Violence against journalists has been on the rise. This is something I am aware of peripherally, especially in the wake of Trump’s ever-escalating rhetoric, but it is also is something that at the same time feels distant.
Here in the United State we supposedly value press freedom, free speech and the exposure of truth. Yet in an ever more polarized country, that notion is being challenged. Anger towards journalists is becoming universally acceptable to politicians and political operatives of all stripes. In fact, according to Reporters Without Borders, violence against journalists was up 15% in 2018 with the United States being named among the top 5 most dangerous countries.
But lets the table that for a moment.
This month, all up and down the state of California, the Democratic Party has been running election meetings to elect assembly district delegates. And although it may seem that this is a low level election it’s not as these delegates wield a decent amount of internal party power. The Assembly District Election Meetings (ADEMS) are held every two years and according to the California Democratic Party website, “AD Delegates vote on behalf of the community they represent at CDP Regional Meetings, the California Democratic Party Convention.” They are also responsible for endorsing candidates and party resolutions.
In the past these election meetings have received little media attention but that’s changing. The 2016 primary exposed the importance of these delegates in ways that the party establishment could not foresee. For this reason, both the establishment and the progressive wing of the party were heavily invested in this year’s delegate election outcomes
In order to broaden the public’s understanding of ADEMS, I decided to do a live broadcast in addition to taping interviews with the delegates and voters. This is democracy in action. It’s the real grass roots. While we were covering the electioneering outside, a bus pulled up and people started exiting. Union boss and newly elected state senator, Maria Elena Durazo, was on the bus, and remained a strong presence for the remainder of the day.
As potential voters exited and walked past I asked, “What part of the district are you from?” Some onlookers commented that the bus was bringing in voters from a senior citizen center in Glassell Park, which is in the district. But when I asked one gentleman where he was from, he responded “Studio City”. This made me slightly curious given Studio City is not part of AD 51.
At the same time, I noted that there were a lot of people wearing Teamsters t-shirts standing adjacent to the bus. (Full disclosure- I am a proud union member that supports unions). One of them commented to the effect that we are all progressives here. Yet knowing that many progressive voters view Medicare for All and affordable housing as a litmus tests, I decided to push back on that narrative since our current union-backed representative, Wendy Carillo, does not support either. As I was asking questions, one of them ran up to us and snatched the iPhone we were broadcasting with out of my hand. She proceeded to walk away with it. When I took my phone back from her, she hit me. Shortly after, a handful of Sheriffs showed up as a bystander had called 911.
This was just wild. Straight out of a Jerry Springer episode. Had I now become part of the increasing aforementioned violence against journalists? And if so, for what reason? I had always imagined that if I was ever going to experience violence at a political event it would be at the hands of a Neo Nazi, so I was stunned but also realized I needed to start doing some digging.
It turns out that the Teamsters, who were there to support a slate of delegates put together by several elected officials, had rented the facilities large adjacent field. Yet, elected officials should not be running slates as they already control 2/3rds of the delegates. I secured video of the facilities manager, Anna Araujo of East LA Rising, which confirms this.
Additionally, they were giving some voters white tickets as they exited the polling area. After some inquiry, I discovered that if you voted for their establishment backed slate you were given a ticket. These tickets could then be redeemed inside the adjacent field for a free lunch.
When I went in to cast my vote I noted that my eligibility was not verified. I simply signed a sheet and was handed a ballot. Earlier in the day the volunteers had been using laptops to verify voters. Multiple sources told me that Mark Gonzales, chair of the Los Angeles Democrat Party, in a discussion with the convener Patty Horton, decided that they needed to stop using the lap tops to verify voters because the line was too long. I obtained a copy of an email that Horton sent to the delegates a few days prior to the election meeting. It is clear from the email that she had set-up a process for verification. I followed up with Horton her via email and she confirmed, “I did have to modify the check in process due to the large number of seniors, and the long lines in the hot sun.”
Yet, something was still not adding up. So I decided to do some more research.