LOS ANGELES - Dozens of supporters of Measure A, which was approved by voters last week and gives the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors the authority to remove a publicly elected sheriff from office for cause, gathered outside the Hall of Justice Wednesday to celebrate its passage.
More than 70% of voters were backing the measure as of Wednesday morning, with the measure receiving more votes so far than Gov. Gavin Newsom has received for re-election. Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who conceded defeat Tuesday in his bid for reelection against challenger Robert Luna, has blasted the proposal as unconstitutional, calling it a blatant power grab by a board with which he has repeatedly clashed.
Leticia Vazquez, the mother of Marco Vazquez Jr. — who suffered from mental illness and was fatally shot by sheriff's deputies in 2019 — said she has felt "invisible to the system behind us."
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"We were noticed by the people," Vazquez said of Measure A passing. "The people heard us. They saw our cries. They heard our screams. They shouted in the streets with us."
Measure A gives the board the power to remove a sheriff "for cause" with a four-fifths vote of the five-member panel. Although board members supporting the measure denied it was political in nature, the move was a clear response to its battles with Villanueva, who has accused board members of defunding his agency at the expense of public safety and has rebuffed subpoenas to appear before the county's Civilian Oversight Commission.
Hugo Soto-Martinez and Eunisses Hernandez, two council member-elects who will take office next month, spoke at the downtown news conference Wednesday. Both have worked on issues concerning the sheriff's department, with Soto-Martinez as a labor organizer and Hernandez as a community organizer.
"We cannot just simply think about a union contract," Soto-Martinez said. "We have to think so much bigger. We fight for wages. We fight for healthcare. But we don't fight against police violence. We don't fight to create affordable housing. We don't fight to protect our climate. We don't fight for so many things that affect our members' lives."
Soto-Martinez unseated two-term Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, who conceded the race for the 13th District seat on Tuesday.
"Measure A is a moment to think about the system," Soto-Martinez said. "Because we realize this is simply not about Villanueva. It is about the system that we are fighting. It is a system that kills people of color. It is a system that we'll continue to fight."
Hernandez, who defeated Councilman Gil Cedillo in the First District in the June primary, said of Measure A passing with 70%: "It's a mandate."
"This is a wake-up call for everybody in government," Hernandez said.
She reiterated her platform of partnering with the county to close down the decrepit Men's Central Jail, adding: "We need to close all jails."
Hernandez said she was excited about voters taking the step of "actually diminishing the power, the budget of the sheriff's department."
"Because accountability alone is not enough," Hernandez said. "We need to remove their power and this right here — this effort here is a true example of Black, Brown, Indigenous solidarity amongst our community."
Stephanie Luna, the aunt of Anthony Vargas — who was fatally shot by sheriff's deputies in 2017 — said she plans to hold Robert Luna, the new sheriff, just as accountable.
"I really do hope he pays attention to what's going here, because the same folks that fought for Measure A are going to be the same people that are ultimately be the ones to hold him accountable," she said.