Don’t talk to cops or feds! Resisting fascism or gentrification is not a crime!

We encourage all members, volunteers and supporters to treat security culture seriously. Don’t post selfies or easily identify yourself. Don’t post carelessly on social media. Always be on alert. Be disciplined. Be careful what you say about political organizing around strangers. Vet your members. Make sure you know who they are. Watch out for strangers suggesting you or your organization should recklessly commit illegal actions. Don’t talk to cops or feds – and if they force themselves on you somehow, publicize that encounter, make it go viral (the more attention you have, the more support you can gather, and the less likely it will be for the state to mess with you if you’re in the public eye). They will use any information against you, your loved ones or comrades. Don’t let them into your home. All serious political organizers should know their rights, have contacts with local National Lawyers Guild and have a big base of support (ideally, the majority of the community should know about you and your organization) and have a plan of action in case a member, volunteer or supporter gets taken in by the cops or feds.

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The following is a brief public statement to all organizations and individuals who associate or support STPLA. We publicize this for two main reasons: 1.) to warn people who are organizing politically that the state isn’t just watching; their local and federal agents are actively collecting information and, where possible, infiltrating groups, and 2.) to keep this transparent so that, worst case scenario, if one of our members or supporters gets picked up by the state or suffers some other form of punishment for their political organizing, we can launch a support plan while simultaneously exposing the brutality of the state.

A little less than a month ago, supporters contacted us to say they had been questioned and were investigated by the FBI. The supporters said the FBI agents asked several questions about their political organizing, past and present, asking to name specific groups they’ve been organizing with, among other things.

The agents informed them of the reason for this investigation: something posted online. The supporters posted about how if fascists are attacking persecuted communities, then those communities have a right to defend themselves. The post itself, in our opinion, contains nothing controversial in that context as a matter of self-defense. Either way, according to them, the federal agents said it was enough to investigate into their past and present political organizing. The agent’s line of questioning, then, centered around the supporters potential knowledge of antifa. The supporters immediately notified us. They wanted to make sure we knew about this and that we plan accordingly. 

We know anytime a community or organization comes together to organize independently from the government, and try to find solutions to our injustices, that same government will try to attack and destroy that community or organization. The U.S. government did this to the Black Panthers, to the Brown Berets, to the American Indian Movement and every civil rights, peace and anti-war movement in the country. And now the government is taking aim at the anti-gentrification and antifa movements. The government has always investigated groups that question and challenge the brutality of the government. The government has investigated antifa clashes with fascists in the past and there are several documented cases where undercover cops were discovered infiltrating and even sabotaging groups, even non-antifa socialist groups, such as in March 2017 when a socialist group organized a rally in Colorado Springs.

Since 2011, according to the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. government has investigated anti-gentrification activists and has classified them as “terrorists” for vandalism and arson incidents in Michigan and Washington. DHS went on to say that they are “actively seeking additional reporting from law enforcement about incidents of anarchist extremists targeting sites they associate with “gentrification.”’ Here in Boyle Heights, back in November 2016, after someone tagged the front of gentrifier art gallery Nicodim Gallery and two other unnamed incidents, the Boyle Heights Hollenbeck division of the LAPD has investigating those cases as possible “hate crimes,” and specifically named the anti-gentrification coalition Defend Boyle Heights as a group of interest. And this year after someone broke the window (twice) of the new gentrifier coffee shop Weird Wave, local law enforcement, according to credible sources, has been investigating that vandalism as another “hate” crime. (But who is being hated? Anti-gentrification activists are accused of hating white people but also are accused of being exclusively white, so which is it? Are they anti-white people or are they all white people?)

STPLA are proud co-founders and members of DBH and we won’t let local or federal law enforcement intimidation tactics scare us from doing the necessary work. If the FBI, DHS and LAPD want to lock us all up for giving out free food, clothing and resources for tenants and immigrants, then what does that tell you about this country’s ideals? Who are they serving? Who does law enforcement protect? Are they friends or enemies?

We encourage all members, volunteers and supporters to treat security culture seriously. Don’t post selfies or easily identify yourself. Don’t post carelessly on social media. Always be on alert. Be disciplined. Be careful what you say about political organizing around strangers. Vet your members. Make sure you know who they are. Watch out for strangers suggesting you or your organization should recklessly commit illegal actions. Don’t talk to cops or feds – and if they force themselves on you somehow, publicize that encounter, make it go viral (the more attention you have, the more support you can gather, and the less likely it will be for the state to mess with you if you’re in the public eye). They will use any information against you, your loved ones or comrades. Don’t let them into your home. All serious political organizers should know their rights, have contacts with local National Lawyers Guild and have a big base of support (ideally, the majority of the community should know about you and your organization) and have a plan of action in case a member, volunteer or supporter gets taken in by the cops or feds.

Because the anti-gentrification movement in Boyle Heights has attracted a huge amount of support and attention, it has to be assumed that we will inevitably face repression from law enforcement. We are not assuming law enforcement isn’t investigating or infiltrating our spaces; that has been proven to be the case now. So, then, the next phase has to be about preparation.

Let’s be clear. The FBI, DHS and LAPD want the anti-gentrification movement to end. They want the weekly STPLA food and clothing program to end. They want antifa to end. They want all left and progressive activists who dare to struggle for a better tomorrow to be too scared to keep doing the work. You see, we’re pushing too far, not asking politely, not turning in the proper petitions or paperwork, not sitting down at the table with the cops, the feds or the city council. We want too much, we have too little. We want freedom, and we won’t stop until we get it.

Defending DACA and beyond!

We are in this country because we had to escape the economic, political and social crisis that the U.S. created in our homelands. For many of us, it was life or death. In escaping death, our people had to cross a border into a country that hates us, that wants to see us dead, that wants to see us rot away in jail or a detention center. But we had no choice.

We don’t believe in the double standards that politics, extremist groups and even some supposed leftists have created in the community where they are dividing us between bad and good immigrants based on criminal records – that’s bullshit! Who decides the laws, the policies and the correctional system? Who decides who is a bad or good immigrant?

DEFEND DACA

Our community is under attack! Our immigrant comrades have been under attack since a long time ago. Let’s keep in mind that it’s not just this administration. Our immigration system is not broken – it was built this way! A system that criminalizes immigrants, where politicians play the game that is more convenient for them (where votes are the points in the game). Let’s be real: all those politicos who are standing now for DACA should be standing for all immigrants, but why did they wait until this country had a fascist president to act? Why didn’t their local politics support and protect the immigrant community in the past? We have no love for office holders who play politics with our lives and the well being of our immigrant comrades.

We stand by our DACA recipient comrades but we also stand with all immigrants regardless of immigration status! We should defend and protect DACA and TPS recipients, but we must work to ensure that all immigrants are protected as well! We don’t believe in politics as usual, as we have seen that their main purpose is to get more power and more money! We are in a capitalist system that sees us as numbers, as dollar signs, where even jails and detention centers are used to increase the amount of money that they can put into their pockets. There is no justice in protections for some, while others continue to live in fear and danger.

We have friends, relatives, comrades who have DACA but there are also millions of unprotected immigrants that don’t fit into these specially-created “boxes of priorities” like DACA. We have brothers, sisters, co-workers, relatives and community members who unfortunately don’t have any hope of getting legal immigration status in this country anytime soon because they don’t meet the current residency requirements. We cannot and must not forget them!

We are in this country because we had to escape the economic, political and social crisis that the U.S. created in our homelands. For many of us, it was life or death. In escaping death, our people had to cross a border into a country that hates us, that wants to see us dead, that wants to see us rot away in jail or a detention center. But we had no choice.

We don’t believe in the double standards that politics, extremist groups and even some supposed leftists have created in the community where they are dividing us between bad and good immigrants based on criminal records – that’s bullshit! Who decides the laws, the policies and the correctional system? Who decides who is a bad or good immigrant?

Immigrants are born criminals, according to the U.S. It’s imperialist original sin. Everything after birth is atonement. You are labeled a criminal because you joined a gang, or you lived in a gang-affiliated area, or your family members were in a gang – guilty immigrant by association. But why did you join a gang, they ask. But why did you break the law, they ask. Growing up poor and hated, where your community didn’t have enough youth or community programs (but there’s a liquor store on every corner and an JROTC program in every school). Your parents couldn’t take care of you, having to work all day to have money to pay the rent, bills and school. You, an immigrant, a youth, a sinner, a criminal, reached out for compassion and found it in the waiting arms of a gang or friends who learned how to survive in a hateful world – and most of the time the simple act of surviving is illegal.

The state labels us criminals for driving without a license, while simultaneously, not allowing us to get hold of a driver’s license without a social security number! The state labels victims of their shortcomings as delinquents, all the while not providing youth centers/programs and further criminalizing Black and Brown people for existing.

We live in a system that creates chaos and doesn’t provide enough programs that the community really needs. Then the same system punishes you because you made bad decisions, because politics as usual prefers to invest money in businesses, in cops and jails than housing, than in the arts. Instead of community centers or free job trainings for everyone, and the list goes on…

These are not Amerikkkan lands. This is native land! These are the lands that were stolen from our native relatives, lands that were invaded by white settlers that never belonged to them. It is a disgusting irony that the white settlers are deporting indigenous immigrants who have more stake in this land than they do. Especially in California, the state with the most DACA recipients as well as the highest concentration of indigenous people – and that’s not even counting Chicanxs or indigenous “latinx” immigrants.

Immigrants, regardless of where they are coming from, their background, at what age they arrived, should be free to decide where they want to plant their seeds and become part of a community. Every immigrant – as a refugee – deserves to live without harassment, persecution or criminalization. This is a universal human right. Even the United Nation upholds this.

Let’s protect and defend DACA and TPS recipients but go beyond all that! Because this system will keep pitting “good” immigrant against “bad” immigrant. That is the natural order of immigration in this country; the economy needs someone to blame when their economics fail – as they have and will continue to. Capitalism is always in crisis.

Those organizations who are working toward defending immigrants rights should also make sure that their struggle starts at home with their loved ones, not just youth or students, but the most vulnerable. We hope our DACA comrades are able to maintain their jobs. If those organizations are really in the struggle, they better show how much they care for the immigrant community, for DACA and TPS, and not become opportunists who only organize a broader resistance because it’s more popular now, because it’s a Republican in the White House. Where were they all those years when Obama, the Great Deporter, was in power? Where was the outrage then? Or do the supposed immigrant rights groups only go after whoever the Democratic Party says it’s OK to go after?

We are going to defend DACA and TPS but we are going to keep pushing and go beyond that. We are defending and working to protect all immigrants, to stop deportations on native lands, especially in Los Angeles, by any means necessary!

Defend Boyle Heights – a call to serve the people!

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Boyle Heights, so close to a bustling, sanitized, safe, towering and trendy downtown Los Angeles, has attracted much attention from outsiders of the community. Boyle Heights, which sits just east of the Los Angeles River, has seen a growing amount of attention from west-of-the-river real estate agents, east coast art gallery owner Michele Maccarone (maccarone.net) and major developers (Metro, Fifteen Group, Adaptive Realty, etc.) and petite-bourgeois hipsters looking to relocate, redevelop and settle in Boyle Heights like 21st century colonizers.

On Saturday night, a group of people, mainly university students – a diverse but mainly white group –  including several urban planning students from the University of California, Los Angeles, embarked on a walking tour of downtown Los Angeles and attempted to explore historic parts of Boyle Heights.

Serve the People – Los Angeles (STPLA) and several residents of Boyle Heights contacted the organizers of the event, which was titled on Facebook as “6th St. Goodbye/Hello Spelunks,” several weeks in advance and had a meeting with them on Monday, Dec. 7 in Mariachi Plaza.

During the Monday meeting, STPLA members and other Boyle Heights residents expressed concerns/presented questions of the event, such as:

1.)    Why weren’t Boyle Heights people/organizations notified about this as potential partners from the beginning (or to check with them and see if it would be OK)?

2.)    Additionally, there’s a bad history of non-Latin@ people with no real community connection, trying to trivialize/tokenize our community’s needs and culture.

3.)    Who would be attending the walking tour event?

4.)    When non-Boyle Heights residents, especially affluent white people, visit Boyle Heights, some of us view it as a threat against people who have called this community home for years and generations. How would the event prevent this from happening? Are you aware of past events of non-Boyle Heights people coming in and basically “touring” Boyle Heights, such as Hopscotch/The Industry? (Which resulted in Boyle Heights residents confronting these gentrifiers and the kicking them out of Hollenbeck Park. Read more here and here).

At Monday’s meeting, the walking tour organizers expressed criticism against gentrification and empathy and regret in not having planned the event better and not having reached out to Boyle Heights organizations and residents, to which they explained was due to the informal nature of the walking tour.

Additionally, at the meeting it was decided that the individuals would report back to their respective collectives and discuss what the demands would be, of which the organizers of the walking tour event would respect.

STPLA and others decided that it would be best to tell the organizers of the walking tour event not to come into Boyle Heights and that STPLA and others would speak at the event to talk about our understanding of gentrification (not to convince the organizers necessarily, but rather to let the audience know why all such events not involving Boyle Heights input/support should be seen as a threat to the community, however seemingly trivial).

We communicated our demands to the walking tour organizers several days in advance, to which they said they’d be visiting Aliso Village, an almost exclusively-industrial section of Boyle Heights, to talk about gentrification. We, again, messaged them to say this violated our simple demand of not stepping into Boyle Heights. Furthermore, we said we would be meeting them during the walking tour.

STPLA walked near the L.A. River from 1st Street Bridge to the 6th Street Bridge on Mission Road looking for the walking tour. We headed back to the 1st Street Bridge where we ran into a group of approximately 40 people from the walking tour. We expressed our demands again and spoke briefly on why their event was seen as antagonistic toward residents of Boyle Heights, to which we all are.

We stated the following:

1.)    Boyle Heights is under attack in the form of gentrification and therefore must be defended.

2.)    Our priority is Boyle Heights and stopping gentrifiers from coming in and moving in.

3.)    In doing this, we commit ourselves in protecting our community by any means necessary, which means that outsiders should not be made to feel safe.

After a slight back-and-forth, which involved one of the walking tour attendees saying some #AllLivesMatter bullshit about members of all communities should feel safe anywhere – to which we said, while true, our priority is defending Boyle Heights – it was agreed that we’d escort them into the L.A. River and from there they had to leave Boyle Heights.

Some things need to be said.

While STPLA remains committed in building a multi-national/multi-racial/multi-ethnic/multi-gender diverse organization that has the political maturity to have a political line that encompasses all intersections of oppressive systems, we are against identity politics. Identity politics prioritizes individuals and identities divorced from liberation struggle (revolution).

Simply put, just because you’re brown or non-white does not exempt you from being a gentrifier, such as was the case with Palestinian immigrant Bana Haffar (formerly) of Adaptive Realty, a real estate firm that was pushing for non-Boyle Heights residents to buy up cheap homes in Boyle Heights back in May 2014.

Haffar designed a flier which invited people on a bike tour of Boyle Heights and publicized the community as “Charming, historic, walkable, and bikeable neighborhood” and posed the question in bold, “Why rent in downtown when you can own in Boyle Heights?”

The bike tour was called off after threats of violence and death were made against real estate agents of Adaptive Realty. Since then, there was been little-to-no publicity of Adaptive Realty in Boyle Heights.

In a quote in an LA Weekly story about the incident, Haffar said, “I’m of Palestinian origin … If anyone knows about displacement, it’s me. My family was displaced a number of times.”

No one should deny her seemingly good intentions of wanting to help people save money. Perhaps she didn’t think about the inevitable consequences of younger people with more finance capital moving into a working class oppressed community made up predominately of low-income families. However, good intentions matter little in the real world, in the political world.

Just because one was displaced or is oppressed does not negate their ability in being oppressive or displacing others. Putting politics, not identities, in command would argue that all oppressed and exploited people must organize toward serving the people, toward building with the people. Nothing else should lead us.

Similarly, at Saturday night’s walking tour event, the organizers and perhaps most of the attendees meant well. They wanted to talk about gentrification. They wanted to learn about the history of downtown Los Angeles and Boyle Heights with its rich Japanese, Jewish, New Afrikan, Chican@, Mexican and Central American immigrant history. But, again, in the end, intentions don’t matter as much as revolutionary politics.

Gentrification cannot be viewed as a gross, immoral growth of capitalism that can be combated in the legal realms of urban planning, city development and bourgeois reformism. It can be regulated, yes, and it can be stopped, but only momentarily somewhere; it will always make a resurgence. Because gentrification is a form of necessary violence that manifests under capitalism, a cannibalism that pits wealthier (powerful) individuals and organizations against poorer oppressed and exploited (powerless) communities.

We must look to revolutionary politics and strategies to fight gentrification, such as the Turkish communists of the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Front, Devrimci Halk Kurtuluş Partisi-Cephesi (DHKP/C).

DHKP/C, which traces its origin to 1978 under the name Dev-Sol (Revolutionary Left), has been waging a war against the repressive Turkish state for nearly 40 years. After a period of reformation, its activities accelerated in 2012, and has since been simultaneously building up an autonomous community with the power to kick out developers and other agents of the bourgeoisie. The oppressed and exploited people of Turkey, including religious and ethnic minorities, especially in Istanbul, support the DHKP/C wholeheartedly. They see gentrification as the direct and real threat to their way of life, and correctly see DHKP/C as an example of a popular people’s force capable of defending their communities. (See the short Vice documentary about them here).

Join STPLA and help us serve the people by giving out meals twice a week in Echo Park (Friday at 4 p.m. at the Belmont Art Space) and Boyle Heights (Sunday at 4 p.m. at Hollenbeck Park), while we defend Boyle Heights from gentrification and other nuanced, low-intensity assaults. Join us in building up community power to a point where we can effectively turn away developers and individuals from our communities and eventually connect with other communities in struggle in Los Angeles and outside of Los Angeles, outside of Southern California, all across the nation to say, there’s only one solution to the onslaught facing our disempowered communities; there’s only one solution to gentrification: revolution.