Lying Media Bastards

June 13, 2006

Losing the Good Fight

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I haven’t talked about the South Central Farm on this site because I spent so much time writing about it on my other site (which gets a lot more traffic), since November, really. And today the farm has been struck a crippling blow, which will take a hell of a lot of work and luck to recover from.

The South Central Farm is a 14-acre plot of land in one of LA’s poorest neighborhoods in South Central. In 1992, the City allowed 350 families to use the land to grow crops. It became a haven (click that link, great pics), good for community, good for health, good for families, good for the economy, good for the environment, good for beauty, good for culture. Give this video a look, it brings these dry descriptions to life (yeah, some of the music is cheesy).

Then, like something out of a bad 1980s teen movie, a big land developer comes along who wants to destroy this public space. In one of these movies, the developer would have wanted to build a shopping mall or a parking structure, something particularly superficially glitzy or mundane, depending. But this real life developer wanted to build a big warehouse, to take advantage of the railway cooridor that had sprung up in the decade since he’d owned this land before.

Yes, he’d owned this plot of land much earlier, when the city seized it under eminent domain to build a trash incineration plant. They didn’t build the plant, so they turned the land over to the farmers. Then Evil Land Developer declared that since the city hadn’t used it for its original intended purpose, he had the right to buy it back. Some shadiness went on here (the city didn’t follow its own rules for such a procedure), and the city agreed and sold the land back for $5 million. At which point Evil Land Developer (the Libaw-Horowitz Investment Company, LHIC, featuring Jacob Libaw and Ralph Horowitz) told the farmers to Get The Hell Off Our Land.

The farmers have been fighting in court, in the media, and on the streets to hold onto this land, and LHIC have been vocal in their disrespect and unwillingness to compromise. That’s when my organization Axis of Justice came onto the scene, when the farm looked like a noble, but truly lost, cause. But public awareness and pressure on the city actually made some progress, and LHIC agreed to sell the land back to the farmers. For $16.9 million, more than 3 times what they paid for it. Fucking pricks.

And the Farm Was Saved! A public land trust volunteered to front some of the money, and Mayor Villaraigosa agreed to raise the rest of the money from his friends and supporters. Until just before LHIC’s deadline, when the mayor suddenly announced that he had no farm money and other sources dried up as well. The deadline hit, May 22, and the money had not been raised. The farmers went on high alert, preparing to repel the eviction attempts with nonviolent civil disobedience.

At which point, support started coming from all over. Local activists, musicians from all over, the Green Party, celebrities (Daryl Hannah, Leonardo Di Caprio, Ben Harper, Alicia Silverstone, Willie Nelson), and philanthropic foundations with cash. All of these things seemed highly positive. And finally, just last week, it looked as though a conglomeration of these foundations were going to have enough money to purchase the farm. I actually stopped worrying. It looked like the lost cause was actually going to succeed. I didn’t like the idea of handing all that cash to the motherfucking land developer who caused all this trouble, but it meant that the farmers’ land and community would be secure.

Until this morning, when the LA County sheriffs came at the crack of dawn to evict, arrest, and demolish.

I’ve been doing my best to get the word out, get the news out, and inform people about protests and actions they can take to help on the Axis site and my little-used Axis of Justice blog. The farmers are off the land, dozens are under arrest, and at least the outer ring of farms have been bulldozed.

The gal in the video who talks about the history of the farm? That’s Rosa. The police threw her in jail for civil disobedience.

The guy in the video with the glasses and the long hair? That’s Sam. They took him out of there in an ambulance. We don’t know what happened to him.

I don’t know what happens next. I’d give up hope, if my November pessimism hadn’t been proven wrong for seven months. At present, my main concern is for the arrestees and how we can support them; I’m still waiting for info on that. The farmers are calling for continued protests at the farm (41st and Long Beach Ave in LA), and are asking for people to call the Mayor (Antonio Villaraigosa, 213-978-0600) and Councilwoman Jan Perry (323-846-2651 or 213-473-7009) to voice their support for the farm and opposition to LHIC.

I’ll keep y’all updated on this site and the Axis site.

Posted by Jake on June 13, 2006 5:29 pm

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