The Los Angeles Human Right to Housing Collective worked to clean up the old Rampart police station on Friday, in honor of International Human Rights Day. The organization hopes to refurbish the rundown station into a service center that gives back to the community.
The Los Angeles Police Department left the building vacant after a '90s scandal involving the corrupt anti-gang unit of their Rampart division unfolded. Over 70 police officers were tied to wrongdoings, including gratuitous police brutality and shootings, falsifying witness claims and stealing drugs to deal. Until now, only graffiti and trash remained.
Community members armed helpers with brooms, shovels and wax. General Dogon, human rights defender of Skid Row for the Los Angeles Community Action Network, recalled finding a lot of garbage while cleaning the back side of the station.
"Beer bottles, 40 ounce bottles," Dogon said. "I noticed there were a lot of those plastic marijuana vials from the pharmacy ... and as I was raking and raking and raking, getting all the way down to one end of the block, I noticed that at the end of the police station, a child daycare is right there."
Volunteers also posted signs on fences around the compound to attract attention. Leonardo Vilchis from Union de Vecinos, a member of the L.A. collective, said they were looking to make a statement.
"After the Occupy L.A. situation, there hasn’t really been anything meaningful that has happened in this city, in terms of really addressing the problems of the 99 percent," Vilchis said. "Our organization represents the 20 percent who get noted as the poorest renters, tenants and immigrants, who really haven't gotten anything," he said
According to Vilchis, they've reached out to the city for help. If the old police station can be successfully repurposed, the community can offer services addressing issues of importance to low-income residents in the neighborhood, such as health, food and shelter.
The collective distributed food and offered free medical consultations during the event, while musicians entertained. Later this evening, neighborhood residents will gather with the L.A. collective to brainstorm ideas for how the potential center could be used.