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Terrorism: The calculated use of violence (or threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature.
According to Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia, terrorism is a term used to describe violence or other harmful acts committed (or threatened) against civilians by groups or persons for political or ideological goals (fear in latin)
You decide for yourself, based on reputable definitions of terrorism, if the rampant violence that has engulfed our community is in any way less significant than what the American government has described as terrorism.
With that in mind, who is chiefly to blame for this insane assault upon innocent citizens who have lost their lives at the expense of what the Los Angeles Police Department is categorizing as “random acts of gang violence?”
The day before the funeral of Los Angeles High School football star Jamiel Shaw Jr., another family suffered a similar fate.
A 26 year-old Hispanic male was murdered eerily similar to Shaw Jr on Monday, March 10. He was walking home at approximately 5 a.m. in the Crenshaw district when he was gunned down. Police combing the crime scene hours later were left clueless. No witness or suspects.
The deceased man’s live-in girlfriend cried as neighbors washed away his blood that stained the pavement and left clunks of spattered blood in the grass.
As relative tried to console her, she shook, screamed and muttered to me that she no longer wants to live in Los Angeles. She doesn’t feel safe.
RANDOM OR CALCULATED VIOLENCE?
The raw emotions of the Hispanic woman crying over her boyfriend’s slain body could be duplicated and shared with the family of a Woodland Hills Taft High School freshman who was murdered by gang members at a party over the weekend.
Ditto for the families of the three slain in Compton last weekend.
The cowardly acts that shot down students near George Washington Carver Middle School in South Los Angeles several weeks ago brought widespread attention to the countless series of shootings unrelated albeit intertwined.
A six-year-old boy was pierced with bullets on March 4 who rode as a passenger in the family van in Harbor City, the same city that was spotlighted in 2007 because of alleged random acts of violence.
Shaw Jr.’s murder on March 2 heightened the exposure. A 17-year old aspiring college athlete killed blocks away from his home in Arlington Heights for not answering fast enough if he was in a gang (which he was not.)
His mother, an Army Sergeant serving a second tour of duty in Iraq, was told of her son’s death from an LAPD homicide detective on a long distance telephone call that she will never forget.
These alleged random acts of violence are beginning to occur much too frequently for the communities here and throughout America.
The body count in American communities has escalated while the killings in Iraq have decreased.
America’s fervent search for Al Qaeda and its alleged mastermind Osama Bin Laden has cost our nation much more than the trillions of dollars that it is spending at war. It is costing our nation the precious lives of young men and women who represent our bright future, because of the resources denied to them.
City officials and community leaders were baffled and puzzled as to any solutions to what the Sentinel this week is chronicling as domestic terrorism.
Several community based meetings featuring Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, LAPD Police Chief William J. Bratton and City Council members such as Bernard Parks, Jan Perry and Herb Wesson, whose districts have been directly affected, have unveiled more questions than answers.
One burning question that officials have not answered to the dissatisfaction of citizens and community leaders is whether any of these murders are a result of feuds between Blacks and Latinos.
Both Mayor Villaraigosa and Bratton have steadfastly implied that their investigations have yet to uncover any such fact.
However, Khalid Shaw (no relation to murder victim Jamiel Shaw Jr.), a community activist whose Inglewood based Stop The Violence Increase The Peace program has been instrumental in curtailing gang violence through intervention firmly disagrees with the Mayor and Police Chief.
“There is no doubt that some Blacks, mothers, fathers and children are being murdered simply because of the color of their skin,” Shaw told the Sentinel in a recent interview.
This week, Pedro Espinoza, a 19-year old member of the Hispanic 18th Street Gang was arrested and arraigned in a downtown Los Angeles courthouse on capital murder charges in the case of Shaw Jr.
Khalid Shaw was forthright and candid as he carefully carved out his comments, wrestling with the right word recipe for what has been a colossal disaster.
“We know that the solution is not putting our heads in the sand and acting like nothing is going on,” he added.
Having chaired the Inter Agency Gang Task Force for more than a year, Shaw believes that the lack of funding for gang intervention is a dilemma that is preventing the onslaught of violence from being slowed down.
He feels that these acts of violence are indeed acts of terror, but does not concur that gang members are indeed terrorists.
Former LAPD Police Chief Bernard Parks explained, “I think you can say that when you look at terrorist there is a small uncontrolled group of people that can wreck havoc on their community.”
After a five-year decline, Los Angeles homicides have increased 27 percent with at least 75 killings so far in 2008.
According to antiwar.com the American military deaths in Iraq since the beginning of 2008 so far totals 76.
The cost of maintaining the war in Iraq has increased dramatically since Jan. 2003 with the estimated total $509 billion and growing at Sentinel press time.
Many argue that more of the federal government dollars should be funneled here on the homeland. Democratic Presidential candidates Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton have vowed to put an end to the war in Iraq and bring those financial resources back home.
Councilman Wesson, who was instrumental in securing a $50,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the suspect in the Shaw Jr. killing, singled out gang violence as the form of domestic terrorism that is wrecking havoc upon our communities.
“The kind of domestic terrorism our community has faced has come in the form of gang violence, Wesson said, “Gang violence in the early 1980s and early 90s usually had an economic agenda associated with establishing territory for the sale of drugs. These territories have now been long established. The violent gangsters we are seeing today are third generation of gang members in their 20’s and 30’s who kill and terrorize to gain respect within gang culture.”
Wesson concluded that, “in the final analysis terrorism is terrorism. If the federal government is going to fight terrorism abroad, they need to understand that we have a terrorism problem here at home as well.”
Congresswoman Diane E. Watson (D-Los Angeles) was asked if the community violence related to worldwide terrorism and should the financial resources equal that of anti-gang programs.
“Yes,” she emotionally stated.
Rep. Watson authored an amendment to reduce the number of gang related gun crimes in the 33rd District by adding federal inspectors and agents to combat gang crimes. The amendment also directed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to investigate fully how the proliferation of guns arrived into “our communities and how the bureau can be more effectively remove weapons from gang members hands.”
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-California) also attributed much of the community violence to gang members.
“These gangs, which are populated by our youth are organized around colors, territory and race, Waters explained, “The youths who join gangs feel trapped by joblessness and poverty in our neighborhoods and communities. Sadly they end up expressing their anger and frustration with their lack of opportunity through a false and empty power struggle that does not begin to address the root of their problems.”
Rep. Waters say that it is going to take a “coordinated effort between federal, state and local law enforcement to help eliminate the crime and devastation that is being perpetrated on our communities.”
Waters is an original co-sponsor of legislation of the Youth Promise Act. a bill that would implement the advice from the Crime Subcommittee over the past years from 50 crime policy experts.
City Councilwoman Perry has seen her district hit hard by brutal slayings and multiple shootings of innocent citizens and she cited the lack of youth programs and lack of resources that are earmarked for worldwide terrorism for much of the problem.
“Worldwide terrorism has a profound effect on our budget. The city faces hundreds of millions of dollars in deficit in the coming fiscal year. Up until the year 2000, the federal government provided $20 million in funds for Summer Youth Employment programs that also included tutoring for youth at risk of not graduation,” Perry told the Sentinel.
“The city of Los Angeles has not received any of this funding since 2000. There are now 100,000 youth ages 16-24 that are out of work and out of school. Unless urban centers that face the kind of challenges we face are funded in a manner that is meaningful, we are likely to face the harshest realities for a far longer period of time.”
Perry insisted that a long-term investment of over $1 billion is essential over a 10-year period for areas such as South Los Angeles to combat the violence problem.
In the meantime, local citizens from Pasadena, the Inland Empire, greater Los Angeles, Compton, Watts, Harbor City, East Los Angeles, the Valley and many other regions live their lives in constant fear.
Not knowing if their next drive to the gas station will be their last, or praying and hoping that they don’t received that dreaded phone call from homicide detectives about their loved one.
For now, at least all we have is the prayer and hope that we will not be the next victims of community terrorism.
Speak Out! Would you lump the violence in the streets in the same category as the terrorism we currently fight against abroad?