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Community groups band together to rally in support of ACORN

October 23, 2009 |  1:05 pm

A coalition of two dozen community organizers, labor leaders and clergy rallied in Watts on Thursday in support of ACORN, the embattled community organizing group. 

ACORN came under national scrutiny last month when secretly recorded videos were aired in which two conservative activists portraying themselves as a pimp and a prostitute appear to receive advice on tax evasion, human smuggling and child prostitution from ACORN employees in California, Maryland, New York and Washington.

Some speaking at a news conference that coincided with Thursday's rally described the videos as part of a larger scheme by some conservatives to smear progressive groups across the country.

"It’s a witch hunt after a segment of the progressive populations," Paul Zimmerman, director of the California Assn. of Non-Profit Housing, said in a telephone interview after the news conference. "I have McCarthy-era deja vu."

The Rev. Richard Estrada, an associate pastor at our Our Lady Queen of the Angels/La Placita church, said the attacks on ACORN have made other community organizers fear that “one day they may come after us.”

"We feel there’s something larger going on," he said. "Progressive organizations that are being effective and are working to enable the working poor, the immigrant communities and the gay and lesbian communities are being targeted."

Estrada, an immigrant rights advocate, said he thought ACORN, the Assn. of Community Organizations of Reform Now, had allayed concerns that the problems went beyond individuals and affected the entire organization. "We understand that the employees [who were videotaped] were fired and that there was an audit and an attempt to fix the problems," he said.

Other community leaders who attended the Watts event included Father Greg Boyle, the director of Homeboy Industries, Betty Day, the director of the Watts Gang Task Force, and Maria Elena Durazo, of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. They were joined by members of the Los Angeles office of ACORN.

-- Kate Linthicum

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