By Zein Amari
Red-masked activists and tenants from the 28th Street Barrio Committee of South Central descended upon unsuspecting slumlord Charles Quarles at his ritzy Brentwood office last Thursday afternoon, demanding he meet with his tenants and waive the $1,000 rent increase.
The protesters made it into the main lobby of the office building at 12400 Wilshire Blvd., holding up signs and chanting slogans such as “Renters united will never be evicted!”, “Stop the cheating. We want a meeting!”, and “We want Charles! We want Charles!” They held up portraits of Quarles with “Money-Hungry Slumlord” and similar captions written underneath his picture. Tenants with megaphones spoke about their bad living conditions at the Griffith Apartments at 812 and 845 E. 28th St.
Within five minutes of protesters being in the lobby, security was demanding the protesters leave or else the police would be called, but the protesters stayed put and chanted even louder than before.
More security guards and one associate of Quarles came to prevent protesters from getting to Quarles’s office. Protesters came face to face with security and the associate, who began arguing with a masked protester. In the middle of the argument, the associate pulled down the protester’s bandanna from her face. As the protester cocked her arm to strike him, he recoiled to the safety of security guards to protect him from the repercussions of the protesters and tenants.
Shortly thereafter, LAPD arrived and attempted to quell the protest.
After a while, the tenants and masked activists moved the protest outside to generate more public attention. Officers prepared for a violent confrontation by putting on riot-control gear, like face-shield helmets and readying their bean bag shotguns.
LAPD officers told masked protesters that it was against the law to have their faces covered. Several masked protesters responded, saying, “What law?” LAPD officers were unable to respond. The protesters remained masked.
Tenants and masked activists spoke about how cowardly Quarles was acting, calling the police on his own tenants. One tenant remarked, “we’re not animals, we’re human beings, and [Quarles] running away is being more like an animal.”
Quarles has called tenants animals according to his mouthpiece, property manager Corbin Pitts. After a while, most police officers left and the protest ended.
Later in the day, tenants received a peculiar letter in their mailboxes. It was from an “Employee and Loyal Friend” of Quarles, Kareemah Jackson. The letter attempted pitifully to garner sympathy for Quarles, portraying him as a selfless and carrying member of the community.
One part of the letter asked the tenants, “At what point can he pass the torch and begin enjoying the fruits of his laborious commitments? … And at what point can he pass the torch and begin enjoying the fruits of his labor???”
Jackson went on to list petty supposed violations done by the tenants. The letter concludes stating that a police report has been filed against the protesters and that a restraining order will be filed against his own tenants and their supporters.
A tenant with the committee said, in response to the letter, “We made that asshole rich – for 15 years.”
None of the tenants on the committee have intentions of letting up on Quarles and the feeling of determination remains high.