Mr. President: Enforce, Restore, Expand our Civil Rights!

Bus Riders Union and region-wide coalition launch national campaign calling for President Obama to restore one million hours of bus service in LA and restore public’s right to sue for civil rights.
Contact Information: 

Contact Sunyoung Yang, 213.387.2800

Mass rally to call on Mayor to take a stand

Following the breakthroughs of DREAM Act students and the LGBTQ rights movement in moving President Obama to take strong stands for civil rights in an election year, the Bus Riders Union launched a national campaign calling on President Obama to stand for the civil rights of Black and Latino transit riders in Los Angeles. The organization, whose landmark lawsuit and grassroots Billions for Buses campaign is a nationally recognized civil rights issue, is calling for the President to restore one million hours of bus service slashed over four year by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The campaign will urge the President to overturn a recent decision by a top transit official that ignored compelling evidence that LA Metro violated federal civil rights regulations when it cut bus service over the last four years. Where the Federal Transit Administration failed to exercise its enforcement powers, the campaign will ask President Obama to find LA Metro guilty of violations and, as a remedy for the violations, order the agency to restore one million hours of service.

Barbara Lott-Holland, co-chair of the BRU said, "This is a major civil rights test case for President Obama. With clear evidence that the nation's second largest mass transit agency violated federal civil rights law, the case offers President Obama an important opportunity to bring justice to 500,000 Black, Latino, and Asian-Pacific Islander bus riders who have been slammed by service cuts and fare increases. It will also send a powerful message that the federal government will enforce Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Intervention by the President will open doors for communities around the country to more aggressively pursue enforcement of civil rights laws, from housing to education, police abuse to health care."

That LA is a lynchpin for Obama's re-election campaign raises the stakes of for his possible intervention even higher. Although California is not considered a swing state, the President has made LA one of his most frequent fundraising destinations. He has chosen LA Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, as Chair of the Democratic National Convention in September.

"Sadly, Mayor Villaraigosa, as Chair of the LA Metro Board, has failed to take a clear stand for civil rights and for the restoration of the deep service cuts that are so devastating for the urban poor," said Sunyoung Yang, lead organizer with the Bus Riders Union. "Will he allow Black and Latino communities to be pushed to the brink of economic survival and displaced from their own neighborhoods in order to pursue a transportation agenda that gentrifies the city and fattens the pockets of corporate developers and the construction lobby? Or will the Mayor take a stand for civil rights and for the restoration of one million hours of bus service?"

The campaign will also urge the President to take a stand for the restoration of the public's right to sue government agencies for racial discrimination under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This right was the basis for the BRU's landmark 1994 lawsuit against LA Metro, but was taken away by a 5-4 decision by the Right-wing block of the US Supreme Court in the case of Alexander v. Sandoval (2001). The Bus Riders civil rights suit against the MTA in 1994 is a prime example of why that right needs restoration. The rally on the steps of L.A. City Hall will call on President Obama to make LA a beacon of civil rights and put an end to what the BRU calls "transit racism."

Endorsers of the "Mr. President, Enforce, Restore, Expand Our Civil Rights" Campaign to date:

ACUSLA - Association of Communities United of South Los Angeles
CADRE - Community Asset Development Re-Defining Education
CHIRLA - Coalition of Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles
CLEAN Carwash Campaign,
Coalition for Educational Justice
Comité Pro-Democracia de Mexico
Communities for a Better Environment
D.R.E.A.M. Team Los Angeles
Committee of Ex-Bracero Workers
East Los Angeles Community Corporation
Inner City Struggle
Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance
Los Angeles Community Action Network
Restaurant Opportunities Center-Los Angeles
SEIU United Service Workers West
Union de Vecinos
Youth Justice Coalition

Participating organizations:

SEIU United Long Term Care Workers
Comite del Partido Democratico Revolucionario
Gender Justice LA
Pacoima Beautiful
First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles
United Steelworkers of America
Jordan-Rustin Coalition
National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce
KW Lee Center
Vote for Equality
West Angeles Church