by Leslie Radford Saturday, Jun. 16, 2007 at 7:25 PM
The Farm, the Farmers, their supporters and a new promise.
The South Central Fa...
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LOS ANGELES 14 June 2007--Two hundred people came to the South Central Farm tonight to watch the corn grow. The familiar train whistle, the one that warned us each night of the encampment of the devastation to come, echoed in the night air. Fresh tractor treads scored the fallow land where Ralph Horowitz, developer, had plowed under the shoots of the ancient heirloom maiz seeds that determinedly sprout in this land, as they have sprouted for millennia, a developer's response to the people's vigil. But there was still no warehouse, not even the touted soccer field. A year after dozens of people risked arrest to preserve a way of life, the Farm is in limbo, neither converted into another concrete-block monolith for human labor nor allowed to offer up food to the three hundred and fifty people who relied on it for fourteen years. The economics of declining property values and the determination of the people have kept the Farm alive, but just barely. The California black walnuts are dying and still living, their roots cut to fit in wooden boxes, guy wires holding them aloft as they fight for life.
The South Central Farm became an international emblem for the right to food over industrial sprawl, at the center of Los Angeles' barren transportation corridor. After the council turned the 16-acre plot over to Horowitz for $5M, the Farmers spent three years seeking the intervention of city council, while councilmembers literally turned their backs on the Farmers at public meetings. The council rearranged their agenda and restricted public comments to avoid the Farmers. When the eviction notice was posted, people from across Los Angeles and the world rallied to the Farmers' cause, dozens camping out on the land. Celebrities climbed into the black walnuts and began calling in favors. Mayor Villaraigosa offered up the sale price of the Farm toward the $16M Horowitz was now asking, and the Annenberg Foundation promised most of the balance. Horowitz refused to take money from "those people." When the sheriff and the bulldozers finally rolled over the Farmers' blue tarps and hundreds of indigenous species rising up from the earth, people sat in the street for arrest, and fourteen Farm supporters chained themselves to concrete-filled barrels. After twelve hours, a hook and ladder truck plucked the celebrities out of the black walnuts. It took four more hours to jackhammer the chained supporters loose. In all, forty-five people took on an arrest record for the Farm.
Since those hours on June 14, 2006, when men and women clung to the chain link fence and wept, some of the Farmers have gone on to grow their food under the canopies of power lines at smaller garden plots. Some travel with their children to a new organic farm in the San Fernando Valley each weekend and haul healthy produce back to poverty-ridden South Central. Some wait for the return of the South Central Farm, where Juan Santos tells of "a five year old and a 14 year old. They talked of each plant they passed, and gave its name in Spanish, English and Nahuatl." "They can't take away the Farm" a child explained, "because where will the lizards go? The birds need the lizards, my brother watches them."
It was fully dark, nearing 10:00 p.m., when Dele Aileman, who had been the Farmers' spokesperson during the encampment, took the microphone. "Shame on Mayor Villaraigosa and Jan Perry," he called out. "Aqui estamos . . ." The answer was muffled: "Y no nos vamos." "Aqui estamos." Louder this time: "Y no nos vamos." "Aqui estamos!" Then the crowd understood and roared back, "¡Y no nos vamos!" Aileman spoke what we had agreed to: "The City Council will have no peace." He promised for us, "In two weeks, the Farmers will be back at City Hall."
A hush followed, as we took in what we had all just promised. Across the chain link fence, the ancient maiz and a hundred other seedlings, again were quietly working their way back to the sunlight.
for more and better pics, see http://la.indymedia.org/news/2007/06/200929.php and http://la.indymedia.org/news/2007/06/200812.php.