Jewish Groups Protest Plan To Hire Nation of Islam Guards Photo LA3
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A plan to hire Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam to patrol the crime-ridden hallways of a federal housing project has drawn fire from Jewish groups, who say the Muslim organization is anti-Semitic.
But some tenants of the Holiday Venice apartments - fed up with drug dealers who they say brazenly do business in their building’s hallways and addicts who openly trade money and sexual favors for dope - welcome the private security force.
″We want the Nation,″ said 38-year-old Regina Hyman, a mother of three and president of the Tenants’ Action Committee at the complex, which is under the authority of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
″We want reality. We want it done,″ Hyman said. ″There are certain people who don’t get respect here. The police certainly don’t get it. They get shot at.″
Farrakhan’s N.O.I. Security Agency Inc. is one of four companies bidding to patrol the 246 apartments, said David Itkin, vice president of Alliance Housing Management Inc., which manages the project in Venice. The area, a seaside community 15 miles west of downtown, is noted for its racially integrated population that ranges from wealthy to poor.
Farrakhan’s fundamentalist Muslim organization, which encourages black economic self sufficiency, says it patrols 1,200 HUD units in Washington, D.C.
But its bid in Los Angeles has aroused controversy because of remarks Farrakhan has made over the years that are considered offensive to Jews and other ethnic groups.
David A. Lehrer, regional director of the B’nai Brith Anti-Defamation League, wrote a protest letter to HUD. In a recent interview he called Farrakhan ″an avowed racist, anti-Semite and extremist.″
Irv Rubin, national chairman of the Jewish Defense League, called the Nation of Islam ″racist, anti-American and Jew-hating.″
″That my tax dollars are going to fund Farrakhan’s so-called security apparatus is revolting to my gut,″ he said.
Calls made to the Chicago headquarters of the Nation of Islam were not immediately returned. A receptionist said officials were unavailable because of the recent death of Wali Muhammad, editor of the organization’s newspaper.
Ms. Hyman criticized the Jewish groups for interfering in what she described as a neighborhood matter.
″They don’t live down here. They don’t have any idea what’s going on,″ she said.
About 60 percent of the project’s more than 200 tenants are black and 40 percent are Hispanic, Itkin said.
Rubin said a synagogue is located near the complex and he feared that the Muslim patrols would discriminate against Jews and Hispanics.
″If I were a Latino person I would not feel comfortable. As a Jewish person I feel sheer terror,″ Rubin said.
″I don’t understand how the federal government would contract with an organization that is perceived as racially prejudiced,″ said Phil Raider of Oakwood Beautification Committee, a local neighborhood group.
Bill Christiansen, an official in HUD’s Los Angeles office, said the government had started its review of the four bids, but he didn’t know when the contract would be awarded.
He declined to say how much money is involved, but Itkin said the contract is thought to be worth several hundred thousand dollars.
Christiansen said problems at the complex warranted action and noted that HUD Secretary Jack Kemp has encouraged residents to get involved in their neighborhoods.
She said in the past she and other residents have had to patrol their apartment building themselves to keep drug dealers out.
″We stopped them those nights,″ she said, ″but we don’t want to be martyrs.″