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By Randy Economy
Cerritos - A national human rights group will be holding a protest at Cerritos City Hall this Saturday to demand that city officials remove a statue of Gandhi that has recently been the subject of vandalism within the city limits.
Members of the media were alerted late Wednesday afternoon about the protest via email.
“Believing the City of Cerritos has turned a deaf ear to a public concern, a group working since July to organize local residents opposed to a controversy-beset Gandhi statue now plans to demonstrate for its removal outside City Hall this coming Saturday,” said Arvin Valmuci, an organizer of the event in a statement.
Organization for Minorities of India is coordinating the event that will begin at 11am on September 14 outside the Cerritos City Hall located at the corner of 183rd Street and Bloomfield Avenue.
OFMI is also coordinating local residents and community leaders to speak out against the statue at Thursday’s Cerritos City Council meeting.
“The city will not stop hearing from us until it begins listening to us,” said Valmuci. “Our protests will end the moment the city withdraws its approval from this monstrous statue.”
Organizers tell Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper that they have been “mistreated” by current Cerritos Mayor Bruce Barrows during the past several weeks over the Gandhi statue removal.
“Support for removing the statue, located outside the Chugh Law Firm on Carmenita Road, has spread throughout the area over the past two months as opponents feel increasingly alarmed by what they perceive as the city’s failure to properly address their concerns,” Valmuci said.
“Mayor Bruce Barrows provided the only formal response to the issue in an August 5 letter to OFMI, in which he confirmed: “[The Chugh Firm] was required to provide a statue or monetary contribution as a part of the Art In Public Places Program…. The City Council received and approved the statue.”
HMG-CN was sent a copy of the response from Barrows by the organization.
Bhajan Singh, director of OFMI, noted: “If the city initiated the requirement and subsequently approved the statue, then they bear responsibility. If the city hadn’t compelled Chugh Law Firm to make a donation to its Art in Public Places Program, none of this would have ever happened. Now Cerritos citizens are faced with the unfortunate statue of Gandhi, who has nothing to do with the USA and the truth of whose life is actually repulsive to most Americans.”
OFMI representatives plan to attend and present a report about Gandhi’s “dark history to all five councilmembers,” on Thursday, September 12, the press statement stressed.
“We will make three main points,” said Valmuci. “First, why is the city council not responding to our documented points about Gandhi’s background? Second, why did the city approve installation of a statue of a religious icon? Third, why is the city violating its own ‘intent and purpose’ for the Art in Public Places Program?”
Valmuci cited the opening statement of City of Cerritos’ Municipal Code Section 22 stating: “The purpose of the city of Cerritos art in public places program is to promote the general welfare by encouraging pride in the community, increasing property values, enhancing the quality of life through artistic opportunities, uniting the community through shared cultural experiences.” His response? “The Gandhi statue impedes the general welfare by promoting a shameful icon, endangers our quality of life by implicitly supporting the intolerance to which he devoted his life, and divides the community.”
Representing African-American, Caucasian, and South Asian communities, five speakers are scheduled for Saturday’s protest including: Jada Bernard, Pieter Singh, and M. R. Paul, Dr. S. Muni, and Bhajan Singh.
Speakers tell HMG-CN that they “are expected to invoke the same reasons for opposing the Gandhi statue given from the beginning, namely: Gandhi cultivated a friendship with Hitler, sexually abused and exploited his grandnieces, promoted racial segregation of blacks in South Africa, was nominated and rejected for a Nobel Peace Prize five times, tried bribing a Southern Californian woman to keep silent about her husband’s murder by his followers, and was instrumental in perpetuating the practice of caste in South Asian society.”
The Organization for Minorities of India was founded “to advance individual liberties of Christians, Buddhists, Dalits, Muslims, Sikhs, and other minorities of South Asian origin, particularly those marginalized by the Hindu caste system.”
The group also “encourages secularism, progressive human rights, liberation of oppressed peoples, and universal human dignity.”
HMG-CN contacted Barrows, and officials at Cerritos City Hall for a comment about the situation, but calls were not returned as of noon on Thursday.
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