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Police Forcibly Shut Down South Central L.A. Urban Farm, 40+ Protesters Arrested

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Hundreds of police officers in riot gear shut down a fourteen-acre urban farm in South Central Los Angeles on Tuesday. More than 40 protesters, including actor Darryl Hannah were arrested as they staged an encampment to resist removal from what is considered the largest urban farm in the United States. [includes rush transcript]

Hundreds of police officers in riot gear shut down a fourteen-acre urban farm in South Central Los Angeles on Tuesday. More than 40 protesters were arrested as they staged an encampment to resist removal from what is considered the largest urban farm in the United States.

It took authorities nearly eight hours to forcibly clear the farm. Police bulldozed vegetable gardens and used bolt cutters to remove the protesters who had chained themselves to trees and picnic tables on the property.

Since an eviction order last month, occupants have staged an encampment to resist removal from the land. Some three hundred and fifty families in South Central LA have used the fourteen-acre farm to grow a multitude of crops for over the past ten years. It was leased to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank following the 1992 Rodney King riots. In 2003, the land was sold back to a real estate developer who now wants to turn it into commercial property. The owner–Ralph Horowitz–recently turned down a sixteen million dollar offer for the site.

The encampment has attracted celebrity supporters including singers Joan Baez, Ben Harper and Willie Nelson and actors Danny Glover, Alicia Silverstone and Martin Sheen. Actor Darryl Hannah was among those protesting the eviction. She camped out in a tree on the farm. We reached her by phone yesterday as police were raiding the site.

  • Darryl Hannah, speaking from a tree at the South Central farm, June 13, 2006.

Hannah was later arrested along with dozens of other protesters. For more we go to Los Angeles to speak with the elected representative of the South Central Farmers.

  • Tezozomoc, elected representative of the South Central Farmers.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We reached her by phone yesterday, in the tree, as the police were raiding the site below.

DARYL HANNAH: There has been a massive show of force. I can see hundreds of police cars and I can’t even tell you how many police and storm trooper outfits. And they’re executing an eviction, which is — seems to be unnecessary. Because there was a deal on the table — the Annenberg Foundation and the Trust for Public Land had put an offer on the table for Mr. Horowitz. And I don’t know why they’re wasting taxpayers’ money this way. These are families who depend on this food. Literally, they’re subsistence farmers.

I see hundreds of police officers. They’ve got band saws, they’ve got a teargas canister pointing right at us, a big gun with a teargas thing on it, bolt-cutters, generators, and cables, and climbing people in climbing gear. The officers — some of them are putting on rubber gloves. I don’t know if that’s to handle some of the people down below the tree who are in lockdown mode. But hopefully they won’t be using chemical weapons.

AMY GOODMAN: What are you planning to do, Daryl Hannah?

DARYL HANNAH: I’m planning to hold my position here. I’ve committed, a month ago, to taking a principled stand on behalf of these farmers and this farm. And I plan on staying until they make me leave.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you willing to be arrested?

DARYL HANNAH: I’m going to hold my position.

AMY GOODMAN: And Daryl Hannah was arrested. The actor was speaking from a tree on the urban farm in South Central Los Angeles, arrested with dozens of other protesters. For more on the situation today, we go to Tezozomoc, the elected representative of the South Central farmers. Welcome to Democracy Now!

TEZOZOMOC: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: What happened?

TEZOZOMOC: Well, you know, this is a very sad day in the history of L.A., one of the few days where the issue wasn’t about money. It was about, you know, one person’s greed, one person’s smallness. And, you know, they — the sheriff’s department raided us, along with the L.A.P.D., and we were able to hold them off for about eight hours with use of our lockdown devices, including barrels filled with concrete, and lockdown mechanisms to keep them at bay while we were able to bring the media and be able to shine that spotlight, so that that we wouldn’t be buried in South Central L.A.

AMY GOODMAN: So what will happen now?

TEZOZOMOC: We basically continue today, we’re going to court. One of the things that will happen is that as usual, Mr. Horowitz’s arrogance will probably get him in a lot of trouble. One of the things that he has done is the destruction of personal property. The bulldozing of the plots is — we are going to go challenge that situation in court today, because that is destruction of personal property. When somebody is evicted, you can’t destroy their property. You have to give people an opportunity to take that property with them. Even after the eviction. And that happens — you know, if you’re evicted out of an apartment, they can’t just destroy your stuff. They tell you, “ok, you have 10 days, and in 10 days you’ll have three hours to get everything out of there.” And that’s one situation that he obviously has overestimated his authority.

Another issue is that a part of the place that he was bulldozing actually didn’t belong to him. It actually belongs to the City of L.A. And so there’s a whole bunch of issues. Additionally, he didn’t have a demolition permit, which requires a 30-day. He didn’t have a grading plan, which also requires permitting from the city. And so we were going to continue again, you know, he’s opened up an avenue for us to explore it. And we will basically go down that avenue, as we speak, this morning. Last night our lawyers were putting together a plan to go back to the courts and basically, deal with that issue.

AMY GOODMAN: Tezozomoc, we’re going to continue to follow the story, find out what happened in court today, as we report on this largest urban farm in the United States. It’s in South Central Los Angeles.

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