or rivers in question were navigable at the time of statehood.
However, it is in the definition of the word “navigable,” that there turns out to be a bit of a rub.
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. got a laugh last term when he posed a hypothetical historical inquiry that he said could hold the key for some in determining whether it was constitutionally kosher to ban the sale of violent video games to minors.
“I think what Justice Scalia wants to know is what James Madison thought about video games,” Alito said during oral arguments.
An upcoming case on the court’s docket about who holds claim to the nation’s riverbeds may depend on what appears to be a more discoverable answer to another historical question:
What did Lewis and Clark think?
PPL Montana v. Montana asks the court to decide who owns the lands below three Montana rivers and pits the state against a company that operates three hydroelectric dams along the waterways. Both sides say the outcome could affect the control of riverbeds throughout the nation, especially in the West.
PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE NEWT GINGRICH WANTS DEATH PENALTY FOR DRUG KINGPINS (OH-KAY.)
However, as his numbers have risen in the Republican presidential primary race, Newt has begun playing to the cheap seats—criminal justice-wise— with his latest pronouncement about executing drug cartel leaders who bring their product into the US.
As he told The Daily Caller, “.. we need to think through a strategy that makes it radically less likely that we’re going to have drugs in this country.”
Yes, that would be good. But threatening drug cartel kingpins with execution ain’t it.
Now, admittedly, if there is one figure in American culture whom we can all agree upon reviling, it would be the drug cartel kingpin. Really, there’s just very little one can say to recommend such a person. As wreakers of havoc, they’d give your average brutal dictator a run for his money.
However, the notion that a change in American death penalty laws is going to make these cartel dudes, “radically less likely” to hawk their wares in our fair nation…..Well, good luck with that one, Newt.
Best to look for something else as a campaign slogan.
SCOTUS EXPLORES THE UNCERTAINTY OF WITNESS IDENTIFICATION
Yet scientists have long cautioned that the brain is not a filing cabinet, storing memories in a way that they can be pulled out, consulted and returned intact. Memory is not so much a record of the past as a rough sketch that can be modified even by the simple act of telling the story.
For scientists, memory has been on trial for decades, and courts and public opinion are only now catching up with the verdict. It has come as little surprise to researchers that about 75 percent of DNA-based exonerations have come in cases where witnesses got it wrong.
This month, the Supreme Court heard its first oral arguments in more than three decades that question the validity of using witness testimony, in a case involving a New Hampshire man convicted of theft, accused by a woman who saw him from a distance in the dead of night….
Read on; it’s a good case about something important.
6:30 AM MONDAY: the live streamers are still up, giddy, having coffee, and asking for Superfood Smoothies and donuts. There were a handful of arrests when a few people threw a bamboo-edged sword (or some such thing) at police.
People have been allowed to return to their tents. “It’s a victory,” say organizers.
2:01: AFTER MANY RUMORS OF WHAT KIND OF ACTION THE LAPD WOULD TAKE, 2 HOURS AFTER THE DEADLINE, OCCUPIERS WERE PEACEFUL AND LAPD WAS RESPECTFUL AND RESTRAINED…
If stragglers started provoking arrest by waylaying cars, the police were willing to step in, but otherwise, at just after 2 am, the mood on both sides was restrained,. Both Occupiers and cops seemed to be satisfied with themselves for having performed well.
1:42 AM: POLICE ARE SPREADING THE WORD: GET OUT OF THE STREET AND BACK INTO THE PARK AND YOU WON’T BE ARRESTED. STAY IN THE STREET AND GET ARRESTED.
Some listen, some don’t.
1:01 AM: DRAWING HEARTS AND PERIMETER MARCHES
Ongoing streaming video now is covering a group trying to organize a “perimeter march” around the park. The group spontaneously decides to draw hearts on their hands so if there’s a problem with police, they can hold up their palms—thus revealing the hearts.
“It’s a great visual,” says one of the organizers and whips out her red Sharpie, which is quickly passed around. At first a couple people draw their hearts incorrectly so that they will appear upside down when palms are held in the outstretched “stop” position. But eventually everyone gets it right. But they don’t leave to march. There are too many distractions.
There is talk about whether gas masks or scarves scented with vinegar are passed out to combat any pepper spray or worse.
And the beat goes on.
LAPD NOW ON TACTICAL ALERT
Commander Andy Smith originally said no. But evidently things have changed. /strong> Now the LA Times reporters confirmed it.
12:27 AM: OKAY, WELL, 12:01 HAS PASSED, AND….
….The main area of possible conflict is in the street, at First and Broadway and near the LA Times, while cops stand nearby in riot gear. The OLA organizers are trying to get the straying children to go back to the park instead of being blatantly provocative.
And two of the best live streamers in the street are here and here.
11:05 PM: AS THE DEADLINE APPROACHES, CONFUSION AND TENSION RISES
The seemingly conflicting messages from the Powers That Be have people on edge as may be seen in the live streaming.
10:20 PM: THE OLA GENERAL ASSEMBLY IS OVER AND THE CONSENSUS IS DEFINITELY TO STAY
The consensus among those 1000 or so milling around the General Assembly Sunday night was that Occupy LA is going to stay put. (The General Assembly—or GA—is the nightly meeting and also the voting body for the Occupy movement. )
I guess we’ll see what how that staying put will play out when it comes into contact with the city’s park closing order after midnight.
UPDATE – 9:31: TALKED TO LAPD’S COMMANDER ANDREW SMITH AND HE MADE THE 12:01 PM DEADLINE SOUND A BIT….UM…FIRMER THAN THE MAYOR’S CHARACTERIZATION
Commander Andrew Smith made some televised statements tonight about the grounds around the capital closing at 12:01 and intimated that closure meant closure—which did not sound like the gradual process alluded to by the mayor earlier in the evening. Smith who, in addition to being head of LAPD media relations, is the former head of the department’s Central Division, the downtown LA police station. He also was a commanding officer for Central Bureau, which covers downtown as well as adjacent areas of the city. In other words, Smith knows the area in question better than most on the command staff.
When I talked with Smith on the phone in order to try to get some clarification regarding his press statement, he mostly reiterated what he’d said earlier, that the department wasn’t going to share its planned tactics beforehand, but that everyone had had plenty of warning that the grounds were going to be closed for repair, etc. etc.
When Smith finished, I asked him whether or not he actually knew what the planned tactics were going to be.
“Yes. I do,” he said. Then laughed. “And I can’t tell you.” I tried various other weaseling techniques without success. He said he’d chosen his words for the press statement very carefully, in order not to say too much or too little.
Smith invited me to call back after midnight. I said I’d call.
UPDATE – 8:27 PM: ….AND YOU TOO CAN BE THERE FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR LAPTOP, IPAD, PHONE, ET AL….WITH OCCUPY’S LIVE STREAMING
Right now my favorite live stream is here at OccupyFreedomLA, which bounces from reportorial coverage to more personal chatter—both good. But there are a lot of live streams, so take your pick.
UPDATE 7:53: MAYOR VILLARAIGOSA MAKES CLEAR THAT THE EVICTION WILL BE A GRADUAL PROCESS IN STATEMENT RELEASED TONIGHT
“As Chief Beck has made clear, though the park will officially close tonight at 12:01 a.m., the department will allow campers ample time to remove their belongings peacefully and without disruption.”
Whether it will actually prevent confrontation remains to be seen. We’ll have to wait until all the steps are taken and still some of the campers don’t leave, which sounds like it may occur on Monday.
UPDATE – 7:37 PM: MIDNIGHT RIDAZZ HAVE CALLED FOR A “BIKE SWARM” TO PROTECT OCCUPYLA
The popular group of bicycle enthusiasts known for organizing a twice a month midnight ride that often draws a thousand or more riders, has called for a “bike swarm” around OLA, with riders gathering at 9 pm in anticipation of the 12:01 deadline.
UPDATE – 7:15, BILL ROSENDAHL TWEETS VIDEO OF HIS SPEECH TO OCCUPY LA THIS MORNING
The speech—augmented by the “human mic”—seems to get a good response until he gets to the part about leaving city hall.
UPDATE 6:50: LAPD MEDIA RELATIONS SAYS “NOTHING HAS CHANGED FROM THE ORIGINAL PLAN, BUT….
….When asked what exactly the original plan was, the LAPD Media Relations officer said the department planned to “observe and monitor the situation.” When pressed further, he confirmed that by “the situation” he meant the Occupy LA eviction “situation.”
“They have their orders,” he said, “and the department is in constant contact with the Occupy organizers,…and we’re observing and monitoring…”
All of which doesn’t seem to contradict what Captain Rodriguez said.
So…. we’ll see.
UPDATE – 6:40 pm:
I just spoke to the LAPD’s Sergeant Mathes, who is the watch commander on at the department’s downtown-located Central Division tonight and I asked him about Rodriguez’s statement. He said he had no clue, that the decisions regarding Occupy LA’s eviction were all being made at a command staff level. Central Division would be mostly business as usual tonight, unless needed, he said.
UPDATE: 5:10 PM
LAPD CAPTAIN RODRIGUEZ SAYS NO ACTUAL RAID SUNDAY NIGHT
According to LAPD Captain Jorge Rodgriguez, head of the department’s Newton Division, who was speaking with some Occupy LA organizers Sunday afternoon on the video linked below, there will be no aggressive police action until at least first light Monday morning. However Rodriguez specified that he wasn’t in on the planning and that things were still in flux.
The conversation with Captain Rodriguez and more is captured on this US Stream video recorded at 4:30 pm Sunday. Tune in.
“Come Stand In Solidarity at City Hall Tonight 11.27.11 7:30pm” reads the notice posted a little after noon on Sunday at the Occupy LA Facebook page—a half day before the scheduled eviction from City Hall grounds that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced would take place at exactly 12:01 a.m. Sunday night.
The posting continues with advice for all potential participants in whatever happens Sunday night. To wit:
Dear Occupiers, We love you! We are a peaceful movement and regardless of any attempt to disband us, we remain resolved to end Corporatocracy and to restore U.S. Democracy.
Dear LAPD, Please know that we recognize you are part of the 99%. Please remain peaceful and respectful.
Dear MSM, We recognize you are part of the 99%. Please bring on board lights, long lenses and lots of batteries. Ask for overtime in advance.
Dear Supporters, Please bring your love and support as well as recording devices.
GOOD NEWS, OBAMA ISSUES FIRST COMMUTATION OF HIS PRESIDENCY. BAD NEWS: WHAT TOOK HIM SO LONG? AND WHY JUST ONE?
Late Monday, the President pardoned five people and issued one commutation.
This is all very nice, of course. But many of us who follow such things wonder why he has only pardoned a grand total of 22 people (plus that single commutation) while by the same time in his presidency, Jack Kennedy had pardoned or commuted the sentences of 600 Americans. Why, people ask, has Obama has has left such an important presidential power lying nearly fallow?
Julie Stewart, the President, Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) is one of those who thinks Obama could have done a lot more by now. She writes for the Huffington Post. Here’s how her column begins:
This week, President Barack Obama won’t just be pardoning turkeys. He decided to throw some human beings in the mix, too. He pardoned five people, restoring their civil rights, and even issued his first presidential commutation to Eugenia Jennings, reducing her sentence so that she can return home to Missouri to recover from cancer and watch her daughter graduate high school.
Her commutation is long overdue.
In 2001, Jennings was a survivor of domestic abuse and had a long-standing struggle with drug addiction. She began selling small quantities of crack cocaine to support herself and her three children. When she sold a mere 13.9 grams of crack cocaine to a police informant, Jennings received a 22-year sentence. No guns were involved; no one was hurt.
Jennings spent her decade in federal prison conquering her addiction, educating herself, and speaking publicly to students, warning them of the consequences of drug use. Earlier this year, Jennings was diagnosed with cancer. She has received chemotherapy treatments in prison and shows positive signs of an eventual recovery.
Jennings’s commutation is no fluke — her pro bono legal team from the Washington, D.C. firm of Crowell & Moring built a wide network of supporters and advocates, including Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.). Sen. Durbin first learned about Eugenia’s outrageous sentence when her brother, Cedric Parker, testified before Congress. Sen. Durbin and Jennings’s lawyers fought tirelessly for her release for three years.
Unfortunately, the use of the pardon power has become seen as such political anathema that this kind of herculean effort — and lengthy wait — is what it takes to get justice. It wasn’t always this way. President Obama has now been in office as long as President John F. Kennedy, but Kennedy granted over 600 pardons and commutations during that time. President Obama has granted 22 pardons and one single commutation…..
9TH CIRCUIT RULES THAT YELLOWSTONE GRIZ MUST STAY ON THREATENED LIST FOR NOW
In 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lifted Endangered Species Act protections from the grizzlies scattered through Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.—contending that they were a recovery success story. However, US District Judge Donald Malloy granted summary judgment that vacated the feds’ delisting plans at least for the 500 or so bears in the Greater Yellowstone area. A three judge panel ruling for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, concurring with advocates who said that the Fish and Wildlife folks had not adequately guarded against changes in circumstances that could once again reduce the bears’ numbers.
PS: Since I spend some time in West Glacier, MT, every summer, an area that like greater Yellowstone is grizzly central, I’ve observed bear management up close for nearly 30 years. It’s a delicate matter. I’ve also been able to observe my share of grizzlies of various sizes, ages and genders, over those same years. It’s a privilege I treasure. Thus I’m personally deeply grateful to the three judges of the 9th Circuit panel, and also to Judge Malloy before them, for erring on the side of caution when it comes to protecting the great bear.
BILL BRATTON ET AL HIRED TO INVESTIGATE UC DAVIS PEPPER SPRAYING DEBACLE
Does the UC System really need former LAPD Chief Bill Bratton and his New York-based Kroll security consulting firm in order to aggressively investigate the insanely shocking pepper spraying at UC Davis? Uh, no, it’s a bit of overspray.…uh overkill.
On the other hand, one could also argue that it’s a great PR move designed to communicate that UC President Mark G. Yudof is taking this really, really, really seriously.
Which is good.
As long as the price Bill and group charge isn’t too high.
In the coming weeks, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is expected to decide whether to approve a $1.4-billion jail construction project that would help ease overcrowding at Men’s Central Jail and prevent the early release of some inmates. The county’s chief executive and Sheriff Lee Baca argue that the plan, which calls for rebuilding one facility and expanding a second, would make the nation’s largest jail system safer and cheaper to operate.
It’s hard to argue with the need or the logic. The Men’s Central building is so dilapidated and so overcrowded that in 2006, U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson described conditions as “not consistent with human values.” Renovations would make it safer for deputies as well as for inmates. What is questionable, however, is whether Baca should be given new or refurbished jails when he’s so clearly struggling to run the ones he has.
Yes, the county’s jails need help, and Men’s Central needs to be replaced. But the Sheriff’s Department should demonstrate that it can properly operate the jails already under its control before it asks taxpayers to spend another $1.4 billion.
BRANDON MC INERNEY, 17, TAKES A 21-YEAR DEAL FOR THE FATAL SHOOTING OF CLASSMATE LARRY KING
As you may remember, Brandon McInerney shot and killed 14 year-old Larry King when both were in computer lab at an Oxnard middle school. McInerney, who was just past his 14th birthday, shot King, also 14, twice in the head at point-blank range, reportedly because King, who was gay, had been flirting with him.
Given that McInerney was being tried as an adult, and that the prosecutor originally wanted to charge him with a hate crime, which could have meant 53 years to life, the deal is likely not a bad one. But, when one pulls apart this murder, the case, and the personal circumstances of both the dead boy and the killer, one sees tragedy all the way around.
The LA Times’ Catherine Saillant has consistently done a very good job reporting on this bad, sad case. Here’s a clip from her report on the plea deal.
Brandon McInerney, who was 14 when he pulled a gun out of his backpack and shot Larry King two times at point-blank range, will be kept behind bars until he is 38 under the terms of the deal struck by Ventura County prosecutors.
In an unusual arrangement, the 17-year-old pleaded guilty to second-degree and voluntary manslaughter. In return, prosecutors agreed not to go forward with a second trial, which could have resulted in a life sentence.
The family of the victim, Larry King, broke their silence on the case outside court Monday, saying that they supported the sentence but believed school officials hold deep responsibility for what happened.
“Larry had a complicated life, but he did not deserve to be murdered,” said the youth’s father, Greg King.
McInerney’s first trial ended in a hung jury in early September, with jurors torn between murder and manslaughter. Some jurors said they believed the district attorney’s office was being overly harsh in trying McInerney as an adult and several showed up Monday wearing “Save Brandon” bracelets….
Also read this piece about the issue of McInerney being tried as an adult, a choice that was solely made by the prosecutors, who didn’t have to justify their actions, but could simply make that choice without any kind of due process, or consideration of the actual kid involved.
McInerney was reportedly badly abused by his brutal, homophobic father, according to his older bother and his aunt. He also may have been sexually abused as a younger child.
King also had a troubled background. Born to a crack-addicted mother, he was adopted, then later removed from his adoptive home and put into foster care.
By the way, an interesting blog that has kept track of the McInerney case is Stolen Boy, which has interviews with attorneys and links to documents.
[NOTE: Light-ish posting this Thanksgiving week. A large story coming next week.]
The LA Times’ Kurt Streeter has written a very affecting 2-part series on prison inmates—most of them lifers—who so ill they have requested and received hospice care, and a man named John Paul Madrona who committed a particularly tragic murder who now, with little chance of seeing the outside world again, is trying to make something worthwhile of his life on the inside.
There’s much, much more to the story, but that’s where it begins.
Nearly 20 years ago The California Wellness Foundation was one of the first organizations of consequence to promote the recognition that violence was not merely a crime problem. It was a serious public health issue.
As part of their focus on the topic, every year Wellness puts on a Violence Prevention Conference at which around 300 people drawn from all over the state gather to discuss the myriad complex facets of this problem that so deeply affects the health and well being of California’s communities.
Among those who attend are directors of programs that address some aspect of the issue, a smattering of law enforcement (This year Deputy Chief Pat Gannon, head of LAPD’s South Bureau, was on a panel), academics, researchers, and other experts in the field.
Each year at the conference, Wellness presents three Peace Prizes, which honor three people with a $25,000 cash award….”in recognition of his or her outstanding efforts to prevent violence and promote peace in their local communities.” The 2011 winners were Ray Balberan, Priscilla Carrasquilla, Manuel Jimenez, all of whom work in different capacities with former gang members and/or kids who are headed that direction. (You can read more about the winners here).
The topics vary from year to year. This year, the subject of realignment came up frequently in public discussions and in private conversation. Another big conference topic was juvenile probation. The Chiefs of Probation for Alameda and Yolo counties were both on a panel. In fact, Alameda County’s Chief of Probation, David Muhammad, was one of the conference’s two keynote speakers and his straight talk about what works and what doesn’t for lawbreaking kids had direct and urgent implications for LA County’s troubled juvenile camps. (I’ll have much more to say about David Muhammad in a later post.)
The other keynote speaker—the one who opened the conference—was LA’s own Father Greg Boyle.
I’ve posted some (very) rough iPhone video snippets from his speech. Please ignore the recurring hand-held jiggles and the less than felicitous framing, and just give yourself and treat and watch. As speakers go, they don’t get any better than Fr. Greg.
As the first clip below opens, Greg is talking about an encounter with a particular Homeboy Industries staffer. He also covers why he may title his next book “Barking with the Choir,” and why we must stand with the despised and the easily thrown away.
This next clip, #2, contains a story about homeboys and texting.
(NOTE: I turned off the video before the story of texting homeboys was over, so quickly switched it back on for the 55 second tag to the tale that you’ll find below.)
You’ll find one more instructive (and funny) homeboy story here in clip #4.
This next video opens with a short talke featuring the actress Diane Keaton at the Homegirl Cafe, and ends with…well…..just watch it.
Even for some reason you don’t want to watch to all six videos, do watch this last one, # 6. It’s only a little over five minutes long. I’ve heard Greg tell the story encased in the clip many times, but I still can’t hear it without crying off all my eye makeup. Thursday night was no exception.
Truth be told, I lived this story along with Greg. I was very close to the kid in the tale known as “Puppet,” and even closer to his girlfriend. I remember that Greg was out of state when all this happened. Thus I was the one who rushed to the hospital to hold down the fort, emotionally speaking, in those first hours.
Despite the pain of it, this story is—as are all Greg’s stories—about hope, and about why the issues talked about at last week’s conference matter so very much.