The following is a guest post from Kevin Trujillo Miller, about what he saw last night at Central Library during ALOUD’s program, Surviving Homelessness & Foster Care: A conversation with author David Ambroz and Mayor Karen Bass.
Well, as the saying goes, things didn’t quite go as planned.
After a brief intro speech by library staff, Mayor Karen Bass and David Ambroz were introduced and took the stage. Ambroz was there to talk about his new book, which dealt with his experiences with poverty and homelessness as a youth. Then the fun started.
Bass and Ambroz sat for all of a few minutes before a protest began in earnest. Members of the Hillside Villa Tenants Association, seated in the audience incognito, sprang up throughout the auditorium and started chanting and unfurling banners making a case for their cause.
Their chants ranged from denouncing gentrification, unity of community, and calling out city corruption. Mayor Bass and Ambroz sat on stage grinning, laughing, basically trying to dismiss the protesters’ efforts, but after minutes of the commotion both Bass and Ambroz left the stage.
During this time, the audience became agitated and annoyed and started yelling at the protestors, with some audience members getting in the face of a few of the protesters. Ultimately the protesters left peacefully, apparently making a deal with city police to avoid any arrests.
Right before the protestors left, a library staff member came out and announced Mayor Bass had left the building. After the protesters left, Ambroz returned to the stage and he and the library staff member resumed the discussion of his book. Before doing so he made some disparaging comments about the protesters and I advised him, while it may have been an inconvenience, they were taking extreme measures due to Mayor Bass’ inaction in addressing their plight. In a very grown up voice he told me to sit down and shut up. Yay.
I completely support the Hillside Villa Tenants Association, although I question their approach as it only put heat on the mayor and missed an opportunity to educate a very captive audience about their battle. Perhaps handing out flyers or clearly and calmly vocalizing the reason for their actions might have garnered more public support along with making the mayor sweat. Complicated, desperate people are often forced to take desperate measures.
I decided to stay for the rest of the presentation, as I was there with my uncle. But the irony of Ambroz talking about the importance of reducing homelessness, protecting children from housing insecurity, and the traumatizing experiences he suffered as a child due to homelessness after having mocked with a very smug and entitled attitude people fighting to avoid the exact same thing he wrote a book about was just too much for me. I left and had the most pleasant conversation with an ALOUD staffer in the lobby while waiting for my uncle and the program’s end.
Just another Thursday night in the City of Angels.