Sunday, January 14, 2007

Violence in Our City

There's been a lot of talk about violence in Los Angeles this week.

First, the City Council-commissioned report on a Citywide Gang Activity Reduction Strategy was released on Friday. Written by Connie Rice and the Advancement Project , this 108-page report is a pathbreaking call to action that invokes the need for the city to enact a "Marshall Plan" to solve gang violence in Los Angeles. It is one of the most significant documents to be produced in this city in years.

I encourage you to come down to City Hall next week on Wednesday at 4pm in council chambers for hearings on the report. You can get a copy of the agenda by clicking here. If you cannot make it down, it will be televised on Channel 35 or you can watch on-line or listen in by calling Council Phone.

Second, my colleague Janice Hahn's efforts to bring lasting peace to the Harbor Gateway area of her district (where she was joined by the mayor yesterday), are a sobering reminder of how far we have to go to ensure all Angelenos feel safe and young Angelenos have opportunities beyond gang membership and violence in many areas of our city. As you will remember, while overall crime is down in Los Angeles, gang crime increased last year, and the challenges in Harbor Gateway are felt throughout Los Angeles.

Lastly, the day before we celebrate MLK Day here in Los Angeles, I came across Bobby Kennedy's speech On the Mindless Menace of Violence, given on the day following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. His words are as relevant to our national remembering of King as they are to the violence that plagues our city today:

Whenever any American's life is taken by another American unnecessarily - whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of the law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence - whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.
Bobby Kennedy, of course, was himself taken from us by violence some two months later in Los Angeles.

Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been 78 tomorrow. His vision of non-violence, justice, and equality is as needed today as it was decades ago. Let us not just commemorate the man and his vision for America, but let us make that vision a living history for us today.

(postscript: The Guardian (UK) has a series of remembrances from the night that Bobby Kennedy was killed in Los Angeles at the Ambassador Hotel. One of them is from Arturo Placencia, a friend of mine who is still a detective with LAPD, and who heads La Ley, the association for Latino LAPD officers. Art was the first officer on the scene at the Ambassador.)