LOS ANGELES — South Los Angeles area residents and their allies are expected to rally Monday afternoon, Nov. 15, to protest the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors’ proposal to close the Martin Luther King Jr./Charles Drew Hospital’s trauma center.

The county-run hospital and center are located in the predominantly African American, Latino, and low-income community of Watts in South Los Angeles. The rally will take place in front of King-Drew Magnet High School while the five-member Board of Supervisors holds a public hearing inside on the fate of the trauma center.

Over 30,000 area residents have signed petitions against the proposed closing, with more petitions uncounted and even more coming in daily, say organizers.

Spearheading the mobilization, one of the area’s most significant grassroots campaigns in decades, has been Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.). Waters has chaired weekly Saturday community mobilization meetings. Supporters of the center have leafleted and petitioned at playgrounds, shopping centers, community centers and churches.

The hospital and trauma center staff, represented by SEIU Local 660, has joined the coalition of groups — including the county’s multiracial ACORN network — trying to save the center.

Buses have been chartered to bring people to the rally from churches, community centers and work sites. The Los Angeles Baptist Ministers Conference, which had planned a meeting nearby at the same time, will adjourn early and march to the rally with other clergy joining with them.

The hospital and trauma center were created as a result of decades of struggle for major public health care programs in the area, led by the African American community. The demand for a hospital was included in the McCone Commission recommendations after the 1965 Watts uprising, and ground was broken shortly after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.

The proposal to close the trauma center is seen as a retrenchment in services to the African American community and others, and as an attack on public medical services in general.

The Nov. 15 rally will start at noon at 1601 E. 120th Street. The public hearing is from 3-6 p.m.

The author can be reached at rosalio_munoz@sbcglobal.net

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