Neighbors Join Protest March Against Drugs
“You’ve got a major drug dealer standing over there,” said Debbie Wehbe, pointing at a man in a white T-shirt, standing behind a TV crew’s van. “What nerve!”
The man watched the gathering crowd of Hollywood residents, folded his arms across his chest and listened to chants of “Drug dealers off our streets!” He saw the hand-drawn signs, “ Adios a las Drogas ,” and the 15-foot banner, “This Neighborhood is Officially Closed to Drug Dealers and Buyers.”
“I can’t blame them I guess,” he said, and shrugged, “I don’t live around here.”
The fathers, mothers and children marched up, down and around the blocks surrounding DeLongpre Park Friday night, holding candles and flashlights, to protest one of the area’s most thriving businesses: drug trafficking.
Police said they’ve jailed 113 people, mostly transients, for buying or selling drugs in the half-block square DeLongpre Park this year. And in a five-block area around the park, the number is closing in on 1,000 arrests.
“You arrest five people and eight take their place,” said Dennis Zeuner, a Los Angeles Police Department detective. The problems escalate, Zeuner said, when addicts must support their habits by either selling narcotics themselves or stealing.
Drug-selling in the park, bordered by Cherokee Avenue, De Longpre Avenue and June Street, “usually gets going around 10 or 11 in the morning,” Zeuner said. When police come by, the dealers just wait until they’re gone or move to the next corner, he said.
“They have no compunction about doing it in front of our children,” said Wehbe, a mother of four. “That’s what really scared us.”
She said the neighborhood’s new grass-roots, fight-back attitude has received encouragement from local schools, police, community leaders and neighborhood watch groups.
The 85 assorted residents, Boy Scouts, teachers, clergy and activists who joined forces Friday stopped at corners and houses known locally as places to buy or use crack cocaine, pausing at least a dozen times.
“It’s like the night of the living dead in that house. They’re all zombies,” said Del Zamora, about one of the area’s dark, boarded-up, single-family homes.
The procession doubled to about 160 by the time it reached the Blessed Sacrament School at Sunset Boulevard and Cherokee, where speakers underscored the need for community unity. For every person who joined the 70-minute parade, two or three others waved or applauded from patios, doorways, balconies and windows.