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Protest Seeks to Flush Out Toilet Issue : Homeless: Blockade of City Hall bathroom is part of a campaign to get latrines for Skid Row. An agreement may be near.

May 26, 1994|MARC LACEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

This was a protest aimed at making City Hall squirm. And it worked.

Seeking to pressure the city of Los Angeles into installing portable toilets for the homeless people on Skid Row, a small band of demonstrators staged a blockade of a City Hall men's room on Wednesday.

Their point: Those with roofs over their heads sometimes take accessible toilets for granted.

"We've been asking City Hall since 1980 to put toilets on Skid Row," said Alice Callahan, director of Las Familias del Pueblo. "Thousands of people have no place other than alleys, sideways and doorways to go to the bathroom."

Toilets were set to go up in 1992 but then Mayor Tom Bradley interceded to keep them off sidewalks. For months, activists have been pressuring Mayor Richard Riordan to approve the latrines.

As Wednesday's bathroom blockade was in full swing, a Riordan representative huddled with Councilwoman Rita Walters and other city leaders to hash out an agreement that could bring toilets to Skid Row.

If county health permits are secured and the legal issues are resolved, 33 sidewalk toilets would go up at a cost of about $77,000, officials said.

There are plenty of bathroom facilities in the city's giant municipal edifice. But the four-hour shutdown of the second-floor men's room, which is City Hall's main public facility, did prompt a little frantic searching.

Councilman Nate Holden complained that the protesters chose the bathroom across from his office for their blockade.

"They're not going to block me when I have to go," Holden said.

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