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Protesters fill the City Council chamber, but cannot sway the vote

Stanley O. Williford | 3/21/2012, 5 p.m.

Richard G. Moore, a retired Los Angeles school teacher, told an early-morning special meeting of the Los Angeles City Council's Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee that as a 50-year resident of Baldwin Hills he felt the redistricting maps had violated the 14th Amendment, which guarantees due process, equal protection and in fact was the amendment that made Black people citizens.

He also said the Los Angeles Redistricting Commission had violated the Brown Act by having secret meetings. "Nobody has admitted who actually drew these maps," he said.

Moore also told Council President Herb J. Wesson, who chaired the Rules Committee meeting, that he (Wesson) gets to be his (Moore's) councilman when nobody in Baldwin Hills voted for him."

After Moore had finished making his sharply-worded comments, and turned to walk away from the mic, Wesson called him back.

He told Moore he'd be glad to know that he (Wesson) had proposed an amendment that Baldwin Hills remain in the 8th District.

Maybe two hours later, Moore would make roughly the same comments in a standing-room-only special Los Angeles City Council meeting that followed immediately after the Rules Committee hearing. Moore would be but one of many impassioned speakers upset over the proposed maps of the 8th and 9th districts.

At one point, a White male speaker, called Wesson an Uncle Tom to the cheers and laughter of the largely Black crowd that attended the Council meeting. Wesson immediately stopped the meeting and chastised the speaker.

"Mr. Walsh, you will not call me that name. You will not call me that name," he said, repeating the admonition. Once order was restored, the man was allowed to continue.

This time he went on to insult Sen. Curren D. Price in the same fashion. Sen. Price had earlier defended the way the maps were redrawn, telling the Council that the adjustments remain in the spirit of the Voting Rights Act.

Price was clearly not in step with most of the speakers, although a comparatively small number of people did defend the maps. Sen. Price was booed roundly.

Most speakers representing the 8th and 9th districts asked the Council to reconsider the way the maps were drawn.

"Reconsider the 9th district and leave downtown as part of the 9th District ... Tom Bradley would be turning over in his grave, if he knew this was happening," said the Rev. Albert Nicholas of Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church.

Another minister, and there were several who spoke, said he wanted to address a situation that affected well over 400 churches in the 8th and 9th districts. "There is no way the 9th District will do well by removing Downtown."

Forescee Hogan-Rowles, who twice opposed Councilman Bernard C. Parks in running for the 8th District seat, told the body to stop the bickering. She said she wanted the district held together, including its economic centers, including the Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw Center Mall.

Many speakers, addressed the negative financial impact the changes will have on the districts.

At one point Wesson stopped the meeting to ask if Rev. Price [Frederick K.C. Price of Crenshaw Christian Center] was in the room. Wesson said he heard he was there and he wanted to give Price a chance to speak. In fact, Price, with a large contingent from his church, had been in the Council chamber earlier but had left after more than an hour of waiting for the special meeting to begin.

Robert Rubin, executive director of the Vermont Village Community Development Corp., was allowed to speak in his place.

All to no avail. The City Council, which has voted pretty much as a bloc in supporting Wesson, approved the maps in spite of the threat of lawsuits from the 8th and 9th district council members and from the Korean community. However, Parks' 8th District did get back the Baldwin Hills area, including the mall. The meeting lasted about four hours and included numerous speakers.

On Sunday, Parks was back at the churches. At Crenshaw Christian Center, he thanked those who had come out. "Even though the vote didn't go our way, it's not over," he said, telling the congregation the mayor has to review the plan. He urged the members to tell the mayor to veto it. "Crash the email system," he said. "We should not allow our future to be taken away."