Mar 16, 2015
On the evening of March 1, about 100 people gathered in Downtown Los Angeles in pouring rain to protest the police killing of a homeless man on L.A.’s skid row. Two days later, a bigger group of protesters marched to LAPD headquarters to express their anger, not only over the shooting of 43-year-old Charly Leuneu Keunang, but also LAPD’s daily harassment of skid row residents.
Neighbors of Keunang said the cops had been after him for a long time, because he would refuse to remove his tent. A neighbor said Keunang, whom people called “Africa,” would tell the cops, “Ticket me; give me my day in court.” But instead, cops continued to harass him.
On March 1, cops came again and shook Africa’s tent “like a rag doll,” according to Ceola Waddell, one of the many who witnessed the murder. When Africa refused to get down, Waddell said, the cops first tasered him, and then shot him at least four times from close range. The incident was also videotaped, both by witnesses and security cameras.
And also by the cops’ own body cameras – the latest “innovation” that authorities tell us will help reign in the never-ending police shootings of unarmed men. But LAPD has been refusing to release those videotapes anyway, saying the case is “under investigation.” Just like the previous police murder on skid row, which is still “under investigation” 10 months later. Last May, cops tasered 54-year-old Carlos Ocana, a mentally-ill man, causing him to fall to his death from a rooftop.
No, once again, the higher-ups are protecting cops who killed an unarmed person in front of witnesses.
Behind the harassment – and murder – of homeless people is the gentrification of Downtown L.A. Expensive lofts, shopping malls, entertainment centers and hotels, all built on generous handouts by the City of L.A., have been pushing on the borders of skid row. So the city is trying to drive people out of there. Under a program cynically called “Safer Cities Initiative,” 150 cops are sent into skid row every day. That’s three cops per block, and a cop for every 10 residents, to rough up and arrest homeless people, destroy their belongings, ban people from living in their cars – when there are not nearly enough shelters for homeless people to stay at.
Instead of providing help for the homeless, many of whom are mentally ill, the authorities have set up another military occupation – this one within U.S. borders – so that the big corporations can continue to profit from gentrification, and the wealthy can live easy. This is the morality of class society.