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Hundreds gather for civil rights protest at City Hall led by Bus Riders Union

By Michael Katz
Published: Wednesday, July 25, 2012, at 06:22PM
Michael Katz / KPCC

A banner with Obama's face on it stood at the top of stairs.

Behind loud drums, giant signs and chants, hundreds of people gathered Wednesday in front of City Hall in an effort to get President Obama’s attention regarding so-called “racist” tactics by Los Angeles Metro.

Sunyoung Yang, the lead organizer for the Bus Riders Union, said that the MTA has violated Los Angelinos’ civil rights by cutting off one-million hours worth of transportation in the city.

“After a federal investigation last year … there was major evidence that there was civil rights regulations being broken when they [cut bus services],” Yang said. “We’re talking about the mobility needs of the poorest of the poor.”

Yang said that the cuts directly affect minorities and consequently constitute as civil rights violations. Though she said the MTA has increased its budget recently, the money goes towards projects that profit large-scale projects.

“Over 90 percent of the people who use the bus … are actually African-American, Latinos, [Asian and Pacific Islander] and, you know, overwhelmingly poor,” Yang explained. “MT has systematically cut services … despite the fact their budget has grown by 60%.”

Protestors were gathered to kick-off their campaign to get President Obama to consider taking action to ensure that the situation gets remedied. Among the groups in attendance were Gender Justice LA, Vote for Equality and the SEIU United Long Term Care Workers, according to the Bus Rider Union's press release.

Yang believes Los Angeles is the perfect place to start, because of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s relationship with the president.

“We need to get … Mayor Villaraigosa … to take a stand and say, 'I’m not going to stand for MTA’s continual pro-corporate, pro-gentrification,'” Yang said. “That leaves masses of bus riders stranded.”

Yang believes that as L.A. goes, so goes the U.S.A.

“If we can win a civil rights intervention here, it sets the precedent,” Yang said. “L.A. is just the a test case, but it’s happening all over the country.”

Yang and her fellow protestors believe that the 1964 Civil Rights Act make it illegal for a service like MTA to be “discriminatory” with its money, even if it is not intended to be so.

“Part of the reason we’re raising this as a national campaign is that it’s trying to raise the debate around who is really enforcing civil rights in this country,” Yang said. “The federal government can and the individuals can’t?”

Los Angeles Metro was not available for comment at the time of this story’s publication.


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