Saturday, February 22

LA community leaders discuss civil rights issues at Hammer Museum event

(Alyssa Dorn/Daily Bruin staff)

Community leaders presented about the importance of unity among progressives to advance civil rights issues at a Hammer Museum event in Royce Hall on Monday.

Former CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin moderated a panel of regional leaders of various Los Angeles advocacy groups, which more than 1,700 people attended. The panel discussed civil rights issues under the recent actions of President Donald Trump’s administration.

The Hammer Museum organized the event, which was moved from the museum to Royce because of the overwhelming social media response to the event announcement. Museum director Ann Philbin said she thinks it is important for the museum to host political and socially oriented events.

Philbin said she thinks the violation of core values and beliefs warrants resistance when the progress of society is threatened.

The panel first discussed the immigration policies Trump enacted with his executive orders.

Hector Villagra, the executive director of the Southern California branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, shared a story about how the organization worked to allow an Iranian national to enter the country after being blocked at Los Angeles International Airport in the wake of Trump’s executive order on refugees and immigration.

Angelica Salas, the executive director of Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said the city of Los Angeles ought to embrace its role as a sanctuary city for immigrants.

“Our families are under attack and people are going to die because of these refugee bans and bans in immigration, and we have a responsibility to act,” Salas said.

A longer southern border wall was not realistic infrastructure plan and would harm individuals who were fleeing violence in their home countries, Salas said.

Salas briefly highlighted the California Values Act, a bill which would direct state and local law enforcement officers not to use state resources to participate in the enforcement of federal immigration laws.

Devon Carbado, associate vice chancellor of BruinX for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and a UCLA law professor, said he thinks social groups need to continue working for civil rights within the country, especially for minority groups, since issues such as voting rights and police profiling of minorities remain contentious topics.

Lorri L. Jean, the CEO of the Los Angeles LGBT Center, agreed with Carbado’s assessment that the progressive movement is too compartmentalized. Jean said different movements should follow the example of LGBT advocacy banding together for strength and effectiveness during the AIDS crisis.

“We have made enormous progress as a movement and then we faced a crisis,” Jean said.

The Los Angeles LGBT Center is planning to sponsor a newsletter initiative to help raise awareness of civil issues across the country, Jean said.

Susan Dunlap, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, said that Los Angeles has become a focal point for individuals from around the country who are looking for civil rights protections.

“Just last week, a woman came to us from Florida, seeking an abortion, scared about her own hometown,” Dunlap said. “She didn’t have an appointment, she showed up with two suitcases in hand, because she didn’t know where else to go.”

Dunlap thinks it is important to consider the repercussions across the country if California appeared to give up the fight for nationwide equality.

“If California can’t stand for these values, if Planned Parenthood in California can’t stand up to these attacks, that doesn’t bode well for the rest of us,” Dunlap said.

Ali Brailey, a fourth-year international development studies student, said she felt overwhelmed by the event but was inspired by the discussion.

“I loved that it was so focused on intersectionality,” Brailey said. “It’s not a new concept by any means and a lot of people have been promoting the concept for a long time, but a lot of people are just finding out about it.”

Katie Lin, a fourth-year psychology major, said she thinks the left is having an identity crisis but the panel was a step toward common ground.

“Even though they didn’t provide a solution, it was good that they had a place for different voices,” Lin said.

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