Tuesday evening, NOlympics LA held its first public forum on the LA 2024 2028 Olympic bid, which provided the first truly open and accessible opportunity for our coalition and members of the public to address the negative consequences of a 2028 Olympics on all of Los Angeles. The evening centered on a series of panel discussions featuring representatives from our amazing partner organizations including the LA Tenants Union, Crenshaw Subway Coalition, BLM-LA, LA CAN, AF3IRM, Socialist Alternative, March and Rally LA, SAJE, Anti-Racist Action, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and Ground Game LA. Guest speakers from the UCLA Departments of History and African-American Studies joined in as well for what was a spirited dissection of Olympic and Los Angeles history, declarations of where we are in 2017, and ideas for how to organize and improve our communities moving forward.
That night proved something we’ve known for a while: our coalition partners are some of the most dedicated and knowledgeable organizers in the region. Their expertise and individual experiences touched on a variety of intersectional issues at the core of urban life in Los Angeles: tenants rights, homelessness, healthcare, human trafficking, anti-imperialism, police militarization, the relationship between transit and displacement, and so on.
You can watch the whole video here (we’ll have an abridged version soon).
Organizer Melina Abdullah of Black Lives Matter LA had been protesting the police murder of 18-year-old Carnell Snell Jr earlier that morning and was arrested along with others at the police commission. And yet, somehow she made it to the panel to discuss police militarization, why Eric Garcetti should fire Charlie Beck, among other concerns during the police and militarization panel.
Left to right: David Stein (UCLA), Ace Katana (Ground Game LA), Michael Novick (Anti-Racist Action), John Motter (DSA-LA, Iraq Veterans Against the War), Melina Abdullah (Black Lives Matter LA)
Throughout the evening, L.A.’s chronic issues - many of them at historically bad levels - were consistently filtered through the lens of how the Olympics will have historically exacerbated problems faced by marginalized communities, and what an acceleration of displacement and criminalization would look like in a city that is already failing to keep so many of its residents safe and sheltered. But the panelists were able to proffer solutions - both big picture and granular - of how to not just resist, but proactive wage the important battles that need to be fought regardless of whether our mayor realizes his boyhood dream of hosting the Olympics in his (i.e, our) backyard.
As organizers ourselves, we tried to create an accessible context for honest, informed, and passionate dialogue, which is diametrically opposed to how Mayor Garcetti, City Council, and the LA 2024 2028 bid committee have been doing business for years. We saw this lack of flexibility and transparency play out in a pretty dramatic fashion over the last few weeks, as they all collectively rushed to meet the IOC’s arbitrary deadline.
To put the situation in stark perspective - when we arrived at City Hall last week at 7:30am, a victory press conference was already set up to celebrate a vote that had not yet taken place, to approve an updated bid proposal that has not been written and has no budget. At the meeting, Council President Herb Wesson refused to hear public comment in front of full Council despite the fact that less than half of the councilmembers have heard from the public about the 2028 bid. One of the councilmembers, Monica Rodriguez, has never heard public comment on either the 2024 or 2028 bid, and yet she along with 11 of her colleagues voted enthusiastically to authorize Mayor Garcetti to sign the IOC’s contract without amendment. As one of our elected officials mentioned at the meeting, we as a city are now “married” to the IOC - an unaccountable foreign consortium of anarcho capitalists and royalty, who have historically resisted any attempts to bring democracy, transparency, and a recognition of human rights into their standard operating procedures. So these layers upon layers of obfuscation and disenfranchisement are a big part of what we are fighting, and what we are attempting to address and correct in all of our organizing work, including this event.
So with our first public forum, we tried to be as inclusive as possible. We chose a weeknight, because taking off work at the last minute to go to City Hall on a weekday at 8:30am is a luxury that most people don’t have. We chose an area in South L.A. that has been and will be directly impacted by the Olympics, and our coalition partners at SAJE provided a space that is directly connected to the surrounding community. We canvassed the area this weekend and had many meaningful conversations with local residents, many of whom have been there for generations.
We also invited the bid committee to attend our forum a month in advance and updated them as details took shape, ultimately inviting them about six separate times. Each time, their representative said they’d see if they could fit it into their “schedules and international travel” and finally declined the day before the event. We provided interpretation services in Spanish to make sure monolingual Spanish speakers could attend. We livestreamed it for those who couldn’t make it, and we’ll make the video available online. We solicited public feedback throughout the forum and will publish answers to all of the questions we didn’t have time for within the next week. In all, we in good faith tried to be as forthcoming, honest and accessible as we could given our resources.
Ultimately, this forum has marked the end of the first phase of this campaign as well as the beginning of the next phase, which will be different in many respects. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be crystallizing and strategizing based on last night’s conversations and the four months leading up to them. We recognize that the template we’ve established in the first few months is just the beginning and that we have plenty of room to grow and improve, and we would like to include even more dialogue and even more diversity of voices and perspectives as we move ahead.
We’ve set the stage for future events, actions, research, and collaborations, with groups in LA, California, and around the world. We wish to remain adaptive as our partnerships deepen and the world changes around us. We want to be as flexible and open as Eric Garcetti and the LA 2024 2028 bid are rigid and wooden.
Thank you to all who have supported our efforts in the past several weeks. It’s exciting and thrilling to have many directions this consolidation of good people and organizations on the left can take as we aggressively seek to make Los Angeles a habitable and equitable city for everyone.