Archive for 2012

California Prisoners Make Historic Call for Peace between Racial Groups in California Prisons & Jails

Monday, October 1st, 2012
  • For Immediate Release—September 12, 2012
  • California Prisoners Make Historic Call for Peace between Racial Groups in California Prisons & Jails
  • Press Contact: Isaac Ontiveros
  • Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity
  • 510.444.0484
  • Los Angeles contacts: Isaac Barrera . 3233315257 . Isaac@theiyc.org

Facebook Invite For Los Angeles Press Conference:

https://www.facebook.com/events/121279881355669/121338414683149/?comment_id=121338851349772&notif_t=event_mall_reply

Oakland—Prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit (SHU) have announced a push to end all hostilities between racial groups within California’s prisons and jails. The handwritten announcement was sent to prison advocacy organizations. It is signed by several prisoners, identifying themselves as the PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Collective. The Short Corridor refers to a section of Pelican Bay Prison’s notorious Security Housing Unit (SHU). Pelican Bay’s SHU was the point of origin for last year’s hunger strikes which rocked California’s prison system, at one point including the participation of nearly 12,000 prisoners in over 11prisons throughout the state.

The statement calls for the cessation of all hostilities between groups to commence October 10, 2012, in all California prisons and county jails. “This means that from this date on, all racial group hostilities need to be at an end,” the statement says. It also calls on prisoners throughout the state to set aside their differences and use diplomatic means to settle their disputes. The Short Corridor Collective states, “If personal issues arise between individuals, people need to do all they can to exhaust all diplomatic means to settle such disputes; do not allow personal, individual issues to escalate into racial group issues.” In the past, California prisoners have attempted to collaborate with the Department of Corrections to bring an end to the hostilities, but CDCR has been largely unresponsive to prisoners’ requests. The statement warns prisoners that they expect prison officials to attempt to undermine this agreement.

“My long-time experience in urban peace issues, gang truces, prevention and intervention, is that when gang leaders and prisoners take full stock of the violence, and how they can contribute to the peace, such peace will be strong, lasting, and deep. I honor this effort as expressed in this statement,” says Luis J. Rodriguez, renowned violence intervention worker and award-winning author of Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A. Rodriguez has helped broker gang truces throughout the US as well as in other parts of the world. This spring, Rodriguez was involved in a historic truce between gangs in El Salvador leading to a 70% drop in violence in that country. According to Rodriguez, “What is needed now—and where most peace efforts fail—is the meaningful and long-lasting support of society and government, in the form of prison reform, training, education, drug and mental health treatment and proper health care. We need an end to repressive measures that only feed into the violence and traumas.”

Azadeh Zohrabi of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition sees the agreement as a positive development that stems from last year’s hunger strikes. “While living through some of the worst conditions imaginable, the authors of this statement continue to work for change,” states Zohrabi.

“While the prison administration drags its feet on even the most basic reforms, these guys are trying to build peace throughout the system. That says a lot their humanity and hope.”

Advocates and the Short Corridor Collective are eager to spread the word as far and wide as possible and implement peace plans throughout California’s prisons and jails. “We must all hold strong to our mutual agreement from this point on and focus our time, attention, and energy on mutual causes beneficial to all of us [i.e., prisoners], and our best interests,” says the Collective. “The reality is that collectively, we are an empowered, mighty force, that can positively change this entire corrupt system into a system that actually benefits prisoners, and thereby, the public as a whole.”

The PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Collective has strongly requested that its statement be read and referred to in whole. It can be found here:
http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/short-corridor-collective-calls-for-statewide-end-to-hostilities/

Sep. 28 Film Screening of “Fruits of War”

Monday, September 17th, 2012

 The journey of the criminalized immigrants

“Fruits of War” will take you into the personal lives of four young men who lived the the trauma of war in El Salvador, the discrimination in the streets of Los Angeles, the violence of gangs, the deportation to their country they did not longer remember and the continued criminalization that will forever keep them from living normal lives. Join Us September 28, 2012 at Pico Youth and Family Center 715 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405 from 6:00-9:00PM to hear that amidst all the violence and desperation a new hope for peace has risen. The panel discussion after the film will report back on the delegation that went to El Salvador to observe the 5 month long peace truce between the gangs that has reduce violence significantly.

Moderator: Oscar DeLaTorre (PYFC Executive Director)
Panelist include:
Paule Cruz-Katash (L.A. Humane Relations Comission)
Aquil Basher (Maximum Force Enterprices)
Henrique Hurtado (Aztecs Rising)
Alex Sanchez(Homies Unidos)

Food and drinks will be available for a donation.

Homies Unidos continues their commitment to help our youth in the Central American Communities of Pico Union, Westlake and Koreatown. We believe that all youth have the right to live in their communities free of violence. Be part of the empowerment of our inner city youth to brake through the chains of violence into productive advocates of peace. Make your donation: homiesunidos.org/donate

After 14 years working in these communities we now need your help. Current economic struggles have forced us to cut down on services. We are asking for your economic help to continue our mission to end violence and promote peace in our communities through gang prevention; the promotion of human rights in immigrant communities and the empowerment of youth and families in El Salvador and Los Angeles to achieve their full potential in a just, safe and healthy society.

Facebook Invite: Fruits of War

  Pico Unouth and Family Center Screening

 Clip of “Fruits of War”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKq0wGLoQGo&feature=player_embedded

****Please keep in mind that Homies Unidos needs your monetary support to keep doing this important work****, Please donate!!!!!

Vigil: Commemorating 100 Days of the Gang Truce In

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

Vigil: Commemorating 100 Days of the Gang Truce In 

El Salvador

mobilizeSunday, 17th 2012

CARECEN form 6PM to 8PM

Contact: Rodrigo Vasquez at 323-667-8297 

2845 West 7th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90005

Press Release

                                                        Press Kit

The Transnational Advisory Group In Support of the Peace Process in El Salvador invites all of you The commemoration of 100 days the gang truce has brought peace in our neighborhoods of El Salvador. Under skepticism and criticism, The gang members continue forward into a long term peace process.#

The gangs have made good will gestures to the community by declaring that the schools are now “Safe Zones” and no force recruitment will take place, to gain community support. Although this is not the answer that we would expect from our men and women who have been killing themselves over letters and numbers, this is a positive step forward as supporters of the peace process we ask for a total stop to all illicit activity. We cannot say that the zero tolerance initiatives pushed by the former president and continued by our current president in El Salvador has reduced violence because repression tactics have made this problem bigger. As such we need to understand that the gang members have been part of the problem, in so, they should be part of the solution.

The time is now to invest in our youth and bring economic development programs to El Salvador. Programs that will hire our youth who are living in poverty and stop our youth from joining gangs.

There have been over 700 deaths prevented since the truce started. So let’s give this historic gang truce a chance.

*Bring several candles*

  100 Days of Peace

Recent articles read here:

Peace Is Breaking Out Among Salvadoran Gang Members:

http://www.thenation.com/article/167875/peace-breaking-out-among-salvadoran-gang-members

Support Mounts for Salvadoran Gang Truce:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tom-hayden/salvadoran-gang-truce_b_1551638.html

SUPPORT MOUNTS FOR SALVADORAN GANG TRUCE

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

mobilizeSUPPORT MOUNTS FOR SALVADORAN GANG TRUCE
BY TOM HAYDEN

Longtime gang peace process advocates in Los Angeles announced new support on Memorial Day for the 11-week truce called by incarcerated Mara Salvatrucha and 18th Street gang leaders which has sharply reduced homicides in El Salvador

An estimated 700 lives have been saved since March as homicide rates have fallen from 14-15 to 4-5 per day, or a 65 percent reduction. For the first time in decades, polling shows Salvadoran public opinion defining poverty reduction as their first priority, ahead of sweeps and mass detention. The truce, which is supported by Salvadoran president Mauricio Funes, began Mar. 9 when 30 truce leaders were transferred from a super-max prison to high-security facilities where they were permitted contacts with family and friends. The transfer was approved by the Salvadoran Minister of Justice and Security David Munguia. On March 20, it was confirmed that mediation efforts were being led Raul Mijango, a former guerrilla commandante and legislator, and the head chaplain of the armed forces and police, Bishop Fabio Colindres.

As LA-based peace advocates gathered Monday at La Placita church on Olvera Street, the secretary-general of the Organization of American States [OAS] was set to travel on a supportive visit to El Salvador, to be followed by United Nations and European Union representatives.

A new “Transitional Advisory Group in Support of the Peace Process in El Salvador” was announced at the LA press conference. The twenty-member committee includes a new official presence  in gang peace efforts, Paula Cruz Takash, president of the Los Angeles Human Relations Commission, and a cross-section of leaders with deep roots in past gang peace efforts, including the author Luis Rodriguez and his wife Trini of the Tia Chucha Cultural Center, Aquil Basheer and “Niko” of Maximum Force Enterprise, Aqeela Sherrells of the original Watts truce, Enrique Hurtado of Aztecs Rising, Angela Sambrano of CARACEN, Fr. Michael Kennedy of the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative, Fr. Gregory Boyle of Homeboy Industries, Hector Verdugo, also of Homeboy, and Javier Stauring of the LA Archdiocese.  Chairing the press conference was Silvia Beltran, former director of Homies Unidos and currently on the staff of the LA City Council. Also speaking were a Salvadoran student at Cal State Northridge, Elvira Padilla, and a sister of one of the incarcerated men, Mayra Rivas.

The new transnational committee is represented in Washington DC by Luis Cardona and Carmen Perez of the Gathering for Justice [founded by Harry Belafonte] and Juan Pacheco, director of Barrios Unidos.

The purposes of the transnational committee are to work for the safety of those involved in the Salvadoran truce, doing an inventory of the gang members specific needs, and building support and resources for the community-led process. Needs identified so far include: new mattresses for family visits, mental and medical health services, sentence reductions for good conduct, and vocational training in prison with job placement upon release. The MS and 18th Street representatives also call on the army and police to control and prevent ongoing human rights violations, and protect the safety of the peace process  Female gang members are demanding the involvement of women’s and family service organizations to address their specific needs.

Besides initiating the truce, the gang leaders so far have defined schools as “safe zones”, ordered the end of  forced recruitment of young people, and suspend criminal activities and  attacks on each other.

Luis Rodriguez and Aqeela Sherrells spoke passionately and at length about the history of past peace process efforts in Watts, East Los Angeles, and among deported gang members in El Salvador. “Peace comes from the heart of people, from a rejection of violence by the people, and when it comes from the ground up we must stand with them”, Rodriguez began. “This has happened before, has been sabotaged before, and failed before for lack of resources and respect, but out of every failure there rise new peace warriors.” Rodriguez said he sees “peace surging again, and we have to learn the lesson that peace doesn’t come from institutions, peace doesn’t come from peaceful people, peace can come in the end from the people who began the violence, the best sometimes can come from the worst.”

Sherrells recalled that 20,000 died in LA’s gang wars between Crips and Bloods before the 1992 truce. “It was a war zone, but we created a culture of peace on the streets”, he said,  attributing ten percent of the violence reduction to policing. “Gangs are not inherently negative, do not come like outside aliens, but arise among our sons and daughters, and they need healing, a public health approach, a community-based approach.” He pointed out that gang homicides have continued to fall in Los Angeles even while poverty rates have been climbing. “We love you”, he declared to the largely-immigrant gathering. Bashir, an ex-Panther, added that “we have to unify or die.”

In the most dramatic moment of the day, Homies Unidos leader Alex Sanchez spoke for the first time in public since his June 2009 federal indictment on gang conspiracy charges. Los Angeles police anti-gang officers and prosecutors have charged Sanchez, a former MS member, with continuing to secretly participate in the gang as a so-called “shot caller.” Sanchez and his many supporters argue that a key role in violence reduction can be played by respected former gang members when they mediate conflicts and create alternatives to the violent gang life. But any such “association” is suspect to law enforcement and often prohibited by anti-gang laws and regulations.

Sanchez was arrested by the LAPD and faced deportation over a decade ago, but all charges were dropped and a federal immigration judge granted Sanchez political asylum. He was arrested again in 2009, charged with multiple conspiracies,. He was granted bail in 2010 after representatives of the LAPD and FBI were unable to prove in federal court that he would be a social danger if released. His trial now is set for next June.

Imprisoned Salvadoran gang members and their families,  as well as Salvadoran officials have made phone requests for Sanchez to intervene as a mediator and coalition-builder on behalf of the fragile process. The irony is that Sanchez is prohibited from communicating with any MS members except in the office of his Los Angeles public defender, Amy Jacks. Despite the technical difficulties, Sanchez seemed energized on Sunday by the opportunity to act positively in a context painfully familiar to him, after two years of defending himself in numerous court appearances. On this Memorial Day, he called out the names of Homies Unidos members killed in El Salvador – Hector, Ringo, Bullet, and Smoky, among others – saying, “this is a baton thrown out to us, and it is our duty to pick it up. ”

Twenty years of organizing in Los Angeles have yielded  two models which can be useful for El Salvador, Sanchez said. The first, peace work in the streets and prisons by former gang members like Sanchez, is already adopted and funded in LA as an official “gang prevention and intervention model”, endorsed as well by the LAPD after years of debate. Since the intervention model was developed in part from the experience of Salvadoran gang members it already is “indigenous”, not a foreign model run by government bureaucrats, Peace Corps-style.

Second and equally important, Sanchez and others stressed, is the urgent need for rehabilitation, training and jobs modeled at Homeboy Industries under the inspiration of Fr. Boyle, who has been involved in the Salvadoran community for years. At Homeboy, where the motto is “nothing stops a bullet like a job”, young homeboys and homegirls are counseled, trained and directly employed by the agency, the largest of its kind in the US.

Homeboy staff are expected to confer directly with Salvadoran parties, private investors and government agencies interested in the model of such direct employment. They will stress that gang violence reduction is the key to attracting foreign investment to the besieged country, and jobs the key to violence reduction – a virtuous circle in place of a vicious one.

Gang rappers and poets in El Salvador have long described themselves as the fruits of the war – “las fruitas de la guerra.” There now is the possibility of a great reversal, with gang members, their families and all of El Salvador realizing the fruits of peace. #

Press Release:El Salvador ‘s Two Biggest Gangs Call A Truce

Monday, May 28th, 2012
WHAT: El Salvador ‘s Two Biggest Gangs Call A Truce

Press Package FINAL_TAPPES_Press_Package

WHEN: Monday May 28th, 2012 at 10:00 A.M.
WHERE: La Placita Olvera

535 North Main Street

Los Angeles, CA 90012

WHO:

The Transnational
Advisory Group in Support of the Peace Process In El Salvador

International community Base Organizations, Clergy, Gang Interventionist, individuals have come together in support of the peace process, Bishop Fabio Colindres and Former El Salvador Congressman Raul Mijango have mediated truce with two of the El Salvador biggest gangs; MS13 and 18th Street gangs.

Speakers include:
Father Estrada- Our Lady Queen of the Angeles – La Placita  Olvera
Father Michael Kennedy-Restorative Justice

Angela Sambrano, Board Member, Centro Cultural Techantit and CARECEN L.A.

Hector Verdugo- Associate Executive Director, Homeboy Industries

Luis Rodriguez-Activist and author of “Always Running Gang Days in L.A.”

Aqeela Sherrills-Director of Resources for Human Development California

Paule Cruz Takash, City of Los Angeles Human Relations Commission

Aquil Basheer-Executive Director, Maximum Force Enterprises

Enrique Hurtado-Executive Director, Aztecs Rising

Alex Sanchez- Executive Director, Homies Unidos

Mario Matute-Secretario general Del Movimiento Social Y Político De Salvadoreños En   El Exterior.M.P.I.

WHY: The 1992 El Salvador Peace Accords ended a devastating decade long civil war. Signed between El Salvador’s Armed Forces and the FMLN guerrilla fighters, the country looked forward to peace, rebuilding and prospering.  Unfortunately, no one could predict the devastating impact that mass deportation of people from the U.S. to El Salvador would have on the transnational community. El Salvador did not have the social or economic infrastructure to help people transition from war time to peace time nor did it have the resources to help recently arrived deportees. The disenfranchisement of young people and gang-identified youth has resulted in  high levels of crime, growth of gangs, and unemployment.

This March, two of the largest gangs in El Salvador called a truce. They have acknowledged all the pain they have
brought on the population and themselves and have accepted responsibility. The Peace Process has reduced violence by 65% throughout El Salvador. This effort is not one sided or a simple task. With support of church communities, government and the civilian population, we can create a strategy that is inclusive of all. All in the name of peace.  The Transnational Advisory Group in Support of the Peace Process In El Salvador has formed to be an international observer to this process, to assure the safety of all involved and to bring together resources to help in the short and long term goals of the peace
process.

Vigil for the 375 incarcerated people Killed in Honduran Prison

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Press Release
Contacts:
Alex Sanchez: (213)-383-7484 asanchez@homiesunidos.org
Walter Magana: (626)-500-3604 wmagana@homiesunidos.org

Vigil for the 375 incarcerated people Killed in Honduran Prison

WHAT: Organizations representing our community in human rights will have a vigil in front of the Consulate of Honduras denouncing the prison system in which prison guards participated in the death of more than 375 human beings in the prison of Comayagua, Honduras.

WHEN: Friday February 17th, 2012. 4pm
WHERE: Honduran Consulate of Los Angeles
3550 Wilshire Blvd #320
Los Angeles CA 90010
WHO: Speakers include:
– Policarpo Chaj, Mayavision
– Javier Staring, L.A. Archdiocese
– Union De Salvadorenos Estudiantes Universitarios(USEU)
– Alex Sanchez, Homies Unidos
– Ron Gochez, Union Del Barrio

Interviews available immediately following the press conference

WHY: Honduras for the third time is involved in human rights violations in the prisons of its country. On February 14, in the Comayagua prison in Honduras, more than 376 incarcerated people lost their lives in a fire within the prison. This has not been the first time; in 2003, 69 people were killed riddle with bullets and set on fire and 107 more in 2004 died in a fire in San Pedro Sula.

Homies United along other human rights organizations are outraged by this tactic on the part of Governments to solve the dilemma of violence affecting our countries in Central America. Every human being has their human right to live free of violence even if incarcerated.

We demand:
1. The Government put a Commission of non-governmental organizations to supervise the investigation.
2. That the Government will help affected families
3. the Government of the United States stop monetary aid until is stop human abuses and Zero Tolerance policies which has led to mass incarceration of our youth
4. A dismissal of all guards in the prison system of the Honduras including Security Minister Pompeyo Bonilla.


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