Approximately 150 people gathered in an open field at Central Park on Thursday to call for Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón’s recall, with the prosecutor’s critics saying that he has “sided with criminals over victims.”
During the evening, several dignitaries from across the legal system made appearances and speeches in the park, from Sheriff Alex Villanueva to Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami to Santa Clarita City Council members, among others.
The speakers during the event heavily emphasized their belief that Gascón’s policies have created a system that places the needs of convicted criminals over those of victims. Upon taking office in December, Gascón implemented a number of special directives for his prosecutors in the county to follow.
Among them were orders to: not pursue the death penalty; prevent youth offenders from being tried as adults; and almost entirely restrict the use of sentencing enhancements in cases — a way in which prosecutors can request added years to a sentence if the committed crime included a special circumstance, such as the use of a gun or lying in wait.
Gascón and his proponents have argued that these criminal justice reforms are a beneficial change away from traditional law and order.
Wayne and Laura Wilson, who attended Thursday’s rally, said his policies have led to an inverse system, where the county’s top lawyer is no longer acting as a prosecutor, but rather as a defense attorney.
“Santa Clarita is my home. My children were born here. My wife was raised here and patrols our neighborhoods,” said Hatami before the rally had begun. “We have an elected D.A. who is not fighting for justice for all of us. He refuses to follow the law. He won’t even listen to victims, survivors and family members. He has called the mother of a murdered child ‘uneducated’ and told her to shut up.”
“Our system is called an antagonistic system and then the court settles that out,” said Wayne Wilson. “But he’s on the side of criminals in so many ways.”
Wilson went on to describe how he and his wife, Laura, attended a recall Gascón rally earlier this year, and the reason they kept coming to the rallies is that they believe victims are not being properly represented in court and that criminals are “getting away with everything.”
“He’s an ideologue and he’s committed to everything he says,” said Wayne Wilson, when asked if he could see himself not supporting the recall — if Gascón were to roll back some of his policies. “I don’t think he has any interest or care for the victims.”
Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who also attended the rally, said Gascón’s policies were an example of what he described as “woke privilege.”
“That’s the Kim Kardashians of the world, that’s all the Hollywood elite, that’s the political elite from the one-party system of California telling you that George Gascón is a reformer … but their version of reforms is entirely redesigning the entire criminal justice system to the benefit of criminals, at the expense of victims of the crime,” said Villanueva.
“If you look at their policies on crime and on homelessness,” he said, “they’re very similar because they’re never going to be personally impacted by what they’re proposing. That is ‘woke privilege.’”
Assemblywoman Suzette Valladares, R-Santa Clarita, said the murder rate has increased since Gascón took office, and that those who attack minorities, children or are involved in gangs should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
“It’s not about being a Democrat, it’s not about being a Republican, no party preference, Green Party, Libertarian … but this is political because it’s our civic responsibility to stand up when our elected officials will not represent the people,” said Valladares. “We have to keep our communities safe, get political, but this is not partisan.”
Hatami said the effort was a “stand for justice” on behalf of crime victims and the community.
“He turns everything into a political issue,” said Hatami. “He is endangering us all with his policies and directives. Violent crime has increased dramatically under his watch. It is time we, as a community, take a stand for justice.”