Apology for involvement in police weapons program not enough for protesters
Mike Szymanski | April 25, 2016
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The Fight for the Soul of the Cities, which has disrupted school meetings with calls to end the militarization of school police and reduce their forces, said they are not satisfied with the response from the LA Unified school board.
After students and activists protested Friday afternoon outside LA Unified’s Beaudry headquarters, school board members Steve Zimmer, George McKenna and Monica Garcia issued statements about the 1033 program that allowed school police to get excess military weapons from the federal government.
Only one response, from Garcia, seemed to come close to the apology the group had demanded. She wrote: “I regret that LAUSD’s participation in the 1033 program may have caused a lapse in the trust LAUSD was building with many community partners including the Dignity in Schools Campaign. I apologize for any misunderstanding caused by this participation and the perception among some that LAUSD seeks to perpetuate policies of division instead of creating communities that are safe, supportive and successful.”
Eric Mann, executive director of the protest group, said Garcia’s statement “is a start, but it’s not enough.” He added, “We want the school police to be cut by half, it will save the district money. And the statements from Zimmer and McKenna were just insulting.” At the demonstration, Mann thanked Garcia and said, “I believe her letter is a true first step of good faith and is in sharp contrast to the misleading and hostile letter that Steve Zimmer and George McKenna wrote.”
On Friday in anticipation of the protest, school board president Zimmer and McKenna issued a statement reading: “The district has publicly stated numerous times that the Los Angeles School Police Department is no longer in possession of any weapons or equipment acquired through the Military Excess Property Program, commonly referred to as the 1033 program. We respect the many different views surrounding this important issue. We also understand that there has been confusion about this issue and so it is important to reiterate: LA Unified has ended participation in this program.”
The school police have returned the automatic weapons, three grenade launchers and small tank they acquired through the program.
McKenna was chairing the Committee of the Whole meeting last month when the group disrupted it for half an hour. In the statement, McKenna said, “The district will always respect the rights of organizations to peaceably assemble and protest, and we look forward to continuing our important work with all community groups on the many issues of civil rights, immigrant rights and education equity that affect the lives of our children and families every day.”
Mann said, “It’s safer for the schools to not have a school police that has military weapons.” He added that their protests are not yet over.