LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The L.A. County sheriff is defending his decision to reinstate a controversial logo at the East L.A. Sheriff’s station.
The logo brands the building as “Fort Apache” and represented the station for 50 years. It can be seen on the flag pole, on bumper stickers and patches, and on a door inside the station. That’s where it’s going to stay, according to L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villaneuva.
This, despite opposition being raised at a Civilian Oversight Committee Tuesday, when activists argued the logo represents a dark chapter in the lives of Native Americans and the City of L.A. that should not be celebrated.
“Nowhere would they even consider a “Camp Auschwitz,” said Johnny Torres, a member of the Apache tribe. “So why are we going to tolerate a Fort Apache?” he asked.
Torres was born and raised in East L.A. He sees the term “Fort Apache” as a symbol of oppression.
“Fort Apache is basically where they would capture, imprison, torture and even kill Apaches,” Torres said of the fort built in Arizona in 1871.
Torres says the logo was created in 1970 after the East L.A. riots, where L.A. Times reporter Ruben Salazar and three others were killed.
“Sicking dogs on women and children, billy clubbing men, shooting gas, chasing children. They swooped on a peaceful protest,” Torres said in part. “That’s what created East L.A. riots. And that’s why there’s a riot helmet over the boot — because that riot helmet signifies when the sheriffs rushed a peaceful crowd,” he continued, accusing the LASD of “trying to erase department history.”
When Sheriff Alex Villanueva looks at the logo, however, he sees something completely different.
“It represents the hard-working deputies of Los Angeles station keeping a low profile,” Villanueva said, insisting: “The boot and the helmet is the working patrolman’s boot and helmet and there’s nothing sinister about that.”
Villanueva said Tuesday he will respect the concerns of Native Americans who are offended by the term “Fort Apache” and believes it’s “appropriate” to change it.
“We’ll definitely take their opinions into consideration and we’re going to revise that logo to address that issue,” he said. “However, the rest of the logo is not going to be touched,” Villaneuva added.
It’s still perpetuating that there’s an us and there’s a them,” Torres said, asking: “When do we get over that?”
Members of the Civilian Oversight Commission voted unanimously Tuesday on a resolution calling on the sheriff to get rid of the logo altogether.