Friday, February 25, 2011

The LAPD And DOT Attack The Hippie Kitchen


Bastards. That's right, I said it... bastards, all of them!
I've recently began a diet regimen because I'm too fat (at my weekly yoga classes with Beth, whenever I do a shoulder stand I'm aware of a large blubbery flap of belly fat looking down at me. It's exceptionally disquieting). My ego just will not allow me to continue being fat, thusly I've curtailed my caloric intake and have largely switched to a healthier diet high in fiber, protein, complex carbohydrates, folate, iron, and oligosaccharides... namely I've began eating a lot of beans.
And salad. High in fiber and low in calories. With fat free dressing of course.
And fat free bagels, using my non-fat lard as a topping.
I eat this all of the time. I'm going to have some right now. Please excuse me.
Eeemmmm, that was good. I'll have some more in a little while.
For variety I have different types of beans. There are many kinds. Too many to go into right now. Surprisingly the Hippie Kitchen (officially "The Hospitality House," administered by Los Angeles Catholic Worker, ) offers this very meal three times a week, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings from 9:30AM to noon. I can take special containers there to have filled up with beans and salad and bagels to bring back home to eat on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, when the Hippie Kitchen is closed. As a matter of fact for as long as I stay on this diet I never have to shop for food again!
Be that as it may, accordingly I left my box for the Hippie Kitchen yesterday at 9:15AM in order to see if they were giving away any bread before they actually began feeding the people of Skid Row. That's what they do at the Hippie Kitchen, they feed the people of Skid Row, have been for more years than I'd like to count. They feed, and feed, and feed. Beans and salad, and bagels or buttered bread (they don't use my non-fat lard, which is a shame). Sometimes they serve split peas instead of beans, like they did yesterday. Sometimes they serve pasta, like tuna casserole for instance. Yes, sometimes they add meat into the beans or noodles. Sometimes not. If you live on Skid Row, or happen to be near the intersection of 6th Street and Gladys on Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday between 9:30AM and noon you're very welcome to come and fill yourself up with beans and salad and bagels (or bread). That's just they way the hippies are. They can't help it.
As I was saying, I made my way to the Hippie Kitchen yesterday. They had no bread, but were giving out oranges and apples. I don't usually bother with oranges, simply because they're too difficult to peel (the act reminds me of putting together a Rubik's Cube). Apples on the other hand are so much easier, so I grabbed three of those, and got a nice multi-vitamin from the dispensary, before joining the line to get a plate of beans and salad (actually split peas yesterday). The line for food generally runs from out front on 6th Street into the courtyard right next to the kitchen. I was there early when the kitchen first opened so there were a lot of homeless people there in line before me waiting to get fed. The line reached around the corner of Gladys a bit, which didn't bother me because the serving hippies don't dither, they put the food on the plate and move the folks through at a rapid clip, so the line usually moves pretty fast.
Just as I turned the corner onto 6th, I noticed two Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) cruisers making a left turn onto Gladys. The officers inside looked on at the line of homeless people, seemingly in a jovial mood. One of the people in line shouted out something about "LA's finest," and I heard one of the police officer's state "Move it or lose it." I didn't know what he was talking about, but soon found out.
It was a raid! Not of the Hippie Kitchen itself as the heading of this post would suggest, and for which I apologize profusely, but am completely unwilling to change. No they were after bigger game... shopping carts!
Not just any shopping carts, but shopping carts that were filled with people's possessions. The corner of 6th & Gladys is famous for being the base headquarters for three or four longtime homeless people who spend each and every day sitting around, or near three supermarket shopping carts filled to the brim (and beyond) with their many and varied possessions. All that they probably own is in those carts, and they manage to get a lot in those three carts.
I've been walking by that particular corner lately about once a day. Let's say on average two to four times a week over the eight years I've lived in my box. At three times a week for eight years makes 1,248 times. Out of those 1,248 times I've passed that corner I've never seen those three shopping carts not there. In other words they're always freaking there!
Except for yesterday when the police came. And not only the police. After those two cruisers passed a huge bulldozer type contraption, two stories tall with a guy that looked like Santa Claus driving, pulled up right in front of me and stopped. That's when all of the homeless people all around me knew what was going on. I caught on when I saw about three more Department of Transportation trucks filled with DOT workers, pull up and stop, backed up by about six more police cars, one actually blocking 6th Street traffic from coming through. The police got out of their cars, armed with guns and batons, and blatantly and unapologetically began pushing the carts over into the street, dumping the contents of each without regard to the owner's complaints, essentially commandeering the private property of these disadvantaged people without any mention of compensation. How is this possible in this country? I felt like I watching something out of "The Grapes of Wrath."
If anything a citation of some sort would be much more appropriate, I believe. The Hippie Kitchen itself facilitates the process of giving shopping carts to homeless people that are bought by benefactors for the sole purpose of giving them to homeless people, so the question of these carts being stolen from supermarkets is very much in the air. If the carts were owned by the homeless people, what law was being broken? The Hippie Kitchen sure didn't mind those people camping out there throughout the years. And since the carts were parked in front of the Hippie Kitchen, who else would care? It is not like the corner of 6th and Gladys is the garden spot of Skid Row that needs policing for purposes of aesthetics. So what law exactly was being broken? I don't know and the police sure weren't talking. They were too busy supervising their lackeys from the DOT to pay any attention to the homeless folks surrounding them.
Everything these people owned were probably in those carts. Important papers, clothes they would need for the cold nights we are currently experiencing, everything! There could have been Iran's secret plans to nuke Israel for all the police knew or cared.
The hippies in the Hippie Kitchen were outraged as well. Some of them gathered on the street to witness the devastation. One lovely lady, Catherine, who has volunteered at the kitchen for the last 39 years (and who can be seen in the above picture, white hair, third from the right in the top row), got vocal in her outrage, yelling at the police as they drove away, "Get a job!" and "This is outrageous!"
It was outrageous. And very courageous on Catherine's part. After all the Hippie Kitchen itself had been the target of federal investigators in the past for it's subversive activities. Here's an except from a Los Angeles Catholic Workers paper written in 2006 by Jeff Dietrich:

"I was not shocked that the government of the United States would spy on peace activists. It has happened in the past, most notably to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to Dan and Philip Berrigan. And even Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker movement and currently a candidate for sainthood, had, before her death in 1980, accumulated a 600-page FBI file, with agents going so far as to volunteer to serve soup to the homeless to spy on her. I just didn't think the meager efforts of the Los Angeles Catholic Worker warranted such government attention.
In his report on us, the unnamed FBI agent wrote, 'The Catholic Workers advocate peace with a Christian and semi-communistic ideology ... They advocate a communist distribution of resources.' He got the first part right. But the part about being communistic is true only if you think of our soup kitchen as a communistic redistribution plan.
Nevertheless, we're pretty good at running a soup kitchen, but we're terribly inept when it comes to being a terrorist cell or a threat to national security--something like the guys in that old movie 'The Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight.'"

So we've got a bunch of pinko commies in our midst! I guess I should have known. You can tell just by looking at them.
Be that as it may, I've ran some figures on the economics of this little raid and come up with the following figures. Considering the police are paid approximately $37 an hour, and the DOT workers about $30, and that the raid took 3 hours to plan and organize supposedly by at least 3 high ranking police geniuses working at $50 an hour, and that it took at least 45 minutes to coordinate the raid before it actually happened, and the ten minute raid itself, well let's add it up:

16 police at $37 an hour

10 DOT workers at $30 an hour

3 hours to plan = 3 senior police geniuses at $50.00 an hour = $450.00

45 min to coordinate Police= $27.75 an officer. DOT= $22.50 per worker Total for 16 police $444.00 10 DOT = $225.00

10 min to implement police = $3.70 DOT = $3.00 Total for 16 police $59.20 10 DOT $30.00

Total for the entire operation confiscating a total of 3 filled shopping carts = $1,208.20

add the economic cost of holding up civilian traffic on 6th Street for ten minutes in lost productivity and lower promotional prospects for employee tardyism = $57,894.80

Total expenditures for the operation = $59,894.80

Average cost of recovered carts at $112.5 apiece, $337.50

Total value of items in the three recovered shopping carts = 0.57 cents.

So it cost a total of approximately $59,103.00 to recover $338.07 in shopping carts and homeless people's possessions.

If these types of raids occur on a weekly basis, and I have no reason to believe they don't, the cost to the City of Los Angeles, actually, the tax payers of the City of Los Angeles:

$59,894.80 a week for 52 weeks = $3,073,356.00, for 156 shopping carts = $17,579.64.

It would seem to me our precious resources could be put to use in a much more cost effective manner, especially in this day and age when the Republicans are cutting funds to everything, including police departments.
And I do not particularly care for my tax dollars being used to bully that part of the population that is least able to defend themselves.
But that's just me.
Just like the war on drugs, authorities tend to attack the symptoms of problems and not the root causes. To end homelessness in this country, supposedly the richest nation in the world, we need to seriously look at the reasons this phenomenon occurs and deal with that rather than criminalize and attack the homeless themselves.
And considering the state of the economy and the mortgage foreclosure crisis, too may of us may soon be facing their same fate.
Addendum: It is with great pleasure that I can report that on passing the corner of Gladys and 6th St. the day after this incident took place, the 25th, there was one shopping cart, filled with possessions, back on station. I passed again this morning, the 28th, and all three had returned to their former stature and position.
As in Wisconsin, the people have spoken and will not be deterred.

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