This photo essay is one in a series titled "In Plain Sight: Photographic Recordings of Police Violence" by Kwasi Boyd-Bouldin.
Downtown Los Angeles is ground zero in the debate over gentrification and the future of housing. Walking its streets is a powerful visual lesson on the income disparity that exists in the area. As home to both a monumental redevelopment initiative and one of the largest concentrations of homeless persons in the country, the contrast between those with means and those without is jarring. In the past decade or so, the landscape of this part of the city has been almost completely remade in the name of progress. There has not nearly been enough attention paid to the mass displacement of longtime residents due to rising rental rates.
The spaces featured in this photo essay are located throughout the downtown area, from the newly gentrified core to the edges where much of the transient population has been pushed. The landscape in the area is a patchwork mosaic of repurposed historical landmarks, luxury apartments and abandoned lots. The further you get from the center of downtown the more you see an ever-increasing number of tents lining the sidewalks and alleys. The persistent pace of construction fosters an atmosphere of impermanence and most of these locations will become unrecognizable or disappear entirely in the near future.
Campaigns to clean up and revitalize downtown have created a volatile situation that often manifests in the increased presence of law enforcement. This outcome is a proactive approach to policing the community that projects a sense of safety to the newest residents but has the potential to further marginalize the area’s most vulnerable inhabitants.
The deaths of two black males in their 50s, Jesse Moore (2008) and Dale Garrett (2011), occurred under circumstances that share a number of similarities. Both were suspected of narcotics activity, and according to the police, both were armed with knives. One difference between the two cases is the part of downtown they occurred in. Garrett was killed by police in the middle of the day on 5th Street and Spring, which is in the heart of one of the most gentrified areas of the city. Jesse Moore was shot by police on the outskirts of downtown, just east of Skid Row.
Downtown Los Angeles is a complex place where people from all walks of life cross paths and sometimes collide. In that way, it is not unlike the rest of the city but certain factors like size and gentrification have brought many of its problems to the forefront. The presence of law enforcement is necessary, but the use of deadly force must be examined to ensure that it is the last possible resort when dealing with the public.