Students from CALO Youthbuild Photo courtesy of Canek Peña Vargas.

Students from CALO Youthbuild presented a forum to discuss issues affecting them and their communities. Photo courtesy of Canek Peña Vargas.
Students from CALO Youthbuild presented a forum to discuss issues affecting them and their communities. Photo courtesy of Canek Peña Vargas.
A meeting called to discuss more than 30 years of alleged police brutality and the threat of gentrification in Boyle Heights drew more than 100 community members Thursday night in East Los Angeles.

Students of CALO (Community Action and Leadership Opportunities) YouthBuild, a school for “at-risk” students aged 16-24 looking for a second chance, helped organize the event with many taking part in a presentation of issues to two panels of representatives of several L.A. organizations.

Students presented statistical information to the community policing panel that detailed California State spending for prison inmates is five times greater than state educational spending for college students.

The panel included Ben Polk, representing L.A. County Supervisor, Hilda Solis, L.A. County Inspector General, Max Huntsman and Executive Director of Dignity and Power Now, Patrisse Cullors-Brignac.

L.A. County’s plan to invest in a $3.5 billion jail construction project was at the core of discussion with students asking each panel member whether or not they supported this plan.
“Jails suck away at our resources. There are so many places this $3.5 billion can go in this community,” said Cullors-Brignac.

Another issue students confronted the panel with was alleged injustices carried-out by L.A. County Sheriff’s and the Los Angeles Police Department against people of color in the eastside community.

The students called for reform in the way police deal with residents of Boyle Heights and other communities of color detailing a non-negotiable five-point list of reforms they asked the panel to support.

Those demands included establishing a community oversight program with subpoena power, made up of nine members, with five of the members appointed by the community.

It also calls for independent legal counsel, no members from law enforcement and a hand in guiding the inspector general’s office.

Most of the CALO students grew up in Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles. According to Canek Pena-Vargas, site director for CALO YouthBuild, many students have experienced police injustices either directly or through family and friends.

“We believe because of the challenges they’ve had to overcome, they have some of the most intimate and relevant knowledge of the issues that affect our community,” said Pena-Vargas.

Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council President Carlos Montes addressed the panel calling for change in the LAPD and LASD in Boyle Heights, and East L.A.

“Police brutality battles have been going on for the past 20-30 years,” said Montes. “I support the subpoena power demand.”

The gentrification panel included Jenna Hornstock, Deputy Executive Officer, Countywide Planning & Development L.A. County, Mynor Godoy, Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council Community Seat Member, and KeAndra Dodds, also representing Hilda Solis’s office.

Students expressed their concerns over the gentrification of Boyle Heights that they fear will result in the displacement of many long-time residents because of higher rents.

At the center of this discussion were three Metro development projects in Boyle Heights that students and community members feel will contribute to the gentrification process, and will change the landscape of the historic community.

They called for a six-month, phased ENA (Exclusive Negotiation Agreement) for all Metro projects that will allow for more community engagement, and for the creation of a community engagement committee funded by Metro.

The fear of displacement is the biggest issue for student Ana Sanchez who has lived in Boyle Heights for most of her life.

She spoke of how most of the families in the area of Boyle Heights she lives in have multiple family members living in one household in order to make ends meet and how many of her fellow students need to work to help make the rent monthly.

“They live all together; uncles and aunts just so they can afford to pay rent,” said Sanchez.

Gus Ugalde

Gus Ugalde is a print journalist and Boyle Heights native. He is a graduate of both Salesian High School and East Los Angeles College. With writing as his passion, he has had over 500 stories published...

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