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Ground Game LA’s 2019 Year in Review

It’s been an incredible year of building community power here at Ground Game LA. Here are the highlights.

What we believe.

It’s been an incredible year of building community power here at Ground Game LA. We wanted to extend a heartfelt Thank You for all of your support this last year. GGLA is still a young organization, we only started in 2017, but in that time we’ve accomplished so much.

We could never have made it this far without you, truly.

2020 is just starting and we wanted to let you know about all the work we did last year; all the wins and all the things we’re still working to achieve. So here’s our year end wrap up (in pretty much chronological order).

Jackie Lacey Protests

For more than two years Black Lives Matter LA has led weekly vigils at the Hall of Justice, where DA Jackie Lacey has her office. For two years these vigils have uplifted the names of those killed by police in LA County, given the families a voice, and created a community dedicated to ending abusive policing and incarceration.

A poster for protests against LA County DA Jackie Lacey, text says “Jackie Lacey must go, 2 years of protest.”
Two years of protests lead by BLM LA

Since DA Lacey took office in 2013 more than 500 people have been killed by police in LA County, but so far only 1 officer has faced any kind of consequence. As long as police are able to kill with impunity our communities will not be safe.

Ground Game is there every week, sometimes in a hosting capacity, as part of our work on criminal legal system reform. As part of this coalition we worked alongside other community groups to win passage of SB 1421, a bill that stops police from hiding records of police misconduct. Passed in August 2018, SB 1421 finally took effect in January 2019 and has reverberated across California giving communities a new tool to hold police departments accountable for abuses.

A crowd gathers outside the LA Hall of Justice at a rally supporting the families of victims of police violence
Families of victim’s of police violence, assisted by ACLU SoCal, filed suit against the LA County Sheriff’s Department for violations of open records law

We even took the protests directly to Jackie Lacey’s home, demanding that she do her job and hold police accountable for violence. Jackie refused to meet with the community members and called for LAPD to escort her out of her neighborhood while threatening families with arrest for exercising their First Amendment rights.

Photo of John Motter with text: You Can’t Trespass On Stolen Land

At a protest in January 2019, Ground Game team member John Motter and activist Adam Rice were arrested for entering a private fundraiser at a downtown LA restaurant. Charges were dropped against Adam, but John was given a court date in March. Ground Game and our allies showed up to support John and were relieved when the City Attorney decided not to pursue charges, but left open the possibility that charges could be filed again within the year. Despite the implicit threat, no further action has been taken by the City Attorney.

A group of people on stairs celebrate a court victory
Court Support for John Motter (kneeling, center)

Street Watch

LAPD officers and LA Sanitation workers during a sweep on the boardwalk at Venice Beach, CA
Police and LA Sanitation workers during a sweep on Venice Beach

Street Watch is a program of volunteers who keep tabs on police and sanitation workers while they are sweeping encampments. Volunteers work tirelessly to expose the inhumanity and brutality of these practices. On a daily basis police and city workers push unhoused people out of their encampments, seize their possessions, and diminish their humanity.

Despite some wins against these incredibly cruel policies, the city continues to criminalize living on the streets with laws like 48.02 and 56.11 which make it illegal to live in your car or in a tent on the street. As long as LA lacks affordable housing we will see more people pushed onto the streets where they will fall victim to these cruel policies.

Los Angeles City Council District 12

Ground Game team members on the cover of the LA Times while canvassing for Dr. Loraine Lundquist
Ground Game LA team member (left to right) Jesse Alson-Milkman, Ian Carr, and Brooke Jacobovitz on the cover of the LA Times

At the end of 2018 LA City Councilmember Mitch Englander surprised everyone by resigning his seat and triggering a special election. 15 candidates ran in the special election, including Dr. Loraine Lundquist. Dr. Lundquist is a professor at Cal State Northridge, where she teaches climate and sustainability, and has been an active community member working to shut down Aliso Canyon once and for all. We threw out full support behind Dr. Lundquist. With a cadre of volunteers we were able to knock thousands of doors, made thousands of phone calls, and helped propel her to victory in the special election in June.

Ground Game LA and Food and Water action celebrate Dr. Lunquist’s win in the special primary election in June 2019
Dr. Loraine Lundquist’s insurgent campaign won the June special election

However, that June election was just to decide who would go to the run-off in August. Despite the work of dedicated community members, Dr. Lundquist lost to Englander’s former staffer John Lee. That election determined who would serve out the rest of Englander’s term and another election is coming up on the March 3rd ballot.

Ground Game LA is endorsing Dr. Lundquist again and this time we believe that she will take the seat as a progressive wave is primed to sweep local and national elections. She is facing off against John Lee again, but our movement has grown in breadth and depth, and there is too much at stake for CD 12 to not fight for every vote.

Council District 12 Candidate Forum

Candidates hold up cards saying Yes or No in response to questions about their policies if elected
LA City Council District 12 candidates at the Ground Game/Food and Water Action candidate forum in April 2019

Our primary mission is civic engagement and we wanted to make sure that every voter in CD 12 knew who was running to represent them. On April 14th we hosted a candidate forum with 11 of the candidates.

Not only did this take a tremendous amount of work and coordination but it earned high marks from the local press. Our moderators asked tough questions to the candidates to force them to truly show their priorities and tell the voters how they would represent them if elected.

“Closing Aliso Canyon is in front of the minds of the voters right now in terms protecting their families,” [Food and Water organizer Walker] Foley said. “As long as the facility is there, it’s going to present danger to them. Whoever gets elected, the community is going to hold them accountable for acting on their behalf.”

Ground Game Mutual Aid Society (GG MAS)

A medic bag with a patch that say “GG MAS”
Medic bag at the 2019 Women’s March

After participating in many actions we identified a need to learn first aid and train other organizers in first aid techniques. We took first aid classes, studied up on street medic techniques, and started our own mutual aid group: Ground Game Mutual Aid Society. Our organizers continue to learn how they can assist people in need. We will be offering classes in how to help during direct actions and providing resources for anyone to get certified in first aid.

Services Not Sweeps

Services Not Sweeps logo
Services Not Sweeps

In April, several community and service organizations joined together to push the city to change how it deals with people living on the streets. The Services Not Sweeps coalition has one fundamental mission: to put dignity and humanity first. Ground Game LA is proud to be one of the organizations that help found this coalition and we continue to be active members; doing outreach at encampments, spreading awareness, and lobbying for more humane policies.

The coalition took its message to city hall calling for an end to punitive sweeps and over policing of our unhoused neighbor. And won! After several committee meetings and contentious council sessions City Hall revamped how it approaches homelessness, somewhat. Now, outreach and services are prioritized over throwing out peoples’ belongings and arresting them for living on the street. There is still a long way to go, but the coalition has only gained momentum.

8 photos in a grid of Ground Game and allies giving public comment at LA City Hall
Community members give public comment against LA’s cruel policies towards its unhoused population

During the contentious City Council debates over renewing laws like the car sleeping ban and the camping ban, Ground Game members showed up with our allies to tell the city of LA to choose compassion over cruelty. Unfortunately, the City Council voted to renew these bans.

In December, the US Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal to the 9th Circuit court decision in the case of Martin v. Boise, which effectively outlawed tent camping bans when there are not enough shelter beds to accommodate unhoused populations. The City and County of LA each filed amicus briefs urging the court to hear the case and potentially allow them to reinstate the bans, despite public outcry against the move.

Vacancy Tax

Housing in LA is in a near permanent state of crisis. Since 2010 rents in LA have risen 65%! We need bold policies that will reign in skyrocketing costs for working Angelenos. In June, City Councilmember Mike Bonin introduced a motion to put a vacancy tax on the ballot in LA. This idea was inspired by the work done by Ground Game organizer Steve Ducey and his work at Central Hollywood Neighborhood Council.

A vacancy tax is a tax on rental properties that are empty or are offering less than 12 month leases. In Vancouver a 1% on vacant properties has brought in tens of millions in revenue and caused landlords to rent otherwise empty properties. The LA version would also outlaw lease terms that are less than 12 months, severely curtailing the trend to offer short term corporate housing at exorbitant rates.

“No bed in this city should be empty when people are being forced to sleep on pavement,” [Councilmember Mike] Bonin said. “Empty home penalties encourage landlords to keep people housed, and they help raise needed funds to create more affordable housing. This is an important tool for addressing one of the root causes of homelessness in LA, and it is a step we desperately need to take.”

We need bold solutions to solve the housing crisis and reign in landlord greed. Making it unprofitable to keep housing stock off the market is a good first step to realigning how we approach housing policy. If we want to fix the housing crisis we need to stop seeing housing as a chance for a landlord to earn a rent check and start seeing housing as a fundamental human right.

Drop The MIC Tour

Drop The MIC Tour

In July we were honored to co-host the #DropTheMIC tour with About Face. Organizing against the military-industrial complex is taxing work, but the veterans of About Face have shown a dedication that few can match.

For two days guests were able to watch panels, talk with veterans, and get active in the struggle against imperialism. Several hundred people joined us to learn about how we can each take a stand and create a more peaceful world.

Homes Guarantee

People’s Action unveiled a bold plan to address the housing crisis on a national level. The Homes Guarantee lays out several policy that would ensure that everyone in America has a safe, sustainable home. The key proposals:

●Build 12 million social housing units and eradicate homelessness;

●Reinvest in existing public housing;

●Protect renters and bank tenants;

●Pay reparations for centuries of racist housing policies;

●End land/real estate speculation and de-commodify housing.

Ground Game and POWER were deeply involved in the development of this platform as part of our work on housing justice to make housing a human right. But we were not the prime movers, as this coalition was built by community leaders from across the country, who took their demands all the way to the halls of Congress.

“The problem is simple: bankers, developers, and landlords have been allowed to charge our families more and more and provide us with less and less,” said Rose Fernandez, member of Community Voices Heard (NY) and People’s Action’s housing justice cohort, who helped create the plan. “They created a system to maximize their profit above all else, so our solution is equally simple: change the whole system. Put people first.”

Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announce the Green New Deal For Public Housing Act in Washington, DC
Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announce the Green New Deal For Public Housing Act in Washington, DC

In November Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced the Green New Deal For Public Housing, which will address shortfalls in our current public housing stock. By fully funding energy efficiency upgrades while training community members to create 240,000 good jobs every year, this is an ambitious plan to bring our public housing into the 21st century.

Climate Strikes

In late 2018 LA saw its first Sunrise Movement hub start after an action at Representative Ted Lieu’s office. The very first Sunrise LA meeting was held at the Ground Game office in Hollywood, from there things have grown. Now Sunrise LA boasts several thousand members and has staged dozens of actions.

[Click Here to see video from LA’s September 20th Climate Strike]

In September two days of action were planned across the globe. On 9/20 4 million people mobilized globally to call for real climate action. A week later, on 9/27, more than 6 million people took the streets.

At an LA Climate Strike a marcher holds a sign that reads “Good Jobs And A Livable Future”
Los Angeles Climate Strike

LA’s climate strike drew tens of thousands of people who marched through downtown and gathered at City Hall to rally to show our politicians that we demand real action now. Ground Game members were instrumental in getting the Sunrise LA hub organized, training them in organizing principles, and help organize the mass rally that capped off the 9/20 Climate Strike.

From Aliso Canyon to having LA establish a Climate Emergency Office to fighting to end urban oil drilling, we’ve been at the forefront of the call for climate action.

Ground Game and our allies continue to call for the closure of the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility in Porter Ranch, CA. Aliso Canyon was the site of one of the largest methane leaks in world history, which caused the months long evacuation of nearly 40,000. While no longer being actively used, it presents an on going threat to our community. Governor Newsom and city leaders have dragged their feet fulfilling their promise to shut it down once and for all.

Protesters hold a banner saying: Governor Newson Shut Down Aliso!
Protesters demand that Governor Gavin Newsom fulfill his promise to shut down the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility

LA County Public Defenders Union

The Los Angeles County Office of the Public Defender is the largest defense law firm in the world with more than 700 attorneys, and hundreds more support staff. Attorneys in the office have been without a union for more than a decade. But that all changed this September when AFSCME Local 148 was officially formed in 2018 but they didn’t ratify their first contract until March 2019.

Ground Game team member Akio Katano, a public defender himself, helped to organize the push to win protections for the hardworking attorneys that defend LA’s most vulnerable defendants.

Border Protest

Protesters face are met by a line of heavily armed border agents at the US-Mexico border in Tijuana
Community members are met with heavily armed federal agents at the US-Mexico border

In October clergy members and activists protested at the Mexican-American border against our country’s continuing illegal policies. Despite several court losses and public outrage, the Trump administration has continued its policies of family separation, arbitrary denials of asylum, and punitive detention; policies which all violate international law.

Jorge Bautista is face down on the sand being arrested by CBP agents
Jorge Bautista is arrested by federal officers

32 people were arrested at the action, including clergy and veterans, and 4 were charged with “failure to comply with a lawful order” for getting too close to the border wall.

In December the case against the 4 defendants — two combat veterans, Wendy Barranco and Brittany DeBarros, Rev. Jorge Bautista from the United Church of Christ and Jewish clergy member Rae Abileah — went to trial.

All four were found Not Guilty.

The four defendants after their not guilty verdicts on all charges
(left to right) Jorge Bautista, Brittney Debarros, Wendy Barranco, and Rae Abileah after being found not guilty on all charges stemming from an October protest at the US-Mexico border

12 Weeks of Spanish Education for Organizers

Los Angeles speaks 224 different languages and for most Angelenos (60%) English is not their first language. There is a real need for multilingual organizers in every part of the city, but it can be hard to afford the time and money to take classes.

Ground Game struggles with this as much as any English speaking organization, but we were lucky to have organizers who had the time and dedication to lead classes in Spanish. Over the course of 12 weeks we read “Harry Potter y la Piedra Filosofa” and ran the immersion classes, ie only speaking Spanish during class time.

Not only did we get to revisit a pretty beloved book, we also picked up valuable lessons in an intense course plan. One that we hope to offer again.

People’s Action Presidential Forum in Las Vegas

As a member of People’s Action Network we had the amazing chance to participate in the October Presidential forum in Las Vegas, NV that brought Democratic candidates face to face with community leaders to discuss the issues that matter most.

Candidates discussed healthcare, housing, labor rights, and the climate crisis with People’s Action members.

Nearly every major candidate took the time to participate and take questions from moderators and attendees. Based on their answers People’s Action ranked the candidates from most in line with our platform to least. Unsurprisingly Bernie Sanders came in first, with Elizabeth Warren a close second.

Nithya Raman for City Council Endorsement

Nithya Raman is one of the founders of SELAH Neighborhood Homeless Coalition which brings relief to people struggling to survive on the street. In late 2019 she announced her run for LA City Council’s District 4 seat.

Ground Game LA’s endorsement of Nithya Raman

Ground Game has endorsed Nithya’s campaign based on her previous work, her experience as the executive director of Time’s Up Hollywood, and her dedication to bringing a true progressive vision to City Hall.

Nithya is running against an incumbent who has taken big money from wealthy interests in LA, used his office to quash effective policy, and has failed to prove his dedication to building an LA for everyone.

Bernie Sanders Endorsement

Celebrating our endorsement with Senator Bernie Sanders

On December 21st Bernie Sanders came to Venice Beach for a rally with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and LA leaders. But before the rally he attended a meeting with Ground Game, UTLA, and other community organizations.

After consulting our membership Ground Game wholeheartedly endorsed Bernie for President and we were honored to deliver the news to him directly.

This Presidential election is incredibly important, as our most vulnerable communities are under continued threats from the Trump administration. We believe that Bernie Sanders represents our best hope at achieving a true co-governing relationship in the White House with a President who understands the power, and necessity, of grassroots organizing.

You can support the work that we do and grow our organization by becoming a monthly sustaining donor. We don’t have billionaires to cut us checks, instead we rely on our community to keep the work going.

To become a sustaining donor: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ggla

To become a KNOCK.LA patron: https://patreon.com/knock_la

2020 is going to a historic year: what we achieve now will set the course for the next decade, and that’s why we must do everything we can to build the world that we all deserve.