L.A. South Central Farmers Attacked
Submitted by the Western Shoshone Defense Project
Contributed by Fernando Flores
Tuesday, 13 June 2006
The South Central Farm was forcefully seized today despite the peaceful resistance of the South Central Farmers and their supporters. An early morning raid began at 5:00am to evict the farmers and community supporters who had taken up camp 21 days ago at the South Central Farm.
The L.A. County Sheriffs Department coordinated this action with the assistance of the Los Angeles Fire Department and the Los Angeles Police Department who were dressed in full riot gear. Approximately 50 demonstrators have been arrested, some suffering the force of baton use.
Bulldozers have been brought in to level the 14 acres of food and medicine that began to bloom 14 years ago when the land was mitigated to the community in the wake of the 1992 uprising. With tears on their faces farmers are being supported by an influx of community supporters turning out to demonstrate their continued efforts to save the land for the community.
South Central Farmers - What We Are About
Synopsis of the history of the 14-acre urban garden located at 41st and Alameda StreetsSince 1992, the 14 acres of property located at 41st and Alameda Streets in Los Angeles have been used as a community garden or farm. The land has been divided into 360 plots and is believed to be one of the largest urban gardens in the country.
The City of Los Angeles acquired the 14-acre property by eminent domain in the late 1980s, taking it from nine private landowners. The largest of these owners, Alameda-Barbara Investment Company, owned approximately 80 percent of the site had been compensated $4.7 million dollars. The partners of Alameda were Ralph Horowitz and Jacob Libaw. The City originally intended to use the property for a trash incinerator, but abandoned that plan in the face of public protest organized by the late Juanita Tate and the Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles.
South Central Los Angeles took a large step towards earning some political respect within the city. At this point the community began to establish that health should comes first among other issues in this impoverished community
As part of the eminent domain proceedings, the City granted Alameda- Barbara Investment Company a right of first refusal if, within 10 years, the City determined that the parcel formerly owned by Alameda was no longer required for public use.
Following the uprising in 1992, the City set aside the 14-acre site for use as a community garden. In 1994, the City transferred title to the property by ordinance to its Harbor Department for $13 million. When it received title to the property, the Harbor Department contracted with the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank to operate the property as a community garden.
In 1995, the City began negotiating with Libaw-Horowitz Investment Company (LHIC), the successor company to Alameda, to sell them the entire 14-acre property. The City negotiators sent LHIC a purchase agreement, and LHIC executed the agreement and returned it to the City in October 1996. The terms of the agreement expressly made it contingent on City Council approval. The City Council never approved the agreement, and the sale was not completed. The proposed agreement fixed the sale amount at $5,227,200.
In 2002, LHIC filed suit against the City for not executing the purchase agreement. The City successfully demurred three times to LHIC’s complaint, but then agreed to sell the 14-acre property to Ralph Horowitz and his business partners for $5,050,000.
A legal battle has been raging, since then, between Horowitz, the City, the Courts and the South Central Farmers until the seizure of South Central Farms on June 13th , 2006
Accomplishments of the South Central Farmers
1. When Michael flood and the food bank turned their backs on the poor people of South Central. It was the South Central Farmers that protested, marched, and attended city council meetings. In this process they were able to keep the garden open and challenge the city on the sale of the property. The food bank had an opportunity to place its expensive lawyers on the issue but they chose instead to fight against them and they continue to fight us.
2. The South Central Farmers began a process of eliminating the corruption and self-serving attitudes that the agents of the food bank had fostered for over 11 years. This included cronism, nepetism, and extornsion. In direct violation of the permit given by the city the agents of the food bank and the food bank allowed the sale of plots to poor families. The prices began from 250 all the way up to 1000 dollars per plot. This was horrendous. The SCFs have been attempting to remove these elements from the community garden.
3. In Feb 15, 2004, the SCF had a general assembly where two leaders were chosen democratically. The rules for governing the community garden were discussed and the type of democracy was also decided, Majority rule. From then on the leadership was given certain executives privileges always governed by the consensus of the community.
4. From that time on the community garden and its rules have been governed by the participatory membership of the South Central farmers. They chose which rules they wanted to be governed by and how transgressions should be dealt with.
5. SCFs have developed community leaders from the community garden. Some of our members have become members of the local neighborhood councils. Some our farmers have also been encouraged to become Master Gardeners. Some of our Farmers have developed their own economic development. One farmer currently rents 6 acres elsewhere and has developed his own distribution system.
6. SCFs have developed opportunities for community members. We have developed the monthly farmers market.
7. The SCFs have addressed the needs of the women membership by providing them the space to have their own cooperative space where only women work.
8. We have sustained City Council attendance, twice a week, only matched by the anti-war movement of the sixties.
9. We have developed the spiritual needs of the community by providing a monthly catholic service and a monthly Christian service. This helps to address the needs of the community.
10. We provide an avenue for up and coming bands during our yearly anniversary celebration. We have had two of them and have showcases many up and coming community bands.
11. SCFs maintain an abundant and resilient seed stock that is grown in the community garden.
12. The SCFs have brought traditional Aztec dancers and ceremonies that resonate the cultural traditions of the people who grow food.
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