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    Wednesday, June 21, 2006

    Newswire: Police Evict Farmers & Community from the Nation's Largest Community Garden

    - *L.A. COUNTY SHERIFFS EVICT THE SOUTH CENTRAL FARMERS IN EARLY
    MORNING RAID
    Press Release: South Central Farm, June 13, 2006
    L.A. COUNTY SHERIFFS EVICT THE SOUTH CENTRAL FARMERS IN EARLY MORNING
    RAID

    By
    Press Release: South Central Farm, June 13, 2006
    *

    The end for South Central Farm?

    BY BRENT HOPKINS, Staff Writer
    LA Times
    6/14/2006

    Not legal challenges, not folk singers' entreaties, not even a last-minute
    infusion of $10 million could save the South Central Farm.

    Sheriff's deputies moved in before dawn Tuesday to evict the farmers from
    the 14-acre plot, a rare swath of green in the otherwise industrial belt
    between Alameda Street and Long Beach Avenue. Seeking to prolong the
    multiyear land dispute, protesters chained themselves to pipes inside.

    Actress Daryl Hannah, environmental activist John Quigley and a few other
    demonstrators secured themselves above the fray in a walnut tree. Supporters
    poured in, chanting and waving signs, as county Sheriff's Department
    deputies and Los Angeles Police Department officers bearing clubs and
    shotguns surrounded protesters, making arrests.

    "This is the end, my friend," said Tezozomoc, one of the farmers'
    representatives, quoting a line from Jim Morrison. "But we don't know yet.
    This is just another chapter."

    A chapter in the struggle that dates back to the mid-1990s, one involving
    celebrities and community activists, political pressure and complex land
    deals. Developer Ralph Horowitz bought the site two decades ago, lost it to
    the city through eminent domain, then bought it back for the price the city
    paid him. In the interim, the sizable site became used by more than 350
    families to farm peppers, cilantro, squash and indigenous herbs.

    But after Horowitz regained the property with the intent to transform the
    rows of corn and cactus into a commercial project, the farmers sat on
    tenuous ground. They fired off 61 claims to block development, all rejected
    by the court, and requested a temporary restraining order, also turned down.

    They enlisted the help of high-profile supporters such as Hannah, folk music
    icon Joan Baez, musician Ben Harper and his wife, actress Laura Dern.

    And they relentlessly lobbied Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to use his clout to
    keep the site open. Through various sources, his office was able to wrangle
    $6 million in donations, well short of the $16.3 million Horowitz originally
    requested to sell the site.

    Last week, the Annenberg Foundation announced a surprise offer of $10
    million in cash and an agreement to finance the remaining $6 million.

    But Horowitz, reportedly furious about being cast as the villain by farm
    supporters, rejected the offer and demanded the farmers removal. At 5 a.m.
    Tuesday, 65 helmeted deputies of the Sheriff's Department's Civil Management
    Unit moved in, with the LAPD and Los Angeles Fire Department assisting.

    Authorities cut through the chain-link fence around the farm and extricated
    the demonstrators who'd locked themselves inside. Then came an earthmover to
    level off the ground for a fire engine. The truck pulled inside and extended
    its ladder, eventually plucking the remaining protesters from the tree
    shortly after noon.

    The LAPD arrested 27 people on suspicion of failing to disperse, and
    sheriff's deputies arrested an additional 17, including Hannah, on suspicion
    of failing to obey a court order and obstructing a peace officer.

    The scene was chaotic, but largely peaceful. There were demonstrators
    accusing the authorities of breaking apart the community. Then there were
    counterdemonstrators accusing the farmers of breaking apart the community.
    Then came the guitar players, then the drummers.

    Armed with an ear-splitting whistle and a pot she banged with a rock, farmer
    Andrea Rodriguez angrily defended the site she's come to rely on.

    "We want to go back to Mother Earth, get nutrition for our families," she
    said in Spanish. "We will struggle. We won't go. We are all together and we
    will not leave. We're just farmers, we don't have money, but we're still
    important."

    Repeated attempts to reach Horowitz at his office were unsuccessful, though
    he told The Associated Press that he found the farmers to be ungrateful and
    wanted his land back. Though Dan Stormer, an attorney for the farmers, said
    they'll have one more day in court in July to try to claim ownership of the
    land, Horowitz has already said he will not sell to the farmers or their
    supporters.

    A few hours after the evictions, Villaraigosa spoke with Horowitz on the
    telephone and reiterated his support for the Annenberg Foundation's $16
    million offer.

    But Horowitz said the property was worth even more money, Villaraigosa told
    reporters later. Horowitz also told the mayor he felt personally vilified by
    the farmers and wouldn't sell until he evicted every single person from the
    land.

    "I told him that from my vantage point, this is a more than fair offer. This
    is an opportunity for us to have an urban garden in the city that wants to
    be the greenest big city in America," Villaraigosa said. "And he said, well,
    that was nice but he wasn't accepting."

    While running for mayor, Villaraigosa pledged to help save the farm and,
    once in office, assigned Deputy Mayor Larry Frank to seek private donations
    to help the farmers buy the land from Horowitz.

    But the price was a moving target, the mayor said, going from about an
    estimated $6 million to $10 million to $12 million to the final price tag of
    $16 million.

    The mayor and allies had a hard time raising funds to buy the land because
    many potential donors felt the land wasn't worth the price.

    "I understand a businessman's need to invest and make a profit. I also have
    a high respect for and will defend property rights," Villaraigosa said. "But
    I also believe that we are called upon by a sense of community and civic
    duty to do the just and right thing. I had hoped that the landowner would
    have heeded that call."

    -------

    NEWS FROM THE FARM - 6/13/2006 8:59am,

    8 people have been carried out on stretchers and they have
    started to bull doze the land!

    WHAT: Hundreds of officers with the Los Angeles Sheriff department
    swarmed onto the peaceful, non-violent South-Central Farmers garden at
    5:15am today accompanied by six helicopters buzzing over the sleeping
    supporters.

    Supporters of this 14 acre organic farming community remain outside the
    locked-down area on the street chanting their protest of this forceful
    action while 20 are still inside the farm.

    Dozens of supporters have been living on the land, sleeping in tents, and
    taking turns living in the Walnut tree on the premise while fasting to show
    solidarity with the Farmers. Julia-Butterfly Hill just came down last week
    after fasting for 23 days. Several celebrities have shown up in the last few
    weeks - Willie Nelson, Martin Sheen, Danny Glover, Ed Begley, Jr, Joan Baez
    to name a few.

    As of this time, Daryl Hannah and aerial artist John Quigley are up in the
    Walnut tree refusing to come down. 20 campers on the land have locked
    themselves to benches, fences and the base around the tree while L.A. County
    Sheriffs are attempting to saw their locks off.

    Yesterday, a peace offering of organic flowers and fresh produce from the
    Farm was presented to the developer, Ralph Horowitz at his offices in
    Brentwood, California and to Mayor Antonio Villagairosa at City Hall. Their
    response to this appears to be this early morning raid.

    Citizens are frustrated with the Mayor because of his apparent lack of
    political leadership in this, even though he has publicly stated supported
    of the Farm in the last few weeks.

    The Farm supporters are asking people to:

    1. Call City Hall to ask that Mayor Villaraigosa step up and exhibit
    political leadership and interfere with the eviction. PH: 213-978-0600

    2. Come down to City Hall to express their support. Address: 200 N.
    Spring Street - Los Angeles, CA 90029

    3. Come to the Farm to Protest this oppressive and destructive action
    against the Farmers and their supporters

    WHERE: 41st & Long Beach Ave. Los Angeles,
    CA (Alameda exit off Interstate 10)

    WHEN: All Day June 13, 2006

    ****A SPECIAL 7:00PM candlelight vigil will be held on-site The public is
    encouraged to attend

    To learn more about the South Central Farmers, visit:
    www.southcentralfarmers.com Contact: Fernando Flores: Co-Chair of South
    Central Farmers Support Coalition PH: 909-605-3136
    southcentralfarmers@yahoo.com

    HISTORY:

    The South Central Farm, a 14-acre green oasis in the middle of downtown Los
    Angeles, is in danger of being lost to warehouse development. This community
    garden has been operated mainly by Latino immigrants for more than a decade
    and has become an important part of the culture and open space in Los
    Angeles.

    In 1992, the Farm was created in response to the Rodney King uprising to
    help develop and align the local South-Central community. The Los Angeles
    Regional Food Bank signed a lease with the city of Los Angeles to set aside
    the South Central Farm as a community garden. Since then more than 350
    impoverished families have banded together as the South Central Farmers to
    transform an industrial dump into an urban paradise. These families have
    been successfully augmenting their household food supply with the resultant
    harvest.

    But in 2003 the city sold the land to a private developer to build
    warehouses. The community was outraged, and the farmers refused to leave the
    land while they tried to raise the money to buy the property themselves. For
    the last several weeks -- in the face of a deadline to come up with the
    money or be evicted -- the farmers, with the help of appeals by activists
    and celebrities, worked around the clock and successfully raised the money
    to purchase the property. At last report, the Annenburg Foundation had
    offered to help raise the 15 million to purchase the land but it seems
    responding to pressure, the developer has changed his mind and decided not
    to sell the land to the farmers after all.
    ***************************************************

    http://www.organicconsumers.org/2006/article_756.cfm

    2 comments:

    Anonymous said...

    Several questions: Why did the city seize the land in the first place and then why didn't they use it for that purpose? Then the City sold it back to its original owner. Why should the owner not do whatever he wants to do to the property. The city and its people seemed to have had their legal chance and then choose to blow it. Then the piss the owner off by personal attacks and then expect him then to sell it back....thats alot to expect from a person. I have to side with the owner on this one.

    TheRambleman said...

    This is just so very sad. But I fear it's the way things are going these days... 'the people' are finding out that they really don't have the power they hoped they had.

    And in New Orleans they're going bulldoze a low-income housing facility that was for 5,000 people, rather than rebuild and modify :-(