By Jim Smith
Los Angeles is a city without a heart. It is a city where a young, Black homeless kid can be gunned down at close range, while the cop who took his life is sent home on paid leave. It is a city where developers run the city, including the police commission, and cover up for cops when they go too far.
Brendon Glenn slept in the streets and drank too much. Only in L.A. are these capital offensives. It is ironic that Developer Steven Soboroff is president of the Los Angeles Police Commission. This is the same man who laid waste to the Ballona Creek wetlands in order to make multi-millions by building Playa Vista. Now he is defending the LAPD in front of hundreds of Venetians, many of who were active in the fight to save those same wetlands.
Soboroff is joined on the podium by our erstwhile Councilmember Mike Bonin, who is greeted by a multitude of boos when he takes the microphone. Always in character, Bonin talks without saying anything of substance. He has built a political career by being all things to all people. He was an aide to progressive councilmember, Ruth Galanter, and then an aide to right-wing trilateralist Representative Jane Harman. He was anointed, more than elected, to replace his boss, Bill Rosendahl, as our guy in the L.A. City Council. Now he’s stepped in deep doo-doo by trying to straddle an impossible position between anti and pro-homeless camps in Venice. The boos are just an easier way to express our displeasure than mounting a recall campaign.
A group of articulate cops are seated in front of us. They turn out to be mostly props in this drama of talking away the fact of the murder. The best they can do is quote police procedure, but they have no answers when asked if those procedures were followed in this case. Of course, we all know they weren’t.
No one in the community wants to rise to defend these creeps. The most rabid anti-homeless locals, including Alex Thompson and Mark Ryavec, sit silently as if contemplating a day when they can again rail against the transients, the homeless, the bums, who are “ruining” Venice. They don’t seem to notice that those who are ruining Venice are sitting right in front of them.
Soboroff has the nerve to call this pacification meeting a dialogue. If it is a dialogue why is no one from Venice sitting at the podium, or chairing the meeting? Even the religious community who often play the role of calling for peace and restraint on the part of the community after some LAPD atrocity sit quietly. When they do rise to do who knows what, they are roundly booed. Organized religion and shilling for the cops don’t have the cachet they once had.
It was a vocal meeting, a rowdy meeting, as it should be. Not everyone was speaking to the point of the murder. Many of the speakers have endured past wounds that won’t heal. Wounds inflicted by this crew who prefer to use the stick, not the carrot. In spite of the directionlessness of the evening, it was impossible for me to feel anything but pride in my fellow Venetians. Our eyes are wide open, we’re not buying the city’s bullshit any longer.
It is entirely possible that this esteemed band of developer/politicians will throw us a sacrificial lamb as long as they can stay in power. That’s the way it works when the people become too aroused. That’s the way it worked in Baltimore where after days of protest, the crowd broke through and scattered the police line. The next day indictments were issued for the rank-and-file cops who were just following informal police procedures in the killing of Freddie Gray.
It is impossible to love the reality of Los Angeles. When people say they love L.A., they’re talking about the media image. After all, this is where dreams are made. L.A. even ships some of the filming of those dreams to Venice, and in doing so creates an imaginary fairyland where even the homeless are lovin’ it. Of course, Venice never sees a penny of the big filming fees L.A. racks in from the studios.
With eyes wide open we see the true L.A., which turns out to be a developer’s dream in which the rest of us play the suckers. They are so smug that they even let the curtain down in books and movies like Chinatown and L.A. Confidential. The true facts, not the make-believe, are that Los Angeles is run – always has been – by developers who buy the politicians they need. They don’t care if someone like Brendon gets hurt or killed in the process as long as the money wagon keeps rolling.
I told the meeting that in my 40 years in Venice, the LAPD has always acted like an army of occupation. Its misdeeds have included rounding up our Black and Latino neighbors for non-violent crimes, or no crime at all, and sending them off to prison. Nothing of the sort has happened to white Venetians. Since that attitude has not changed in so many years, then it must be the way the power elite want it to operate.
Yes, we should make sure the cop who pulled the trigger pays for his crime. The fact that the shooter was a Black cop makes no difference. It seems apparent that LAPD officers of all nationalities are subjected to a racist and us-versus-them atmosphere in the police department, whether they agree with it or not. Does anyone think that they view Venice with our artists, nonconformists and homeless with anything but disdain when they are talking among themselves? Alas, good cops don’t make the rules. The militarism of the LAPD is the creation of those at the top of the pyramid in the police force and the L.A. city government who want our police force to act as a criminal conspiracy.
When will these men in the shadows have to pay for their misdeeds? How many more deaths will it take before we have a million people in these mean streets who will make it impossible for these jokers to continue their misrule. Now that our blinders are off, it may not be that long before they are just a bitter memory.
Above: May 7 Town Hall meeting – more cameras than ever before
All pictures by Jim Smith