The city of Los Angeles is in the process of building a brand new war memorial named the Eugene A. Obregon Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial, which is to honor all those who have won the medal.
Okay, so far so good.
As the San Jose Mercury News reports:
Crews have nearly finished the first stage of the memorial, which consists of a 30-foot long, 5-foot-high plaster wall covered with tiles bearing the names of nearly 3,500 medal recipients.
The memorial’s sponsors also plan a 20-foot high pyramidal monument paying tribute to the medal’s 40 Hispanic recipients.
A statue atop the stone structure would depict the memorial’s namesake, Marine Pfc. Eugene A. Obregon, coming to the rescue of a comrade during the Korean War. The 19-year-old Obregon died during the rescue.
What could be wrong with that?
Well, it turns out—a lot.
Civil Rights Attorney Robert Garcia, who is counsel for and president of The City Project, plans to file an injunction this morning, Friday, to stop the construction. He is joined by a list of other organizations, including the state-chartered Native American Heritage Commission and the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California.
According to Garcia (who rarely does not have all his legal ducks in a row), the memorial project “has not received proper legal review and approval by government agencies and the public, in violation of state and federal laws and principles, including protections for parks and the environment, historic preservation, equal justice, Native American sites, transparent government and the rule of law in a democratic society.”
Other than that, it’s fine.
Here’s the deal: For reasons that now seem profoundly illogical, the memorial is being built in the one acre grassy expanse that is Father Serra Park, which happens to be smack in the middle of El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument—in other words, the site of the birthplace of the city of LA, not to mention the site of a historic village of the GabrieleÃ±o indians, and the site of Old Chinatown, and the site of the so-called Chinatown massacre, where 19 Chinese men were killed in 1871.
Put another way, it’s a little like deciding to build a Vietnam memorial in the middle of the Alamo—if the Alamo was also the site of the Dome of the Rock. (Or something of that nature.) No one would dispute the importance of the Vietnam memorial, but that particular location ain’t where it should be.
On Saturday, the mayor and other city officials are supposed to attend a press conference unveiling the tile-covered wall, that is the first stage of the memorial project.
Garcia and company say there are plenty of other far more appropriate places to honor Medal of Honor recipients—including “the Western Gateway at the 16 acre Los Angeles National Veterans’ Park and the 115 acre Veterans’ National Cemetery on the mile long Veterans’ Parkway across from the U.S. Army Reserve Center on Wilshire Boulevard—and about five other alternative locations.
It is worth watching to see how this turns out.