Fixed lights, less tickets

The YDSA, DSA and volunteers held a free brake light repair clinic for any driver passing by the Valley College campus.

By Gabriel Arizon, Co-Editor-in-Chief

The Valley Star/Gabriel Arizon

The Youth Democratic Socialist Club assembled in a Valley College parking lot one Saturday morning to repair drivers’ brake lights for free.

“We do this because this falls under mutual aid,” YDSA Secretary Ivan Nathan said. “Mutual aid is basically the concept of, ‘I help you, and that improves society; you help another person, and that improves society.’ So we are all trying to help each other so that society can move forward.”

Members of the YDSA and other volunteers met in Lot B around 8 a.m on March 30. They set up tents and signs near the corner of Oxnard Street and Fulton Avenue, and waited for any passing driver to stop by that needed brake light repairs or replacements. At the end of the seven-hour event, the group had serviced 23 cars with approximately 30 volunteers appearing throughout the day.

No appointment was necessary for the event, and drivers did not have to pay a fee for any of the services. According to AutoGuru, “the average price for tail light lens replacement starts at $165 and goes to $750 and beyond.”

After signing a waiver, drivers could chat with YDSA and Democratic Socialist of America (DSA) members there, as well as have rice, beans and vegetable stew provided by Food not Bombs — a loose-knit group of independent collectives that uses donated food (primarily from the farmers’ market) to feed others.

“It was really nice that they could do this for free,” Melissa Zavala said. “I think more people should do this.”

Planning for the event had started since last semester, though some issues arose during that phase that caused progress in certain periods to be stagnant — the main one being where the group would get their insurance.

“We have insurance under our organization, which is like $3 million, because it’s a cross-country organization,” Nathan said, “but you are required to have insurance. I don’t remember how much you need, I think they needed at least $500,000. So if want to do an event like this, you have to have some backing.”

The group partially funded the supplies — including for tools and brake light replacements — from dues paid by their members. The cost of the supplies was around $150.

Beyond helping others and promoting the DSA, the event was also used to help prevent people (more specifically those of color) from being pulled over by the police.

“With brake lights, there’s a big discrepancy with people of color, and when you get pulled over for brake lights, they’ll look for another thing to screw with you,” Nathan said. “It’ll just rack up and rack up, and it’s overwhelmingly … people of color.”

“Don’t give police a reason to pull you over,” driver Anthony Orendorff said. “If everything is in check, it’s their fault.”

According to a 2018 Bureau of Justice Statistics report, drivers who were white were less likely to receive a ticket and more likely to get a warning than Hispanic and black drivers. Additionally, Hispanics were less likely than white and black drivers to be let go without enforcement action following a traffic stop.

The DSA has done events like this before across the country — two of them taking place in Los Angeles (one of them had over 100 drivers stop by). Nathan said that they hope to get the resources to do this once a month, but said they want to improve on getting more time to put the message out. A similar event is being planned for May, though a time and place has yet to be determined.