Things That Matter

‘They Call Us Monsters’ Is A Documentary That Explores The Lives Of Three Teenagers Serving Time For Serious Crimes

How should we treat juveniles who commit serious crimes?

Netflix has a documentary called “They Called Us Monsters” that follows three teenagers who have been sent to a Los Angeles juvenile detention facility. The three boys have been convicted of serious charges, including attempted murder and first-degree murder. The director of the film is Ben Lear, Norman Lear’s 28-year-old son, who found out about the boys after researching for a scripted project he had in mind about the prison system. According to PEOPLE, after Lear met the teenagers, he knew that he wanted to do a documentary exploring the legitimacy and impact of giving such young people long-term sentences.

“I remember being nervous and not knowing what to expect, and being immediately put at ease when I met all of them,” Lear told PEOPLE. “They were so young and ‘teenagery’ in every way, I just felt an immediate affinity.” Lear added: “I realized I hadn’t seen these kids depicted on film before.”

With that in mind, Lear went to the juvenile detention center and got the stories of the boys and of some of their victims. You can watch the documentary on Netflix to get the full story.

You can watch a little bit about one of the teenagers’ story below.


READ: A New Documentary Tells the Story of Latinas Who Were Sterilized Without Knowing It

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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

A Hiker Found The Decapitated Body Of a Man In Los Angeles’ Griffith Park

Things That Matter

A Hiker Found The Decapitated Body Of a Man In Los Angeles’ Griffith Park

@juan4prez / Twitter

A hiker in Los Angeles was horrified to find a decapitated and dismembered body in Griffith Park, near the intersection of Griffith Park Drive and Camp Road, on Monday morning. Around 9 a.m., the hiker encountered the body of a white or Hispanic man who seemed to be in his forties or fifties, immediately reporting it to local police. A homicide investigation was launched according to protocol, though Los Angeles Police Department Lt. Ryan Rabbet did tell the media that investigators do not believe a crime was committed. As of now, detectives are investigating the possibility that the victim had been living near the park in a homeless encampment.

Although the police don’t believe that foul play was involved, they cannot yet say for sure what the cause of death was.

Credit: visitcalifornia.com

Because the body was found in Griffith Park, authorities have suggested that the body may have been mutilated by wildlife—though, based on the wildlife that inhabit the park—this outcome is somewhat unlikely.

According to LAPARKS.org, Griffith Park is home to a variety of mammalian species, including mule deer, raccoon, coyote, gray fox, opossum, skunk, bobcat, and mountain lion. While raccoons can be aggressive, deaths that result from a raccoon encounter are usually due to the contraction of rabies following a bite. In the case of coyotes, the only known fatal coyote attack on an adult occurred in 2009, when Canadian country folk singer Taylor Mitchell was mauled by several coyotes on Cape Breton Highlands National Park‘s Skyline Trail in Nova Scotia. The only remaining animals that could have decapitated and dismembered the body found on Monday are bobcats or mountain lions—and even that is dubious.

Although bobcats and mountain lions have been known to attack humans, it happens very rarely. Both feline species are largely solitary. They normally hunt at night and hide out during the day, generally avoiding humans unless infected with rabies, which can make them unusually aggressive (in this case, they have been known to occasionally attack unprovoked). Three has never been a fatal mountain lion attack in Los Angeles County, and fewer than thirty in all of North America, according to the Mountain Lion Foundation.

Plus, there is only one known mountain lion currently living in Griffith Park—a male known as P-22, whose past diet and behavior patterns do not suggest he would have attacked a human.

Credit: Steve Winter/National Geographic

While it could still be possible that a wild animal caused this man’s death, officials have speculated that a homeless person may have died of other causes in or near the park, only to be later dismembered by an animal—not only was the body’s head missing, but various body parts were also found scattered throughout the surrounding area. The man is estimated to have died two to three days before the body’s discovery.

“The evidence suggests that the person had passed away and animals may have gotten to it, possibly a homeless individual staying up in the area,” said LAPD Lt. Ryan Rabbet.

 Still, detectives are proceeding with a murder investigation.

Griffith Park is located in city Council District 4, which has seen a 53% increase of homeless populations just this year—the highest jump in all of Los Angeles.

Credit: Los Angeles Times

According to the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority, Council District 4 has seen a 111% increase of Hispanic/Latinx homeless populations between 2018 and 2019—the highest of any ethnic group. As a way of addressing the current boost in homeless numbers, City Councilman David Ryu proposed the construction of a new housing shelter on the southern end of Griffith Park. The shelter, as it’s been proposed, would be able to provide 100 people with shelter, and while the project could cost up to $4.6 billion, officials say that it would be fully funded through the city’s “A Bridge Home” program, which receives funding through California’s state budget surplus. According to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s website, Los Angeles alone received $85 million in 2018 and $124 million from the state in 2019 to bring our unhoused neighbors indoors. 

The “A Bridge Home” program was first introduced by Garcetti in April of 2018 as an initiative to implement temporary emergency shelters throughout the city. Each shelter is scheduled to remain for a period of three years. The first shelter was erected in September of last year, and five additional shelters have emerged since then.

When speaking about the forthcoming shelter in Griffith Park, David Ryu said, “In times of crisis, parks have always helped meet our highest challenges and serve our greatest needs. By opening up this lot to Bridge Housing, we will not only meet the crisis of our time, but we will also help build community around this shared purpose of ending homelessness.”