Apr 14, 2008
On March 31, four people were killed in broad daylight in two shootings within a mile from each other in East Los Angeles. Two car salesmen, 50 and 62 year-old grandfathers, were shot execution style by gunmen who escaped in two stolen cars. About 20 minutes later, two 22-year-old men were shot to death in the street about ten blocks away.
Residents of this old, relatively stable working-class neighborhood were certainly shocked by the brutality of the killings, but not surprised it had happened. Only two weeks before, on March 16, a 52-year-old factory worker burned to death after being set on fire in the street – possibly because of the money he owed to loan sharks. Residents agreed that the gruesome nature of the crime was intended to terrorize people.
Gang violence against the population is an everyday affair in L.A.’s working-class neighborhoods. On April 2, for example, two people were shot in the South Robertson area, only two days after an anti-gang rally in the neighborhood.
Unable to defend their claims about violent crime declining any longer, L.A. city and police officials now call for even more cops and neighborhood sweeps. Of course, it makes the situation worse, when part of the young are turning on people like themselves, people they have gone to school with, people who are their neighbors, or even family members.
What we face in our neighborhoods is a deep-seated social problem. Jobs disappear – especially those jobs that pay a wage someone can live on – and youth end up in gangs. But this grinding up of working class communities is one more consequence of the economic crisis today. In other words, residents come under attack – by street gangs as well as the armed gangs in blue.
And the social dissolution that has led to these gangs will be overcome only when workers fight for the right for a job for everyone – a decent paying job.