In the early evening of February 27, a group of people brought together by the horrific interconnection of a family member who has been the victim of violent crime. Through tears of sorrow and anger, one family member after another told the story of how their family member was brutally murdered by gang members and other violent criminals. Ty, Imelda, Emma and Bob all lost their sons to murder.
Bob Ryan said that he thinks about his son each and every day. “I read something funny and want to text my son, because I know he’ll laugh at it, but no, I can’t because he’s never coming home.” Emma’s 25-year-old son was murdered and her other sons were threatened by gang members. Ty’s 30-year-old son was also murdered. Her son’s girlfriend spoke in tears about the love she shared and the loss she now feels. Imelda spoke of her young son and how much she missed him.
A new District Attorney was elected in November that promised to be tough on crime, but do so with compassion, something that many in the community were optimistic about. But, according to a press primer provided by leaders of the Victims of Violent Crime for the Recall of District Attorney Gascón PAC,
“George Gascón lied to the voters of LA County. He ran on justice reform but instead he has instituted a criminals first, victims last policy. He continues to release violent offenders into the community. He refuses to send prosecutors to parole hearings. He refuses to prosecute, gang, gun, and crimes with injuries. Victims want justice and he refuses to provide it. George Gascón’s policies are dangerous and irresponsible. We as victims are doing this recall because what George Gascón is doing is WRONG.”
The pain that these victims had gone through in the loss of their loved ones was intensified by the decisions of D.A. Gascón. Many of the family’s cases had not yet gone to trial. Many of the family’s who spoke, were told that those who murdered their loved ones would be held accountable in the gravest ways only to find out that the death penalty was taken off the table by D.A. Gascón.
Emma was originally told that George Gascón would be the best choice for Los Angeles. But after experiencing the decisions made by Gascón, she is now angry and wants him to be recalled. Emma was experiencing what many others behind the podium expressed:
Today we are gathering the 20 signatures needed to submit to the county to start the recall effort.
According to those who organized the rally, the event was designed to allow victims of violent crime to be the first of the 20 signatures required by Los Angeles County to begin the effort to recall D.A. Gascón. The rally was the beginning of a process that eventually will require 600,000 signatures in only 160 days. The organizers plan on using mailers, a digital campaign and volunteers to get the word out about the recall. Those who wish to volunteer or would like more information can go to http://www.recallgeorgeGascón.com.
Although Gascón did not immediately respond to the event Saturday, according the the Daily News (Group launches recall campaign against LA County District Attorney George Gascón), when criticized in the past, he said,
“The pain and trauma of losing a loved one is immeasurable and I recognize and respect that some victims want me to impose the maximum punishment in their case,” Gascón has said. “Research shows that excessive sentencing practices have exacerbated recidivism leading to more victims of crime. Our system of justice can’t continue to rely on policies that create more victims tomorrow simply because some victims want the maximum punishment imposed in their case today.
“I also can’t ignore research showing these views are not shared by a majority of survivors of violent crime. Nonetheless, all survivors agree that they need more support, and that’s why I’m focused on expanding our ability to provide clinical and trauma informed care for victims.”
Phil, a volunteer with the recall effort said that Gascón was not good for L.A. “Other Assistant District Attorney’s do not like his policies” especially when it comes to gang and gun enhancements, which Gascón has removed. Gascón is “putting violent criminals back on the streets, when our laws already make it tough for Police and Sheriff’s to do their jobs. He’s not making L.A. safer. I have lived here all of my life. It is worse now than it was in the 90’s. He is not making Angelenos safer.” When asked the likelihood of Gascón being recalled Phil’s response was, “100 percent!”
Karen, another volunteer, said that Gascón, “as the chief law enforcement officer, one respect, as the executive, the District Attorney,” was not following the law himself, and that “Judges asking why certain aspects of law” such as the death penalty, gun or gang enhancements “would not be applied.” “The voters in this county and the entire state, want cash bail to be applied. [Gascón] abolished that.” “He told his Assistant District Attorneys that they can not represent victims at sentencing hearings.” Karen also said that there the task of recalling Gascón is large, but the passion of the small army of volunteers was up to the task.
Former District Attorney, Steve Cooley, is also part of the effort to recall Gascón. “I am here, for one, to protest against George Gascón, the current District Attorney, who is doing harm to the people in this County and to support the next of kin of murder victims who are here to tell their story.” Cooley said. “The process can only start after 90 days, then it takes a while for all the paper work to get done. The recall petition has to be drafted. He has to rebut it in writing. Then it has to be produced and approved by the registrar recorder, that takes a little while, that will probably be early April, then it takes a little more time after that to gather about 500,000 to 600,000 signatures.”
Cooley also said that there is a lot enthusiasm among supporters of the recall. “There’s 40,000+ individuals on the ‘Recall Gascón’ Facebook Page. And there’s been a lot of grass-roots involvement and he has been severely criticized by mainstream media. His name is really not that good in this county right now. I think that will pay off eventually, and when people see his name on the ballot, they will get a chance to vote yes or no and they will vote yes to recall George Gascón.”
The highlight of the evening was when, unexpectedly, Los Angeles County Sheriff, Alex Villanueva, spoke to the group of victims families, media and interested members of the community. He stepped up to the podium and then turned to look at the families behind him and said, “I am with you!” In a sometimes impassioned, impromptu speech, he spoke of the need to enforce the laws that were on the books and to make sure that victims of violent crime were allowed to have the justice their loved ones deserved. According the Sheriff, D.A. Gascón was siding with violent criminals more than with victims and therefore, should be recalled.
When asked by a reporter of the political implications of his decision to join those who want the District Attorney recalled (Gascón and Villanueva are both Democrats), the Sheriff answered, “I was told that I would be hurting the party by aligning myself with this group, but I don’t care about a ‘D’, I care about the people of Los Angles County.” A reporter from the crowd asked the Sheriff if he was concerned about the group Black Lives Matter and their agenda. “They are radical. They are nothing more than a Marxist, Anarchist organization that doesn’t just want to reduce incarceration rates, but to remove prisons altogether and completely defund law-enforcement. They want anarchy!” The questioning then became confrontational. Another reporter asked, “Then you are saying that black people commit a disproportionate amount of violent crime?” To which the Sheriff responded, “Yes! Statistics do not lie. We shouldn’t be talking about prison populations, but about why they are in prison in the first place and about victims. We should be looking into why those of certain communities commit those crimes and then try and help them.”
The “Victims of Violent Crime for the Recall of District Attorney Gascón,” PAC says that they have raised close to six figures for the effort. “Once the petition is out,” according to the primer,”we have 160 days to gather 600,000 valid signatures. We expect that 160 day period to run April-September.”
If you would like more information, visit: http://www.recallgeorgeGascón.com