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Community Activist Brenda Martinez Fights Against 5G in Los Angeles

When a community garden is destroyed to make room for a 5G cell tower in the East Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights, Brenda Martinez takes action to protect the health of her family and community.

Even as a teenager, Brenda Martinez had the fighting spirit to defend her integrity. Newly arrived in the U.S. from Mexico, one of her junior high teachers told her to do a “chicken dance” in front of her classmates. It was an unprovoked humiliation and Brenda had no intention of complying with it. 

The degrading request had to be interpreted by a classmate since Brenda did not yet speak English. Her refusal was translated back to her teacher, who sent her to the principal’s office for noncompliance. When her sympathetic Spanish-speaking principal immediately transferred her to a different class, Brenda learned firsthand the importance of advocacy. 

Fast forward and Brenda is now the mother of two children, a young adult and a teenager, both of whom have faced neurological challenges. During their early years she was their main advocate, but true to her spirit, Brenda supported other parents of children with special needs. This led to her work with the UCLA Autism Clinic as both a parent coach and a Spanish language translator.  

Although the cause of her children’s neurological injuries is unclear, Brenda’s neighborhood of Boyle Heights on the east end of Los Angeles has long been vulnerable to industrial toxins. A nearby and now defunct battery recycling plant, Exide, was found to have blanketed the community for decades with layers upon layers of lead and cancer-causing arsenic.

Boyle Heights is crisscrossed by six freeways, making it the most freeway-dissected area on the planet. With air quality levels exceeding allowable standards, elevated rates of both asthma and cardiovascular disease hospitalizations have been reported.

Yet in the middle of an urban Los Angeles neighborhood plagued by toxic assaults, Brenda still remembers the harvest of fresh vegetables grown in the community garden that she helped to sustain with neighbors just a couple of years ago. The garden provided nutritious food for a community with many health challenges, as well as a wholesome way for people to come together. 

But rather than let a good thing be, the owners of the property — a nonprofit called the East LA Community Corporation (ELACC) — cut a deal with Verizon to allow the construction of a large 5G cell tower on the property.  

Brenda took up the fight against the ELACC-Verizon deal and its lack of transparency. For months she devoted her time to reach out to community members, educating them about what was at stake. The community garden was destroyed by ELACC, while the tower project was stalled by community resistance. 

Although Brenda reached out to her city council and congressional representatives, the community was essentially left to fend for itself against the corporate behemoth Verizon and the ELACC. When attempts to stop the project were unsuccessful, Verizon completed construction of the tower and it was reportedly turned on.   

Unbeknownst to many, scientific reviews of the dangers of wireless technology have been ignored by the Federal Communications Commission and the Food and Drug Administration. In October 2022, for example, a group of scientists called for a moratorium on 5G after publishing a peer-reviewed study on the health risks of wireless radiation. 

Meanwhile, the Alliance for Quality Broadband Los Angeles, which partnered with the corporate telecommunications giant Charter Spectrum, has initiated a campaign to expand 5G wireless technology in Los Angeles County. This group appears to use the ruse of closing the digital divide and helping marginalized communities push its agenda. 

Brenda is part of a community response to this latest stealth corporate offensive. She has been playing an important role in the Fiber First LA campaign, a common sense effort to bring the much safer and more dependable option of fiber optic technology to her community and to all of Los Angeles County. The fiber optic choice is a clear alternative to the dangers posed by wireless 5G electromagnetic radiation.  

The Fiber First LA website informs us, “The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is considering changes to the County Code that would fast-track wireless broadband and might jeopardize LA’s ability to receive federal funding for fiber optic!”  

As the fight against 5G continues, Brenda has been a tireless advocate for her community. You can watch her recent interview on Good Morning CHD.TV. 

“The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Children’s Health Defense.”

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