Wave Wire Services
LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department, which was established at the end of last year, unveiled its office space Sept. 13 in the Los Angeles Mall in the Civic Center area downtown amid a protest staged by homeless advocacy organizations.
“This space belongs to all Angelenos, and we know that people are going to be coming here on their worst days, on some of their toughest days,” said Executive Director Capri Maddox. “They may have just suffered an incident of hate or discrimination, and it’s important for us to have an environment to help people become whole.
“This is a place where people can find justice, this is a place where people can make change, and this is a place where progress will lead.”
The department is responsible for enforcing the city’s Civil and Human Rights Law, which prohibits discrimination against people in private sector areas of commerce, education, employment and housing. It was also created to develop equity initiatives, manage and support the Commission on Civil Rights, the Commission on the Status of Women, the Human Relations Commission and the Transgender Advisory Council.
“It has been a little over a year since the L.A. Civil Rights department was started and in that time we’ve been able to do so much …. and we did all of this and we didn’t even have a home. Imagine what we can do when we have a workplace,” Maddox said.
The unveiling of the new office space, which was created from three retail stores in the Los Angeles Mall at 201 N. Los Angeles St., was attended by Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Attorney Mike Feuer, Controller Ron Galperin, City Council members Nithya Raman, Mark Ridley-Thomas, Mitch O’Farrell, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Paul Koretz.
Protesters interrupted the news conference to decry the city’s handling of the homelessness crisis, alleging hypocrisy from elected officials present at the ribbon-cutting event.
A woman who identified herself as the Los Angeles Community Action Network’s “gender justice organizer” said she was there to protest Garcetti’s presence at the event when 30% of the city’s homeless population are Black women, a demographic that makes up only 9% of the county’s population.
According to a 2017 report titled “Health Indicators for Women in Los Angeles County” from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, 40% of homeless women in Los Angeles County are Black, and 37.1% of unsheltered women are Black.
Others protesters, who were part of LACAN, as well as Street Watch L.A. and the People’s City Council, alleged hypocrisy and cited an increase in police funding — which was raised 3% this fiscal year — and the city’s new anti-camping ordinance, which was enacted this summer to prohibit homeless encampments in certain areas.
Following the news conference, Garcetti spoke from City Hall to celebrate the department’s creation and office space. Regarding the disruption of the event, he said he supports people’s right to protest under the First Amendment, but “civil rights work is not just about what we say, it’s really about what we do.”
I hope that people understand that this is a department to serve all of our rights, full stop,” the mayor said. “I am so excited to see the leadership, not only Capri Maddox, but a community that came together to say that civil rights work must be more than just what we say, it must be what we do. … I’m excited to see a department that is not only making history but a department that will serve everyday Angelenos.”