Justice for Trayvon Martin March

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March 25, 2012—South Los Angeles—In light of the recent, unjustifiable, cold-blooded killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, by George Zimmerman, Occupy the Hood (Los Angeles) and community members gathered to march from Exposition Blvd. and Crenshaw Blvd. to Leimert Park to show support for Trayvon and to speak about the systematic injustices that occur on a daily basis due to racism.

A crowd of at least 100 gathered at the aforementioned cross street while harsh rain pounded down upon the earth, creating massive puddles and small waves of water to flow alongside curbs and in any crevice it could meander its way in to. One man, unphased by the weather, clinched in his hands a large bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea (the two items Trayvon had just purchased from the local 7-11 before returning to the gated community where he was staying). Some held black t-shirts wrapped in dry-cleaner plastic with the largely-known photo of Trayvon in a hoodie that read: “1,000,000 Hoodie March for Trayvon Martin.”

After trudging through the harsh weather Sunday had to offer, supporters gathered in Leimert Park to speak about the large issue of racism as a whole, how its injustices and oppression manifest itself into daily struggles and what can be done to combat the systematic brutality—in all forms—toward people of color.

The mainstream media was on hand to make sure to capture images of the crowd, but they were largely uninterested in the subject matter which was being discussed. All mainstream media cameras were gone within minutes after arriving to the park.

Please take the time to read this piece on racism by d.E. Rogers, entitled “Racism vs. African-Americans in America” (photos below)

“There is no question that America’s history has been plagued by racism. Slavery remains a dark stain on America’s history which many would rather forget. In fact, there are some who believe it is forgotten, and that racism is no longer a serious issue in today’s American culture.

It is certainly true that racism is not as serious a problem now as in the past. Up until the civil rights era there were many parts of the country in which the government openly supported racist laws. While government support of racist policy is (mostly) a thing of the past, there is still an undercurrent of racism in the culture of America today.

Racist Stereotypes Remain

Today there are few people in America who will openly confess to being racist, and those people and organizations which do, such as the remaining Ku Klux Klan, are usually viewed as social outcasts. However, there are still many stereotypes against African-Americans which influence American culture. Most of these stereotypes are about violence and sex. A study in Philadelphia, for example, found that African-Americans were overly represented as perpetrators of crimes in local news outlets when compared to the actual rates of crime in the city.

Sexual stereotypes are also common, and African-American men and women are often depicted as aggressively sexual. While this stereotype is sometimes twisted into a compliment, it results in severe consequences. African-American men are more likely to be assumed guilty of a sexual crime than men of any other race in America. African-American women are more likely to be involved in the sex industry, but are often paid far less than white women.

Racism in the Media

The study in Philadelphia isn’t the only example of racism in the media far from it, in fact. The Entman-Rojecki Index of Race in Media, one of the most comprehensive studies on the subject, has found significant differences between how African-American and white characters are portrayed in movies. Black women are around five times more likely to be depicted as violent in movies, for example.

Racism in news programs is even worse. The Entman-Rojecki Index has found that it is four times more likely that an African-American’s mug shot will be featured in a crime story than a white person’s mug shot. Stories about African-American suspects are also twice as likely to show the suspect restrained than stories about white suspects.

The Katrina disaster was one of the most obvious examples of this bias in the last decade. The majority of the negative press coverage concerning looting and criminal behavior in post-Katrina New Orleans was focused on African-Americans. Some sarcastic commentators parodied the media coverage by observing that “Black people ‘loot’ food, but white people ‘find’ food.”

Economic and Social Differences

One of the most blatant examples of how racism remains in America today is the prison system. Approximately 10% of the male population of African-Americans between 25-29 are incarcerated at any one time, five times the rate of the next highest group. Racism also faces African-Americans who are looking for a job. While the national unemployment rate hovers around 10 percent, the unemployment rate for African-Americans is over 17 percent.

This isn’t merely a problem which is hurting urban or poor African-Americans, either. Middle-class African-Americans in cities across the country also find themselves suffering the same plight. Columnist Bob Herbert recently wrote about the problems facing African-Americans in Memphis, where he found that the “median income of black homeowners in Memphis has dropped to a level below that of 1990.” African-American families across the nation are more likely to be left unemployed no matter their income. The only thing more shocking than this is the relative lack of coverage in the press – while papers will happily report the statistics, few media outlets are willing to investigate the possibility that this difference is caused by racism.

Police Treatment and Racial Profiling

Racial profiling is one of the remaining examples of how racism still exists in the government. Simply being an African-American greatly increases your chances of being pulled over by police. One study in Maryland found that 76 percent of motorists stopped on a stretch of highway were African-Americans, while African-Americans only held 20 percent of all drivers licenses in the state.

Of all the topics surrounding racism in America today, racial profiling is by far the most hotly debated. The racial profiling debate moves forward on a daily basis, and while the debate mostly focuses on law enforcement, racial profiling is also a problem among the general public. No recent case illustrates this better than the arrest of Neli, an African-American teenager with Asperger’s. Neli was sitting outside of a school library when someone called the police stating that there was a black male with a gun. As it turned out, there was no gun, or any object like a gun – but by then Neli had been confronted by police.  Many journalists and civil rights activists have rightly pounced on this case as an example of racial profiling, arguing that there was nothing different about Neli that would have made him stand out from anyone else in the area that morning – except for the fact that he is an African-American male.

Light Skin and Dark Skin Racism

One of the more subtle issues surrounding racism in America is the difference in racism against African-Americans based on the shade of their skin.

Multiple studies have found that racism against African-Americans is more severe for those who have darker shades of skin than those who have lighter shades of skin. One grim Stanford University study found that in death row cases an African-American defendant was twice as likely to receive the death penalty if he had very dark skin and traditionally African features when compared with African-Americans with lighter skin and more European features.

Similar findings have been discovered in regards to employment. A Bucknell University study found that African-Americans with light skin were more likely to obtain a job than African-Americans of dark skin, although both were less likely to receive a job than a white candidate.

In Conclusion

The unfortunate truth is that racism still exists in American culture.  Many Americans of all races would rather not admit that this is the case. As a country we like to believe that we are civilized, and that we no longer let petty concerns such as race influence our views.

The evidence, however, is irrefutable. African-Americans are more likely to be depicted as violent in the media, are more likely to be sent to prison, are more likely to be pulled over or investigated by police and more likely to be unemployed. While America has made progress from the days when African-Americans were enslaved or blatantly persecuted by the government, our country still has a long ways to go.”

Occupy Los Angeles: M17—Anniversary Festival/Queer-Themed GA/HRC Action

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On Saturday, March 17, Occupy Los Angeles set out to hold a small celebration to honor the six-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street.

On an extremely large sidewalk, Occupiers gathered to eat, socialize and celebrate. However, within the first hour, LAPD was on hand to walk through the gathering to instigate either arrests or just plain ol’ escalation. I arrived to find at least 20-25 officers directly amongst the crowd, some standing in formation, so passing through them was not an option.

There were two medium size tents erected along the sidewalk (farthest from the street) that officers said would have to come down, due to the fact that they were blocking a park entrance. It was a well-known fact that the park and its entrances were closed, and would not be open to the public that weekend. Officers, still among the crowd, and walking through it rather forcefully, would not relent, and Occupiers acquiesced and removed the tents. Even with compliance, and still breaking no laws, LAPD remained close by. At one point, it became obvious that one officer was wearing sunglasses with a hidden camera.

A short while after—LAPD still remaining on scene, and still provocative in demeanor—the commanding officer on scene walked through the main Occupy crowd which had gathered, as he intended to arrest an individual for entering the park premises. He forcefully made his way through the crowd, other officers in tow,  pushing and shoving people with no regard to anyone’s safety. They apprehended the individual and in a short amount of time, he was face down on the pavement—a sign of unnecessary force. This riled the Occupiers to no end; however, they were still at the mercy of batons being swung and officers grabbing and shoving people violently. At this point, only the arrestee’s head was visible (below the crowd and officers). In pain, he yelled, “they’re breaking my arm!” Throughout the skirmish, three more individuals were arrested. “Trespassing,” especially during daylight hours, and in a public park, last time I checked, doesn’t warrant a violent arrest. That day, the LAPD were on hand to provoke, disrespect and instigate—that much was obvious.

More officers arrived on scene, and many were in riot gear. They formed a line just below the curb and kept all people forcefully on the sidewalk. A step off the curb, or too close for an officer’s liking, would have resulted in a baton in your chest or stomach. Some officers poised their batons inches from chests and stomachs, as though any Occupiers had threatened violence.

Outraged, Occupiers demanded badge numbers and officer’s names. It seemed as though LAPD would now all but consider the sidewalk a crime scene, and keep their “do not cross” lines; however, they departed faster than they arrived. The commanding officer, who had earlier made the first arrest, was in particular haste to leave the scene. As he climbed in his marked SUV to leave, Occupiers blocked the vehicle, demanding a badge number and name. At this point, the officer seemed somewhat frantic and in a panic. He threw his SUV in reverse, hit the gas hard, and drove all the way down Main St. towards 1st St. in reverse (surely, an illegal act). There remained a handful of officers, but all vacated the premises soon after the SUV tore down a very public road in reverse.

Indignant at the event that had just unfolded, the idea to march to the nearest metro detention center was consensed upon, and the march began.

We were met with officers both at the entrance and exit of the detention center, and in full riot gear. It was made clear we had come because we did not consent to—nay, we rejected—the actions of the LAPD, and it’d be known.
After 20 minutes, give or take a few, we all headed to Pershing Square via the middle of the street. Both angry, passionate and somewhat victorious, chants of “Whose streets?! Our streets! (among other things) echoed off walls of buildings. They certainly were…

After waiting for drummers to arrive, our decently large group of roughly 50-60 people set out towards the L.A. Live premises in downtown in preparation for the HRC (Human Rights Campaign) action, bringing light to the fact that Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein had recently been chosen as a spokesperson for marriage equality.

We marched through traffic, up along Figueroa St., and turned down a small side street off Olympic Blvd. to hold that evening’s Queer-themed GA. Police had made a noticeable presence on Olympic Blvd., and, since we were on a cul-de-sac, some voiced worries of being kettled. It was mainly a squad of bike officers that were sent to tend to the investigation of our plans, but remained on Olympic Blvd., and never once came down the cul-de-sac. They grew bored quickly once they learned nothing “exciting” was going to happen.

After people prepping for the HRC action with dressing in white hazmat suits donning statements like: “Danger: Do not enter. HRC toxic to equality, a march to the target hotel (the J.W. Marriot) commenced, where a large fundraiser would held.

From Occupy Los Angeles Queer Affinity Group handout:

We have chosen to focus on HRC’s alliance with Goldman Sachs, and the selection of Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein as a spokesperson for marriage equality, as a most clearly evident manifestation of this disconnect with our community. To honor a corporation that many feel is criminally responsible for the economic disenfranchisement of so many working people, a corporation that has recently been described as having a “culture that is toxic and destructive” by one of its own departing executive directors, and to select a CEO who compensation was $53M in 2007…as spokesperson for ANY kind of equality is not only tone deaf to the injustice many working and poor LGBTQ individuals have faced as a result of these practices—it’s just plain offensive.

Occupiers took a short jaunt up Olympic Blvd. and posted up to the entrance of the J.W. Marriot, in plain view of all traffic coming in—both pedestrian and vehicle. Many onlookers took interest in what the protest was about, some even asking for literature. Many people spoke, many people listened, and the word was spread that HRC’s newest spokesperson for marriage equality, was, in fact, not the right person to elect to represent any form of equality—especially that of marriage.

It was more than unfortunate that four people fell victim to LAPD’s oppression that day; however,  I think most would say that the events that followed were a success.

Occupy Fights Foreclosures: Blanca Cardenas Vigil

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On March 6, 2012, OFF (Occupy Fights Foreclosures) and local community members held a vigil for Blanca Cardenas in North Hollywood, CA. Blanca had recently been deported under strange circumstances following an arrest while trying to save her illegally foreclosed home. Blanca’s two small children are both U.S. Citizens, her husband is a U.S. citizen, and she has resided in this country for over 15 years—nine of which she has been married, and eight of which she has owned her home.

From an OFF press release:

“The family disputes the foreclosures and eviction due to fraudulent paperwork filed by the banks and a pending federal bankruptcy which is supposed to protect homeowners from eviction.

Although the exact circumstances leading up to Mrs. Cardenas’s detention and ICE deportation remains unclear, it appears the inciting event ties to an investor named Mehrdad Farahmand from A to Z Development, who recently was the highest bidder for the property at an auction.”

The action started with roughly 30-40 people, children included, rounding the neighborhood to let neighbors know everything was not all right; that matters worth their attention were upon them; that their involvement was requested. After rounding the small block chanting in English and Spanish—signs fully discernible—the group of Occupiers and community members headed back towards the Cardenas home. There, they were met with mainstream media news crews. Subsequently, a press conference was held to discuss the plight of Blanca and the Cardenas family. Carlos Marroquin and Cheryl Aichele of OFF spoke to Blanca’s cause and of the systematic fraudulent activity that banks and lenders practice as the status quo.

Watching everyone gather for the press conference was rather inspiring. Everyone, of all races, creeds, and ages came together, quite literally, to form what almost looked like a wall of thin, cardboard signs. Signs asking for resolution and exposing the truth about one of the most crooked elements of industry within America—which our country’s government has yet to even acknowledge. Musician and Occupier Michelle Shocked then played a song she recently wrote about Blanca’s fate—all the while cameras still rolled and reporters still stood amidst the crowd.

After the press conference and individual interviews, it became clear that two police cars blocked each end of the street. Officers stood outside of the vehicles, but did not come within any close proximity of the house.

As things cooled off with the media, things started to heat up with the crowd. Gerardo Quinones, Blanca’s husband, stood by as individuals gained entry into his home for him so he could gather belongings for himself and his children. Rumors that police would be arresting individuals on the property circulated, which fell, for the most part, upon deaf ears. Occupiers mobilized on the porch and chanted, signs touted high, as the crowd on the street—still very present—chanted along with them.
A quick trip up the street would reveal officers with semi-riot gear (i.e. helmets, zip-tie handcuffs, etc.) and what looked like “preparation” for an impending command. Fortunately, nothing of the sort happened. However, North Hollywood Division Capt. Peter Willingham did show up on scene. Rather calm and collected, and with a kind demeanor, he suggested he knew what the family was going though, that emotions were running high, but that anyone who stayed on the property would be arrested. One can speculate how the conversation and demeanor may have been different were there not mainstream news cameras present. After an Occupier asked for 10 more minutes for family and friends to gather belongings, the officer obliged. All in all, the family had a little over an hour to gather belongings. No arrests were made.

A recent San Francisco County audit of 384 foreclosures has stated that 99 percent of  those foreclosures had questionable activity, 84 percent had a clear violation of law, and over two-thirds had four or more violations. Occupiers, and non-Occupiers alike, are demanding a moratorium on foreclosures while investigations—that have yet to begun—are conducted.

According to realtytrac.com, in California during January of 2012,
1 out of every 265 housing units had been foreclosed on, with a total of    51, 584 foreclosures.

 

LGBTQ Hyatt Action—F11

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OUT and Occupy, Occupy Los Angeles Queer Affinity Group, UNITEHERE Local 11 and others within the LGBTQ community “broke up” with the Hyatt Andaz Hotel on Feb. 4, 2012.

No War Against Iran!—F4

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On February 4, 2012, the Answer Coalition called on people to gather and demand: “NO WAR on Iran—NO Sanctions, NO Intervention, NO Assassinations.”

People of all ages and from all walks of life attended, included an indigenous Mexican dance group, called the Danza Mexica Caghtemoc, which practiced their native art of Danza-style dance. Police presence was low, moral was high, and midday at the corner of Wilshire and Western in Los Angeles, people voiced their opinions and concerns about the current escalating events potentially leading up to a war with Iran. Occupiers, of course, were there to support the cause.

 

Occupy: Los Angeles — Occupy the Rose Parade (OTRP)

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This gallery contains 82 photos.

Although the Occupy the Rose Parade action was not officially endorsed by Occupy Los Angeles or Pasadena General Assemblies, myself and thousands of others were more than happy at the opportunity to spread the message of the movement at the … Continue reading

Occupy: Los Angeles — Raid 11/30/11

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On the night of the raid, tensions ran high, as, once again, rumors spread. Except, on this night, they seemed to be more substantiated. Officers were seen entering City Hall with bags in their hands (riot gear) and people swore up and down their sources that said the raid would happen that night were credible.

Protestor’s numbers reached in to the thousands, as they had on Sun when Occupy Los Angeles became an illegal assembly (if still held at city hall).

The main rumor circulating the camp was that the LAPD would wait until the park’s curfew to move in—and it didn’t happen far after that. Sometime after 9:30PM, there were reports that LAPD was mobilizing at or near Dodger stadium. Perhaps, unbeknownst to many occupiers, KCAL 9 news had a feed showing an aerial shot of LAPD mobilizing. At approximately 11:00PM it was reported that Department of Homeland Security and MTA buses packed with officers were on their way. This was then confirmed via video (at least the MTA buses). The last word before the raid was that buses had arrived a block away. It was happening…

I walked toward 1st and Main—where many had gathered—and turned around. People started yelling, “The cops are here, they’re here!” I ran as fast as I could toward the middle of the park, where the “last tent standing” and the “arrestables” were sitting in a circle; arms locked. I turned around—we were surrounded. It had happened that fast.

Over the next few minutes I decided to test the LAPD a bit, or maybe, see how each officer reacted to my request of, “Am I free to go?” I spoke to at least 6 officers, and for every one officer that said I was free to leave, there was one to say I was NOT free to leave.

After roughly 12 minutes within the circle, I decided it was time to leave the inner circle since I did not trust the LAPD. That would be left up to photographers with insurance on their gear.

After a friend and I spoke with a sergeant (as the two last officers we spoke with told us we couldn’t leave—the adverse from previous conversations), he had officers let us through, and out of the inner circle. We then posted up in the second perimeter and waited. Not long after, officers walked through the park with bullhorns, sternly addressing protesters with, “This is the LAPD. This has been deemed an illegal assembly. You will have 8 minutes to disperse before arrests are made and possible police action is taken.” After roughly 4 minutes, I started walking to the outer perimeter of the park, where, almost immediately, all people in that area where pushed farther and farther toward the street. They stopped at the street, but within minutes, advanced their lines and pushed us back until everyone was either in the immediate circle within the park, or on the outer limits of the city hall block. There, on 1st, directly below Main, we stood before officers in full riot gear with batons poised.

This isn’t the end.

Please do view a video that demonstrates events that DID occur, that many people did not see or document.

Occupation: Los Angeles—Eviction Imminent

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Based on Mayor Villaraigosa’s press conference, Occupation Los Angeles, if continued to occupy city hall past 12:01AM on 11/29/11, would become an illegal assembly.

That night no raid happened. But rumors flowed through the camp and people were unsure. Tension ran high. What, perhaps, came as a shock to other occupiers, was the sheer number of people that came to General Assembly that night, and stayed throughout the early hours of the morning in support. 1st street, from Main to Broadway, was overrun by occupiers. Police set up a perimeter, although their numbers were small, and they technically only had half of a perimeter enacted (only three immediate corners of the perimeter had been blocked off). Anyone could access city hall if so desired.

These are photos of the day leading up to and the actual day the encampment became “illegal.”

Occupy: Los Angeles Day One 10/1/11

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After hearing that Occupy: Los Angeles would be a reality, I knew there was no way I could not be present for the first day. It has been a long time coming that I have wished for a protest this meaningful and with the potential to create so much change and the thirst for more knowledge by human-beings all across the globe. Not only was I there to represent myself being of the 99%, to be there for all those that wanted to and couldn’t, but also to document it and spread the photos as far and wide as I possibly could.

The first day went beautifully and without incident. Police presence was almost non-existent and all participants were left on their own accord to do what they wished.

This is just the beginning…

We are the majority; the 99%.

If anyone would like any or all of these images in full, hi-res, please email me at info@batesimaging.com.


Kaysi’s Suicide

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I had had the idea to do a shoot on Pasadena’s suicide bridge for a while before I came across Kaysi’s willingness to actually do the shoot…in the dead middle of winter, at approximately 2 A.M. I can’t recall if I had told her ahead of time that I envisioned her lying in the middle of the bridge (stomach down) at some point during the shoot, but either way, she was down for it.

Our first attempt, late on a weekday evening, ended with retreat on our part, due to two male individuals that made it a point to stop and stare at us from a distance of about 75 yards. At 2 A.M., with all my gear and Kaysi being a target just for the fact that she is a girl, I thought it better to call it off. We returned the next week with her dog, Winston, and although we had some creepy incidents, it was nothing major and we were able to complete the shoot.