The issues of a healthy food got on my dissident’s radar with City Hall’s assault on the nine community farms with massive fee increases on ordinary folks growing their own, passage of a ban on fast food in the “food desert” of South L.A.. and then the threat to kill the popular Hollywood Farmers’ Market
Then, on Friday, Tezozomoc, the inspirational leader of the South Central Farmers, called and said he was going to organize a protest at City Hall on Tuesday.
I wrote about the issue and Tezo and his group spread the word at the market on Sunday to farmers, vendors, artisans and patrons.
We gathered in the cold at 9 a.m.Tuesday outside the visitor’s entrance to CIty Hall, about 40 of us in all. And just like that, there was an instant protest.
Poster boards and magic markers suddenly came out and the market supporters from all the different perspectives start making their own protest signs they soon were waving at pedestrians and motorists.
It was a lesson on how to mobilize the community and make a statement to public officials about the folly of their policies and actions.
South Central Farmers know a lot about fighting for what they believe in. Not so long ago, they had a flourishing community farm but City Hall and the Community Redevelopment Agency decided to put a clothing company warehouse on the site and the was bulldozed after a long and bitter fight. Their battle is the subject of the Oscar-nominated documentary “The Garden.”
The site still is empty, a blighted eyesore, that South Central Farmers has the funding to buy and restore if only City Hall would give its approval. Meanwhile, they have 150 acres of leased land in Kern County where they set up a cooperative farm that is selling produce to the Whole Foods Markets and at farmers’ markets all over the city, revenue from the Hollywood market helping to subsidize those in Watts and Crenshaw.
At 10 a.m., we headed up to the City Council meeting and filled out cards for Public Comment.
It took about 90 minutes before the protesters were called because the Council chose to put on a dog-and-pony before enacting a green building code ordinance to fix the one they passed last week and because a long line of protesters from Hollywood, Westwood and Sherman Oaks were called first to object to the planned “fire sale” of nine city-owner parking lots to private developers — a deal that’s supposed to raise $53 million that will do nothing to solve the city’s massive budget crisis.
The parade of Hollywood Farmers’ Market supporters spend most of an hour explaining how it supports markets in the poorest parts of the city, provides income to hundreds of enterprising people, creates a sense of community in a city so often cold and indifferent to its people.
Council President Eric Garcetti began Tuesday’s meeting by making a commitment to save the market and expanded on his commitment at the end of Public Comment.
He came out from the horseshoe after I spoke and explained in detail his efforts to save the market and how he was working on a plan that the lets the LA Film School have access to its parking lot on Ivar.
It would require expanding the market north to Hollywood Boulevard where the parking lane could be used by vendors on Sunday mornings and possibly using Morningside Court off of Selma as well.
He said he would never let the market die, and I believed him.
In the space of 72 hours, a protest had been organized that brought people from many different backgrounds together for a common purpose and brought to public attention an important issue and moved forward to a solution.