Heather — wanted to see if you had an idea as to how we might be able to communicate with the families located around Selma Park…As you may know, with the help Helen [sic] and the rest of your team at CD-13, we’ve been able to designate the entire park as a children’s play area.
So that settles that. HPOA and Eric Garcetti’s staff illegally excluded everyone without kids from Selma Park at some time before January 22, 2008.
Kerry Morrison! You just illegally banned everyone from a public park, starting off a chain of at least 46 illegal arrests and God only knows how many color-of-law civil-rights violations. Are you going to Disneyland?! Nope.
I think we could work with the YMCA, Selma Elementary and PAL [sic] to undertake some type of celebration, and then it would be nice if there could be some ongoing activities that parents and kids could look forward to.
And they actually did have a party. On May 31, 2008. Here is the crazy-ass flyer they put out to advertise it. And after 2008 and some brief mentions in the board minutes, Selma Park is never discussed in the records of HPOA again (except for the records of the Andrews International BID Patrol, who diligently kept arresting people until just before we got the goddamned signs taken down). So much for “ongoing activities.”
It’s just so hard to know how to take these people. Outwardly they look and talk like normal, honest adults. But really, either they’re liars or they’re children, and not the kind of children you want playing in your park, either. They talk and talk about how they’re improving the park for the people of Hollywood. They go on and on about “ongoing activities.” And yet, the only semi-permanent effect of their illegally hanging up those signs was a years-long series of false arrests. Either they have no follow-through or else their professed motives were all just a smoke-screen for their real program of punitively arresting as many homeless people as possible until they just go away. It’s really hard to imagine any kind of middle ground here.
But even sadder, almost too sad to write about here, is Kerry Morrison’s tragically warped delusional fantasy about the nature of parks, of child-rearing, of community. Almost even sadder than the delusional fantasy is the apparent fact that she based it all on hearsay from her babysitter. Here’s Kerry’s vision of the place of parks in the city:
For example, “back in the day,” when I was a young mother, I know all the mothers would meet at the end of the day at the little play area in my neighborhood, from about 3:30—5 after the kids got home from school. It was an informal support group, and eventually grew to include pot-lucks, babysitting co-op etc. (I didn’t get to go very often, but my babysitter did :-)
That’s what she was thinking about when she used the raw political power of the HPOA in order to bypass all customary and conventional political processes for the administration of parks for nothing more important than scaring off some helpless, harmless, homeless people and some feeding programs. Her babysitter’s stories about a community of mommies in the park.
And the worst part is that if Kerry was trying to recreate that scene in Selma Park using her signs and her security guards and their loaded guns, she has completely misunderstood the nature of what was happening with these women. For instance, if one of the mothers had a sick kid on a given day or the kid was off with its dad and she still wanted to partake of the “informal support group” she would be ARRESTED under Kerry’s new regime. No mothers in the park without children, after all. Even the HPOA doesn’t have the nerve to only enforce the law against homeless people. In 2008, thinking of some long-ago second-hand fantasy about organic maternal community, Kerry managed to violently smash the chance of such a thing arising in Selma Park.
Second, the mothers in Kerry’s story organized spontaneously out of their own intrinsic felt need. Social phenomena like that don’t arise because some half-assed bunch of zillionaire’s shills like the HPOA sponsor a freaking three-hour family day and then spend seven years doing nothing more than keeping homeless people out of a park at gunpoint. They happen, and some of us at MK.org in our child-rearing days have been part of such things and not just vicariously through our babysitters, they happen because free human beings are free to come together freely. If that allows some homeless people on the lawn, well, it’s good for the kids to see what the city they live in is really like. It’s good for the kids to see their parents performatively recognizing the humanity of their homeless brothers and sisters. It’s good for kids to see adults following their own rules and not acting like terrified, terrifying scale-model fascist wind-up robot dolls. After all, if homeless people do anything objectively harmful or threatening to the kids there are already laws against it. If they’re just existing and, by their mere existence, scaring delusional anxiety-ridden control freaks, there’s not much sane or moral or even possible to do about it except for the scared people to get over their neuroses and live in the city they live in, in the world they live in.
If these HPOA-ians had any sense at all about children they’d realize that their gunmen, men with guns, operating in the park, menacing people with their guns, implicitly threatening to shoot their guns, are far more of a threat to kids’ lives, safety, well-being, and peace of mind than homeless people could ever be. Kids are safer when they’re away from guns than they are when they’re away from unarmed human beings, no matter how dirty, smelly, unaesthetic, or even drunk they might be. Guns and bullets kill children or at least are objectively frightening. Homeless people do not, are not.
It is just so sad on every side. But only one side is pointing guns at the other side here. No matter if the tragedy makes us weep for suffering humanity, we’re not on the side of the gunmen. Not now, not ever.
Smoking gun image by Tony R, who has kindly released it under the CC BY 2.0 and made it available via Flickr. Glammie-headshot of Heather Repenning is a California public record from 2003, hence public domain, and we got it from the Internet Archive. Image of Commando Kerry Morrison is likewise a California public record. Image of kid with gun pointed is by Fabricio Zuardi, who has kindly made it available via the CC BY 2.0 and it’s available via his Flickr stream.