Stark, personal accounts of violent acts allegedly carried out by Los Angeles County Sheriffs on incarcerated friends and family members highlighted a teach-in event at the YouthBuild Charter School in Boyle Heights last Friday.
The event, hosted by the Dandelion Rising Leadership Institute, a project of the Coalition to End Sheriff Violence in L.A. Jails, hoped to garner support from the community to help create a civilian oversight committee in order to prevent future abuse by sheriffs.
Event organizer, Patrisse Cullors, brought the event to Boyle Heights to help create awareness to formerly incarcerated people impacted by sheriff violence.
Cullors founded the coalition after her brother had been victimized by sheriff’s deputies while he was incarcerated at L.A. County Jail last August.
“While he was there, he was beaten so badly by sheriff’s deputies he blacked out. When he awoke, he was in a pool of his own blood. We thought he was going to die there,” said Cullors.
Her frustration increased when she began making inquiries about the beating to the department and found herself feeling trapped.
She felt she had no one to turn to for help because she was making her complaints to the department that carried-out the beating.
“This is a civil rights and human rights abuse. Folks inside are protected by the 8th Amendment, which talks about cruel and unusual punishment,” she said.
Boyle Heights resident and coalition member Sandra Neal also shared her experiences with the enthusiastic crowd, many of whom had similar experiences to tell.
Her son was arrested two-years ago in East Los Angeles for suspicion of DUI, a charge that was later dropped.
According to Neal, he was assaulted by four sheriff’s deputies while in custody at the Twin Towers jail facility. He suffered four broken teeth, facial fractures, contusions, fractured ribs and a collapsed lung.
She went on to say that the Sheriff’s Department claimed that her son had made an aggressive move toward the officers and that is why he was taken down; a claim she finds hard to believe because of his non-violent nature.
When asked why she thought the deputies assaulted her son, she said, “It’s their nature.”
The crowd, which included students, activists, community members and faculty, engaged in the interactive presentation by sharing their personal experiences through poetry and writing.
Two students displayed and recited the 8th Amendment, while others called for the end of sheriff abuse in the community and in jail.
“There is an incredible need to get the community involved to promote awareness for East L.A. and Boyle Heights,” said Neal.
Although oversight at the largest jail system in the country already includes the Office of Independent Review, the Board of Supervisors and jail commission, Cullors hopes for a permanent, independent civilian oversight committee that would be empowered to subpoena deputies, independent of the department.
She has staged several events in both South and East L.A. and has plans to host a series of townhouse meetings in the future.
She has garnered the support of County Supervisor, Mark Ridley-Thomas in South L.A. and hopes to gain Gloria Molina’s support for her cause in East L.A.
For more information on the coalition, go to www.dignityandpower.wordpress.com.