Column: Attack on Barrio, Ghetto Units Helps Explain Rising Alienation
In the barrios and ghettos the word “repression” is heard these days.
“Repression” is an ugly word. Those who don’t live in the barrio and ghettos must wonder how people who do live in them can use such a word about the attitude of “the Establishment.”
A report compiled by Los Angeles City Council President John S. Gibson Jr. and Councilman Arthur K. Snyder may help explain. For the report seems calculated to destroy some community organizations devoted to improving conditions for Mexican-Americans and Negroes.
As public officials the councilmen have the right, nay, the obligation, to probe public-funded organizations to ascertain whether they’re doing their job.
But the way it’s done is of the utmost importance if any semblance of understanding by the establishment for the barrio and ghetto people is to remain.
The 50-page report is, in its own words, “a sampling of federally funded agencies aiding and abetting militant individuals and groups.” The guilty parties, say the councilmen, include the Western Center on Law and Poverty, Neighborhood Adult Participation Project (NAPP), Social Action Training Center, Teen Post Summer Project, and Education Opportunities Project (EOP).
The material, which includes not only confidential police reports but intra-police department correspondence, could be highly damaging to the organizations and their directors.
The report is directed to the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce which was sponsoring a “leadership trip” to Washington. In a cover letter to J. Donald Hanauer, chamber general manager, Gibson writes in part: “I will appreciate your reviewing the material and if possible present same to the proper officials in the federal government.”
In a letter by Snyder included in the report, the councilman ends it in this manner: “Any assistance that can be given in the termination of the NAPP program will be to the benefit of Los Angeles and to the benefit of the people of the United States of America.”
Snyder accuses NAPP of “diverting their energies into creating ‘revolutionary change’” and, continues the letter, “in support of my opinions, I have attached 10 exhibits in the form of documents.” “Document” four concerns “summary of criminal and subversive backgrounds of NAPP salaried leadership from the same agency.”
The report marked “confidential” notes that Opal C. Jones, NAPP executive director, has no Los Angeles police department criminal record but adds that on Feb. 28, 1964, Mrs. Jones, “received laudatory comment in the West Coast Communist newspaper, “People’s World,” following her participation as a panelist at a Los Angeles high School forum on youth.”
One can only ask: Can Mrs. Jones control what the People’s World writes?
The report also notes that Bill Watkins, NAPP assistance directory, has no Los Angeles police department criminal record but that on January, 1969, “The name ‘Bill Watkins’ (was) found in the personal notebook of a female student arrested during San Fernando Valley State College disruptions.” This smacks of McCarthyism.
“Document” six concerns a “political meeting at a NAPP center.” The document is a two-paragraph story from the Jan. 18 Highland Park News-Herald Journal which reads:
“The Neighborhood Adult Participation Project is sponsoring an informal discussion session with Congressman John V. Tunney on Tuesday, at 9:15 a.m. at their Lincoln Heights Center, 175 N. Main St.
“Ed Bonilla, NAPP director, said that Tunney is a candidate for the U.S. Senate and urged local residents to attend and “ask questions relative to our Mexican-American community.”
Snyder does not explain how this relates to his charge that NAPP is trying to create “revolutionary change.”
The report is full of innuendos, vague charges and the police records of some community organization leaders. The organizations attacked were set up to help the non-establishment barrio and ghetto people. In some cases, people with police records who have “straightend out” can do this best.
This report, however, will greatly inhibit — as it was intended to — people who know the barrio and ghetto well and really want to help.
And this report, and the attitude it represents, can only help push the moderates into militancy.
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