Things That Matter

After A Film Crew Went Into Boyle Heights And Began Towing Cars On Labor Day, A Local Artist Confronted Them

For many in Boyle Heights, a working-class neighborhood in East Los Angeles, Labor Day was to supposed to be a relaxing stress-free day. However, on Monday afternoon, local residents living next to Hollenback Park were dealing with Blank Slate Pictures, a film production company, that was towing their vehicles. The messy ordeal was something that Boyle Heights resident and artist Nico Aviña had previously seen before but never on a national holiday like Labor Day when many in the working-class community have the day off. 

The predominately Latino neighborhood of Boyle Heights has become a popular area for filming movies and television shows. Yet quite often, the production crews that come into the area haven’t had good communication with local residents when it comes to things like moving their vehicles.

According to L.A. Taco, Aviña saw the situation unfold right before his eyes as he was doing yard work in front of his home. He noticed that neighbors across the street from the park began alerting each other about their vehicles being towed. Upon checking out the scene, Aviña saw a tow truck begin taking cars away and a parking enforcement officer placing tickets on cars windshields. 

That’s when Aviña took things into his own hands and began to ask members of the production crew why they were doing all of this. 

In a series of four Instagram videos, Aviña shared his confrontation with members of the production crew asking them what business they had coming into the neighborhood and towing away residents vehicles. Since this wasn’t the first time he’s seen this happen, Aviña began questioning the motive behind crew members calling city parking and promptly towing away cars.

Aviña made sure that David Mandell heard his frustration about outsiders disregarding community members in Boyle Heights.

Credit: davidmandell / Instagram

“So this is what happens when people from outside of the community come into our community. They use the city against the community, towing cars,” Aviña says as Mandell, a co-founder of Blank Slate Production, argues back. 

In the series of videos, you can hear Aviña begin to get frustrated with crew members as they dodged questions about why they were towing cars and why they didn’t give notice to residents about parking restriction before the weekend. Speaking to L.A. Taco, he said that many of the families in the neighborhood were out town due to the holiday weekend and might have not seen a notice about the production crew and possible parking restrictions. 

“In the video, you hear one claim the signs went up Friday. Kids didn’t go to school on Friday. So if people took a four-day trip how were they going to see the signs?” Aviña told L.A. Taco

Aviña took exception with the production crew as he asked them why there was no alternative to calling a tow truck on residents cars.

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“This is a working-class community. On Labor Day, you’re towing cars. Are you for reals? Did you guys think about that? Did you guys think about this is a working-class community and you guys are towing cars on our day off and we have nowhere to park? Aviña says in the video. “Where’s the alternative parking that you guys offer?”

Aviña and Peter Vogel, co-founder of Blank Slate Production, discussed the parking situation at hand. “You may park in that parking lot over there,” Vogel told Aviña. “It’s open.”

“No. You just said that right now, but you know it’s closed. I just told you it was closed,” Aviña responded. 

“No, you didn’t,” Vogel said.

“You’re going to act like that? Are you going to act like that?” Aviña replied.  

Ironically, the film that the production company was filming is about a woman who is “forced to raise her son in her car” as they “attempt to find a way out of homelessness.” 

Credit: @elrandomhero / Twitter

Blank Slate Pictures was in Hollenbeck Park to film the upcoming movie “Like Turtles,” which according to IMDB is based on a mother who “is forced to raise her son in her car and attempt to find a way out of homelessness all while never letting her son realize the severity of their circumstances.” Some on social media found irony in the situation that a film crew doing a movie about a person living out of their car while at the same time towing away residents cars. 

Parking tickets have become a notorious problem in the neighborhood as there are limited spaces for residents to park their vehicles. With the addition of weekly street cleaning, many residents are forced to move their cars and shuffle spaces to avoid getting a ticket. Those tickets come at a steep price, according to the LA Times, retrieving a towed car can cost close to $290, this includes a $133 charge for the tow, an additional $115 to release the car and $46.56 for each following day the car is in city storage. 

For Aviña, this issue goes beyond just towing cars but is a perfect example of when outside forces come into the neighborhood and don’t bother to reach out to the community.

Credit: @avalonsensei / Twitter

Aviña brings up the issue of privilege and gentrification that has affected the working-class neighborhood for the last decade. He points to the production crew as an example of this and them not reaching out to the local community. Boyle Heights has been ground zero in LA when it comes to gentrification as many longtime residents have lost their homes and businesses due to rising rents and development. 

“You see what I’m talking about, the privilege? You could’ve easily knocked on doors, man. You could’ve easily warned the community. Instead, a working-class neighborhood that is barely affording the effects of gentrification that pays the rent. […] A working-class community that can’t afford the rent because of the exploitation, because of what’s going on with gentrification. And instead of knocking on their doors, what do you do? You get their cars towed away,” Aviña says in the final video to the production crew. “So now they got another fine. Now they got a parking ticket, plus get their cars out. You know I’m making sense. You know it’s the truth. It’s our reality. We live this shit every day. You’re not the only ones that come and film here. We gotta deal with this daily.”

READ: This YouTuber Thought It Would Be Funny To Dress As A Mexican In Boyle Heights But Didn’t Get The Response He Wanted

Los Angeles Made History After Nury Martinez Became The First Latina City Council President

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Los Angeles Made History After Nury Martinez Became The First Latina City Council President

cd6nury / Instagram

There was some history made this past Tuesday as Nury Martinez was unanimously elected as the first Latina president in the 110-year history of the Los Angeles City Council. With a unanimous 14-0 vote, albeit Councilman Gil Cedillo was absent, the council chose to put Martinez at the head of one of the most important positions in the city. 

With the historic vote, the San Fernando Valley Councilwoman will be succeeding outgoing Council President Herb Wesson, the first African-American to head the council. Martinez will become just the second woman ever elected to serve as LA city council president. Before Martinez, Councilwoman Pat Russell was the first and only woman elected back in 1983. 

As the daughter of Mexican immigrants, who worked as a dishwasher and a factory worker, Martinez took time to credit and thank them during a speech on Tuesday.

Her humble beginnings growing up in Pacoima, a predominantly Latino working-class community in the San Fernando Valley, taught her the importance of hard work. Martinez saw her mom and dad work tirelessly for her family so she could have a chance at success one day. That day came on Tuesday. 

“As the daughter of immigrants, as a daughter of a dishwasher and factory worker, it is incredibly, incredibly personal for me to ensure that children and families in this city become a priority for all of us, to ensure our children have a safe way to walk home every day … to ensure that our families feel safe,” Martinez said on Tuesday. “And first and foremost, to ensure that children living in motels, children that are facing homelessness, finally become a priority of our city, to ensure that we … find them permanent housing for them to grow up.”

Martinez is the product of public schools and became the first in her family to graduate from college. She began her career serving her own community as part of the City of San Fernando Council from 2003-2009 then followed that as a member of the L.A. Unified School Board from 2009-2013. 

It was her upset victory in 2013 beating out well-known Democrat Cindy Montañez, a former state assemblywoman, for a seat on the city council that put her on the LA political map. Despite trailing 19 points after the primary city election, Martinez would win in the general election by 969 votes. 

“To think, six years ago, I wasn’t even supposed to be here. I worked so hard and I was able to turn it around,” Martinez told the LA Times. “It’s not only an honor, but I really and truly feel blessed. And I just want to make everyone proud.”

Martinez has previously taken on issues like ending homelessness, installing rent control laws and supporting low-income families. She hopes to continue fighting for this and similar issues as president of the city council. 

As part of the city council, Martinez worked on behalf of the many families in the San Fernando Valley taking on issues like housing projects, rent control, and paid family leave. These issues will continue to be part of her agenda as president of the city council as well as advocating for children and families. 

“It’s monumental. She looks like the face of L.A. and she’s been elected to the highest position possible,” Jaime Regalado, professor emeritus with California State University, Los Angeles, told LAist.  “Usually people consider city council president to be a stepping stone to elsewhere — and we’ll see what the future holds.”

The significant moment wasn’t lost on many who congratulated Martinez for this historic stepping stone for Latinas everywhere. 

Another trailblazer, Gloria Molina, who was first Latina ever elected to the City Council, told the LA Times that Martinez has an incredible opportunity in front of her to bring real change and representation to the position. 

“She has a real opportunity to bring so much change,” Molina said. “She has an opportunity to create a balance. Martinez’s election is “a very significant accomplishment, not just as a Latina but as a woman. It’s still a men’s game there.”

As the council vote was officially confirmed and the motion to elect Martinez passed, there was a loud eruption of applause from those in the council chamber. The significance of the moment wasn’t lost on Martinez who said that she will use the opportunity to highlight the best that Latinos can offer. 

“I think it’s important to continue to show the rest of the country what this community is made of,” she said. “The Latinos are ready to lead and we’re very grateful to be part of this wonderful country called America.”

READ: Julian Castro Says Kamala Harris Dropped Out Because Of An Unfair Media That Covers People Of Color Differently

Thousands Of People Gathered At An East LA High School To Show Their Support For Bernie Sanders

Things That Matter

Thousands Of People Gathered At An East LA High School To Show Their Support For Bernie Sanders

Javier Rojas / mitú

The latest stop on the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign trail hit East Los Angeles this past Saturday where a rally was held with efforts to mobilize voters in the predominantly Latino community. An estimated crowd of over 5,200 people showed up to  Woodrow Wilson High School in El Sereno to cheer on the Vermont senator. 

Signs that read “Bernie” and “Unidos con Bernie” could be seen well into the flock of supporters that chanted his name all afternoon. Before Sanders took the stage, supporters were energized by a performance Ozomatli, an East LA-based Latin rock band, who endorsed the senator just like they previously did in 2016. The energy of the crowd hit a peak point when Sanders emerged to take the stage and a booming “Bernie” chant took over the rally. 

Sanders took the stage addressing issues like education reform, leveling inequality and recent hot button issues like gun control. 

“Gun policy in this country, under my administration, will not be determined by the NRA,” Sanders told the crowd. “It will be determined by the American people and the American people want is common-sense gun safety legislation now.”

Bernie Sanders struck a chord with Latinos in California, particularly in East LA, where his campaign team debuted its first California office. As it stands, 34 percent of likely Democratic Latino voters under 30 support Sanders in his presidential run. 

Credit: Javier Rojas / mitú

The economy, healthcare and education are some of the biggest issues to Latino voters and Sanders has made efforts to make those some of his key campaign focal points. His campaign has resonated with more Latino voters in California than any other Democratic candidate. According to a recent poll by Latino Community Foundation, 31 percent of Latino voters would vote for Sanders, beating former Vice President Joe Biden, polling at 22 percent; Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, polling at 11 percent, and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, polling 9 percent.

When it comes to donating to his campaign, Latino voters have also been there for Sanders. From January to July, the Sanders team brought in an estimated $4.7 million from Latinos through the online fundraising platform ActBlue. His grassroots support from his previous 2016 run has seemed to follow into the 2020 election race with many young voters leading the way. 

“There’s lots of Latinos in California, there’s lots of working-class young people, and working-class voters and lots of folks who have a history of standing up against power,” Chuck Rocha, a senior adviser with the Sanders campaign, told the LA Times. “Bernie Sanders is their candidate, and all we have to do is give them the tools to be reminded of when to vote and where he stands on the issues and they will show up.”

On Saturday, many of those young voters voiced their support for Sanders and his campaign that touched on many vital issues that Latinos say matter to them. 

Credit: Javier Rojas / mitú

Fernando Salas, 19, lives in nearby Boyle Heights and has been a Sanders fan before he could even cast a vote back in 2016. He says that Sanders became popular among him and his friends during high school because of his proposed policies on the environment and tuition-free public college.

“I couldn’t even vote when I first heard of Bernie but I knew he was my guy right away,” Salas says as he holds up a “Viva Bernie” sign. “He cares about issues that my friends and I are talking about so why not Bernie.”

Sanders received loud applause at the rally when raising issues like education reform, canceling student debt, tuition-free public colleges and raising teachers’ wages.

“I will make sure that every teacher in America earns at least $60,000 because I believe in human rights,” Sanders said. “We believe that everybody, regardless of their income and background, has the right to get a higher education.”

If Sanders is going to win the Democratic nomination, he’s going to most likely have to win the Latino vote as well. 

Credit: Javier Rojas / mitú

For years, many political pundits have pointed toward the growing U.S. Latino population as a deciding force when it comes to voting power. This upcoming election will be a test of that power as Latinos are expected to be the largest minority voting group, exceeding Black voters for the first time ever. 

The Sanders campaign has done its work when it comes to winning this ever-important demographic group. Whether its hiring Latino workers as part of his campaign team or putting forth comprehensive immigration plans that address issues like DACA, Sanders has touched on all the right buttons for a large portion of Latino voters.

Salas says at the heart of the Sanders campaign is to help the “little people” in this country and he feels that he can deliver on that. 

“He’s been fighting this fight for many years now and I feel that after 2016, this is his time,” Salas says with hope.

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