The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Los Angeles’s War on Homeless People

Aug 17, 2015

In late June, the Los Angeles City Council passed two laws that make it easier for cops to confiscate belongings of homeless people. Cops can now legally remove people’s personal items with a 24-hour notice instead of 72. And no notice is needed in parks where leaving behind items after closing hours is prohibited. Cops also don’t have to notify owners about the removal of large items, such as tents – which are banned from sidewalks between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.

In fact, cops had been doing all that, and more, on L.A.’s skid row for a long time already. They have been harassing homeless people, roughing them up, arresting them, destroying their belongings. Last March they even shot and killed one person, Charly Keunang, for refusing to remove his tent.

This military-style occupation of L.A.’s skid row is driven by the gentrification of parts of downtown L.A., and the LAPD even has an ironic name for it: “Safer Cities Initiative.” So what the civilian city politicians have done is, at most, to express their official agreement with this open war on homeless people – and the expansion of it to other parts of the city.

The politicians say they are responding to the sharp increase in the number of homeless people and encampments in the city. They don’t hide their scorn for the homeless. One city councilman, who voted for the new laws, complained that the “City of Angels” had become a “City of Encampments.”

This mass impoverishment in the working class – forcing entire families to live in the streets – is caused by the workings of the capitalist system: the high unemployment, the low wages for those who have jobs, and the extremely high rent in and around L.A.

But public officials are not concerned with these real-world problems affecting the working class. They are too busy bending over backwards to accommodate every wish of the residents in affluent, gentrified neighborhoods and the businesses that cater to that crowd – including very generous handouts of public money to those businesses.

So the only answer to homelessness that these officials can think of is to physically push homeless people, who have nowhere to stay, from one park to another, from one neighborhood to another. There is not nearly enough shelter space available for L.A.’s 26,000 homeless people.

Poverty and homelessness are social problems caused by capitalism – a system in which profit and wealth are created for a small minority, from the exploitation of the labor of the working class. Capitalism does not have an answer to poverty and homelessness – it only criminalizes and attacks the poor, the homeless.

And the more poverty and homelessness grow and spread, the more vicious the henchmen of capitalism become in attacking the poor.