During a press conference on Tuesday, officials from the campaign opposing the recall of District Attorney George Gascón accused the recall attempt’s organizers of conducting a “blatant and malignant power grab.”
Those who spoke in favor of the current district attorney praised him for creating policies that do not criminalize addiction and mental health, and said that Gascón has “kept his promises” as it pertains to his campaign platform from 2020.
“This is not about George. This is about families, men, women, community organizers, workers, victims, and what we’ve all been doing for a very, very long time and continue to do and will do so fearlessly to keep pushing forward regardless of whatever the latest recycled attack is from the right wing,” said Jamarah Hayner, the campaign manager for the anti-recall effort. “This is a very old playbook. We know it well. We also know how to beat it.”
In response to the news conference, Gascón’s opponents countered that the district attorney “sold everybody a bill of goods” in his 2020 election campaign, and has since endangered public safety by turning the county’s criminal justice system upside down and refusing to prosecute numerous crimes.
During the pro-Gascón news conference, a number of labor and community leaders spoke to their support of Gascón’s policies, ranging from him stopping children from being tried as adults, to reforming cash bail, to ending the death penalty in L.A. County.
Gascón himself did not appear in the news conference. At the end of the online news conference, questions from the media were invited to be submitted in a chat window, but the session was quickly ended without any questions asked or answered.
“As part of what we know and we call ‘recall-palooza,’ his opponents are shifting the blame of all of L.A.’s crime on the district attorney. But looking all across the country,” said Mark Gonzalez, chair of the L.A. County Democratic Party, “We know that that’s simply not the truth.”
“George Gascón is doing the important work of finding and solving the root causes of crime that we are seeing in this city, while intervening in the vicious cycle of disproportionately incarcerating poor communities and communities of color.”
Susan Burton, founder of A New Way of Life Reentry project, a program designed to help people with housing, case management and advocacy following incarceration, said that, under previous district attorneys, her “life was criminalized” after she turned to drugs and alcohol following her son’s death at the hands of a Los Angeles Police Department detective.
“I have worked with George Gascón to create better victim services to create better policies to not criminalize addiction and mental health and to just transform our criminal justice system,” said Burton. “I believe, along with all of you, that there’s a lot of work ahead of us. And I believe in George Gascón heading that work.”
Burton also took time to criticize those supporting the recall effort, which as of last week had 350,000 of the needed 566,857 signatures — 10% of the registered voters in L.A. County — to qualify to be placed on a ballot.
“I’ve seen all these scare tactics before when the Drug Policy Alliance won treatment instead of incarceration at the ballot in 2001 or when we legalized cannabis in 2016,” said Lynne Lyman, a justice advocate working in L.A. County. “We heard the same: The sky is falling, the fear-mongering about drug addict criminals getting into our communities.”
Following the press conference, critics of Gascón responded, expressing their belief that while voters did support these initiatives when they installed him in office in 2020, it appears to them that the district attorney took his policies too far, endangering public safety.
“I think when he campaigned he really tried to soft pedal what he was actually going to do, which was to go soft on crime and violent criminals,” said Tim Lineberger, a spokesman for the Recall George Gascón campaign. “I think he sold everybody a bill of goods that was, ‘Hey, we want criminal justice reform in our country, we want accountability with law enforcement,’ things that everybody can agree to.”
“But in reality, what he actually meant was: ‘I’m going to turn the criminal justice system upside down, we’re going to treat the criminals like the victims and we’re not going to prosecute crime,’” Lineberger added.
Lineberger recounted recent new headlines regarding Gascón’s self-admitted low prosecution rate as it pertains to addiction-related misdemeanor crimes. The district attorney has said that the purpose of avoiding a prosecutorial effort against those individuals is in order to get them into treatment and mental health services programs — something Lineberger says can’t be substantiated by hard evidence of it actually happening.
“They have no idea, absolutely zero idea, of where one of those people ended up, whether they received the help they need, whether they got any treatment, whether they went out and reoffended,” said Lineberger. “So, this whole idea that we should be doing this instead of throwing people in jail is so ridiculous on its face, because he’s not even doing the second end of it that he’s proposing.”
Lineberger countered the argument that the recall effort was a subversion of the will of the voters on behalf of a right-wing minority, as was claimed by those at the press conference on Tuesday, saying that the backlash against Gascón spans the political spectrum and various Los Angeles County communities.
“Saying it’s a power grab is dismissive of the effort,” said Lineberger. “Sure, it’s a power grab, but for people taking back public safety in L.A. County.”
In order for the recall effort to make it onto a ballot in the coming year, officials will need to submit the total required number of approved signatures by July 6.