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Here's how an innocuous Los Angeles ballot initiative turned into an all-out turf war

A ballot initiative on whether to split the existing Wilshire Center-Koreatown neighborhood council into two districts has turned into a turf war.

by Jay Caspian Kang
Jun 27 2018, 1:00pm

On June 19, thousands of Los Angeles residents showed up to vote on what should have been an innocuous, bureaucratic ballot initiative that turned into a turf war, with immigrant groups in the city fighting one another for representation.

The ballot initiative was an effort to decide whether to split the existing Wilshire Center-Koreatown neighborhood council — which serves roughly 100,000 citizens, 20,000 of whom are Bangladeshi — into two separate districts. The new council, which would govern the Bangladeshi community on 3rd Street, would have been renamed as Wilshire Center-Little Bangladesh.

But the proposal was met with intense opposition from Koreatown’s political and cultural forces, who have likened it to things like the Israel-Palestine conflict and eminent domain. Through an intensive social media campaign and a series of rallies encouraging every able-bodied Korean-American in the Los Angeles area to vote against the proposal, the community argued that the establishment of Little Bangladesh would erase a cultural history that was built out of the ruins of the LA riots.

And their efforts worked: On the 19th, an overwhelming number of Korean-Americans showed up to the polls and voted down the ballot initiative by a 98 percent margin.

VICE News went to Koreatown before the vote to talk with people on both sides of the conflict — and to explore what happens when a politically dormant immigrant neighborhood wakes up.

This segment originally aired June 19, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.