The pressure washer, a useful tool invented in 1927,1 for cleaning gunk off of stuff and powerful enough to strip human flesh off the bone,2 is a useful tool indeed. But as the esteemed Ani DiFranco reminds us, every tool is a weapon if you hold it right.
We are privileged today to present a series of emails between Hollywood Media District Bro-fessional Executroid Director Steven Whiddon and a typical gang of Los Angeles Power Elitrons, including LA City Council District 13 field deputy Dan Halden, in which they plot and plan to use weekly pressure cleaning of the sidewalks outside the Public Storage at 6202 Willoughby Avenue to force homeless people to move elsewhere. You can download a PDF of the exchange here.
Read and despair as Steven Whiddon states definitively that the purpose of the whole plot is “…to address the issues that are affecting the neighborhood.” That might not sound like a smoking gun, but it is. Steven Whiddon is famous for his euphemysterious locutional style. He’s been known to refer to homeless people as “activities,” and here he’s referring to them as “issues.” It’s nothing more than the incomparable Whiddonian style at work. But perhaps you require more proof that he doesn’t mean clean sidewalks when he says “issues?”
Gaze upon the photo above-left. The ficus grunge starts where Public Storage’s property line stops. No one brought those machines out there to clean the sidewalks just to get the sidewalks clean. More proof, if necessary, can be found in Halden’s January 13, 2015 email, in which he specifies that the notices to be hung in advance of the pressure washing ought to state “Please remove all belongings if you do not want them to get wet or possibly destroyed.”
Now, it’s the job of the city of Los Angeles to keep its sidewalks clean if they need to be kept clean. This is a task at which they’ve utterly failed. It’s the job of Mitch O’Farrell, representing Council District 13, to make sure that the city government works for the residents of the district. In principle Mitch O’Farrell represents the homeless of CD13 just as much as he does the crew of miscreants on the BID board of directors, many of whom don’t even live in CD13. The fact that O’Farrell’s staff in the person of Dan Halden can and will coordinate an effort to use cleaning equipment to oppress its own constituents on behalf of a bunch of carpetbagging zillionaires rather than to improve the lives of the district’s residents is shameful. Unfortunately it’s business as usual at city hall.
It’s business as usual elsewhere in the world, too. Newcastle University social geographer Alastair Bonnett attributes the word “urbicide” to Steve Graham, “referring to the attempt to smash political resistance by breaking up the physical and social infrastructures of urban life.”3 Graham’s talking about the Israeli government’s Palestinian policy, but the same idea applies here. If powerful people are faced with a social class whose very existence they see as contrary to their interests, they will wipe them off the map if they can. The fact that both efforts use tools ordinarily associated with productivity and creation (cleaning, building) to accomplish their demonic purpose is surely more than metaphorical. These urban elites evidently see themselves as cleansing, creating, producing. They couldn’t be more deluded.
- According to Wikipedia, anyway, although the book they cite it to seems like bullshit. It’s probably not important anyway, eh?
- That’s what we’re told, anyway. We didn’t test it out.
- Alastair Bonnett, Unruly places : lost spaces, secret cities, and other inscrutable geographies, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 2014, p.84.
Images of Public Storage and sidewalk at 6202 Willoughby Avenue are ©2015 michaelkohlhaas.org. Image of Israeli bulldozers is the product of the Israeli Defense Forces, and Wikimedia claims it’s released under the CC BY-SA 2.5. You can get it here.