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.