Thursday, July 11, 2013

Rock hard out in the desert

“The family’s home was...vandalized, with ‘I hate Section 8' followed by a profanity and a racial slur. The family’s son had urine thrown at him by someone who shouted, ‘You dirty Section 8' and a racial slur. The family moved back to inner-city Los Angeles for fear of more harassment...”

This certainly sounds to me like some civil rights have been violated, to say the least.

But that’s not how city officials in the Los Angeles County towns of Palmdale and Lancaster in the desert-like Antelope Valley northeast of L.A see it. Never mind that, as reported in the Los Angeles Times last week, this incident and numerous others are recounted in a two-year investigation by the U.S Department of Justice and highlighted in a letter from U.S Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez to L.A Sheriff Lee Baca. Never mind that, according to Perez, one sheriff’s supervisor told Justice Department officials that he thought all African-Americans were recently moved to the Antelope Valley were gang members.

And never mind that, as I have written about before, the investigation started when there were reports that Palmdale and Lancaster residents receiving Section 8 rental subsidies from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, who are mostly black, were subjected to surprise visits by inspectors accompanied by gun-toting sheriff deputies. Or that, during some of these inspections, people were handcuffed, held down and punched.

Or that, in the case concerning the family mentioned above and detailed by Perez, a L.A County sheriff deputy uploaded photographs of luxury vehicles in the garage of the family receiving subsidized housing to an “I Hate Section 8" Facebook page (who knew there was one!).

As ugly and damning as every little bit of all this is, officials from both cities and the county are disputing the findings and saying they won’t pay out the $12.5 million that the Justice Department has ordered that they pay to the victims of harassment and intimidation. They insist that they were only checking to see if the tenants were abiding by Section 8 rules in an effort to keep the communities safe. There are talks going on, but this could end up in court.

I have written before about R. Rex Parris, the mayor of Lancaster who prefers to start off City Council meetings with a prayer to Jesus. I didn’t know that he is a “veteran civil lawyer,” but apparently he is. In any case, he said, “If the county wants to pay millions, let them do it, but Lancaster isn’t going to pay 10 cents of it.” He also publicly complained that it was “unfair” that African Americans receive a disproportionately high percentage of Section 8 vouchers and that his city should be “waging a war” against the program.

Like I said, it sounds like a violation of or “waging a war” against civil rights - enough so that people feel safer back in the inner-city ghetto.

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