Matt Welch

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© 1986-2004

re on the public areas outside the fenced-off Convention complex after 8 p.m. last night, Flores said he heard absolutely no police orders for the crowd to evacuate the area.

"We had a permit to march. The cops who were lined up by the buildings we were walking by, they didn't even mention one word to us to turn back. So we kept on marching. ... I was on the walke-talkie, making sure our demonstrations did not break any laws."

Ironically, this morning's National Homeless Convention panel discussion was about "Homeless and Law Enforcement." Typical of Hayes' style, the promotional literature for the discussion stressed that this "is not an opportunity to attack law enforcement, but rather one for the all participants to get involved with the JSAP (JOINT STATEMENT AND ACTION PLAN) efforts.”

"We still want to continue peaceful demonstration, this is not going to set us back," Flores said. "We're still going to take this high moral ground."

Which contrasts sharply with the Homeless Convention's opinion of the young street protesters who have been rallying in Pershing Square and marching to the Protest Pit ... but not paying much attention to the goings on at Dome Village.

"Vandals were out here throwing bottles and so forth. You know what? When they're throwing those bottles they're actually throwing them at homeless people, because they don't care about the homeless. If they really cared about the homeless they'd be talking peace in this country," Flores said. "Homeless people are more oppressed than these kids that are coming to protest about anything and everything else. ... Kid wants to bring up environmental issues? Well damn, how much human trash is down there in Skid Row? You wanna talk about the gentlemen on Death Row? You know Skid Row .- more African Americans are killed on Skid Row than on Death Row. I mean any kind of issue: you want to talk about unions? How many union members we got out there?"

The protesters' politics are also counter-productive, Flores argued.

"These guys want a physical revolution. I talked to an anarchist kid, he told me his ultimate goal is to take away capitalism in this country. I said 'well jeez ... the closest you're going to get is to jump on that plane and go to Cuba. But you know what -- Fidel Castro wouldn't want you. So you're gonna have to come back here, and you're gonna have deal with the issues.'

"As a matter of fact this anarchist kid I was talking to had a credit card. You want to take away capitalism, but yet you have a credit card where you're giving to the establishment? So I said please man, what is the whole issue of civil disobedience?' Homeless people live in civil disobedience every single day. And you guys come over from white suburbia or what have you, affluent areas, always educated, mind you, they come over here, throw a little temper tantrum over here, ignoring the homeless issue. They're just as bad as the Establishment who select the law enforcement and illegally criminalize homeless people. ... They're actually imposing their ideology on us, so they're just as much the oppressor."

Hayes, a flamboyant and controversial figure, has been a point man in homeless advocacy since his "Justiceville" homeless structure in L.A.'s Skid Row was demolished by bulldozers in 1985. In 1993, using funding from people such as L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan, he founded the Dome Village, a mini-park of 18 igloo-shaped "Omni-Sphere domes" for low-income individuals and families. The experiment has been acclaimed worldwide, and the University of Southern California has kicked in with a "Cyberdome" and student volunteer work.

Hayes has been pushing city, county, state and federal leaders to adopt his National Homeless Plan, which calls for a presidential executive order to create a "Marshall Plan for Homelessness." This week's panel discussions and vigils are designed to raise awareness of the estimated 80,000 homeless in L.A., and challenge the Democrats to once again pay attention to an issue that has fallen off the national radar during the Clinton/Gore era.

"Especially with prosperity so up, why is homelessness on the rise?" Flores asked. "I can see back in the Great Depression, the economic crash caused homelessness. What causes homelessness today?"

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