March 2008 – Community Comments On Oakwood Raid

 

Operation Oakwood – Search And Destroy

LAPD, Feds kick down doors, terrorize seniors in early morning “Iraq-style” para-military operation Feb. 19. The 300-plus invasion force said they were looking for gang members but found mostly elderly women, children and babies in the homes after kicking down the front doors.
•••••
 
The View from Inside the House

By the owner’s grandchild (name withheld because of fear of retailation) 

The assault on 646 Broadway was unfounded and unnecessary. There were no drugs. There were no weapons. There were no felons. The home was occupied by Rosa Hamm and other family members. 

In the past if officers had a problem or wanted to talk to a family member, they would ask to conduct their search and leave. Under the existing agreement with the city: 1) certain family members were banned and fined; 2) Signs were posted on the property that read: “No trespassing, no drugs, no weapons; 3) the iron gate was removed so the police could have access. 

The property was purchased over 50 years ago and the neighbors wonder how we can afford to live in this community. Gentrification is as evil as the Holocaust. The SWAT officers shot a flash grenade through my Grandmother’s bedroom window. They also gained entry through my Grandmother’s window. The officers then proceeded to walk to the front door and beat it with a sledge hammer. All they had to do was unlock the door. They never identified themselves as police or any other law enforcement. They did not show a search warrant until they left. The house was listed as closed before they even searched it. 

In some languages there is no word for “moving.” People can be destroyed by simply moving them. Forced eviction and seizure of the property is the goal, not the arrest of individuals perpetuating the crimes. The perception is allowed to fester to justify the injustice. Delay of arresting the people selling drugs was the root of the problem. It was noted in the Los Angeles Times, “The general Oakwood area- a roughly one square mile neighborhood was conceived as a neighborhood for working- class blacks by Venice developer, Abbot Kinney.” 

Rosa Hamm is a law-abiding citizen who has worked her entire life. Why should she be prosecuted? Look deeply into your community.

The City Attorney’s office issued eviction notices to 13 residents of Oakwood and has filed a motion to close the home at 646 Broadway, because of alleged drug sales.

•••••

Oakwood Residents Demand Their Rights 

By Jim Smith

An army, at least 300-strong, attacked that part of Venice known as Oakwood in the early morning of Feb. 19. The ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) troopers and the Los Angeles Police Dept. used “dynamic entry” (kicking doors down) to enter at least 18 homes. Anger and horror stories of the day’s events flew at a community meeting that evening. 

One senior, Mae Phillips, said she was roused from sleep when she heard someone outside say her address. The next thing she heard was her front door falling in. 

“I woke up this morning with a shotgun in my back and a gun to my head,” said another innocent homeowner. 

“I’ve been here for 50 years, yet you kicked down my door looking for someone who has been in custody for two months. Twenty-five officers were in my house. They beat my 14-year-old dog with a fire extinguisher, said another, her anger rising by the moment.

Police Capt. Joseph Hiltner responded, “this isn’t the forum to debate that.”

Operation Oakwood, as the police called the action, was well underway before Councilmember Bill Rosendahl received a call about it. He said he received a call from Capt. Hiltner as the Operation was beginning. There was no explanation why the elected official in the area was not informed in advance. 

Police were allegedly searching for illegal drugs and firearms, and targeting the Shoreline Crips, a local gang. 60 arrest warrants and 25 search warrants had been issued by a judge, according to police.

City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo was apparently informed well in advance of the raid. He showed up for a press conference at the Oakwood Recreation Center around 10:30 am. Delgadillo vowed to clean up Oakwood whether the residents want it or not. He claimed that gang members had taken over the Rec. Center and refused entry to anyone else. This came as a shock to the Oakwood Seniors who have lunch in the facility every day, and to this reporter who frequently goes to the center on Beachhead business.

Another women said that police put a gun to her niece’s head. “I almost had a heart attack when you bashed down my door,” then she added: “Are you saying because I’m an African-American woman, I can’t live in Venice?

Her statement reflects the feeling of many in the community that the raid served more as an attempt to intimate African-American homeowners in the gentrifying Oakwood area. Many of the homes have been in family hands for generations and are owned by the patriarchs and matriarchs of family groups that include grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Many of the offspring use these homes as their address even though they may rent in Los Angeles or Long Beach. Police either did not know this, or knew it and went ahead with the mission anyway.

The magnitude of the operation attracted the interest of several out-of-town newspapers, including the L.A. Times, Torrance Daily Breeze and the Marina Argonaut. All of them were apparently “embedded” in the police and city attorney’s public relations department, and gave scant notice to the community’s side of the story.

Fortunately no one was shot despite the firepower brought into the community by the 300 fully armed “soldiers.” 

In addition, the raid may serve to bring the entire community together to protect their own interests. However, when Jataun Valentine suggested the community have a meeting without the police, Rosendahl responded that first they should meeting with the Human Relations Commission, another city department.

••••••

Police Raid Results in Terror and Evictions

By Peggy Lee Kennedy

A community meeting was held at the Oakwood Recreation Center the evening of February 19 to discuss the gang sweeps that took place that morning and the previous evening. 
The community was visibly distressed and complained that warrants were used with names of people not even at the addresses. The Police crashed into the homes of senior citizens – breaking down the doors, terrorizing them, and leaving them unable to secure their homes. Guns were held to their heads. Officers screamed obscenities. An LAPD dog defecated in one family’s house and a baby was almost trampled. A 14-year-old boy said that two guns were on his head, but he had never been in trouble before. Homeless people – not gang members – made up part of the grand total of 19 people arrested.

Oakwood residents, including very vulnerable senior citizens, affected by the so-called gang sweeps are now receiving eviction letters from either the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office or their landlords using the current abatement and nuisance law, LAMC 47.50. 

Oakwood is a community with generations of African-American homeowners and families. For many years they have been dealing with the criminalization of their youth, police harassment, programs such as PACE (Police Assisted Community Enhancement Program) that negatively impact many seniors, and increasing amounts of more affluent neighbors who refuse to fit in with the older community.

The so-called gang sweep, and subsequent eviction notices, are a low blow, according to many people in the community, in an on-going attempt to remove these black people from what is now a very high priced beach community. 

Tips:

• What you say to the police or the city attorneys can be used against you. Consider getting legal advice before meeting or even having casual conversations with them.

• There are police misconduct forms, and self-addressed envelopes addressed to Internal Affairs, in every LAPD station. They should be sitting on the counter, or nearby. You do not need to ask anyone for them. 

• People facing eviction can contact the Eviction Defense Network for assistance on a sliding fee scale. Call 213-385-8112.

• There are a few good attorneys and referrals (not a guarantee of legal representation). Contact me at humanrights@freevenice.org.

• If we stay in fear or only complain and never organize to document and oppose violations of our civil rights, we will have no chance of winning or protecting our civil rights.

••••••

Two Anonymous Comments from the Community

A majority of the people that the LAPD are searching for are already behind bars. This community member received a letter the was “concerning the activities connected to the park.” Many 3rd and 4th generation African-American homes received the same letter because of their past and present associations of their family members, who are not necessarily living at these addresses. The gentrification that started back in the 1980s still continues to perpetuate ethnic cleansing. 

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I cannot tell you of the terror of the elderly people as so many different law enforcement agencies swept through this community! It was terrible to break down doors at 4:45am, awaken so many people in this fashion. If the individuals that they were looking for could have been arrested on the streets, would not this be the humane thing to do? We must come out and hold all entities who were responsible, accountable for this type of treatment of our neighbors. We must put aside our differences and realize that we all are human beings living together in a great community by the sea. Civil rights have been violated and this must be addressed and tackled so it will not happen again. 

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