Local citizens organize protest of Forest Lawn Cypress for grievances

Citizens protest at Forest Lawn Cypress. Courtesy photo

Twenty-six citizens gathered outside a popular cemetery in Cypress on Monday to protest a list of at least 10 grievances that they claim are disrespecting the dead and neglecting the cemetery.

“It is unfortunate that our departed are not only disregarded but also disrespected by the very people that acted as concerned stewards while we were looking for a final resting place for our departed,” said Marie Elguira, a spokesperson for the group.

She said the group demanded to meet with a company executive “to discuss our concerns.” Instead, she claimed, the company denied their request and instead had four police officers guard the office and premises.

Elguira said the executive sent out a representative to tell her that there was “no time for my dead” and asked her to leave. Elguira said her mother and more than twenty other family members are buried there and that the grievances have been brewing for years.
In a written statement, Elguira said the group contacted the City of Cypress and the police “and informed them about the upcoming event.”

She said “multiple attempts have been made to start a dialogue with the corporate office in Glendale and the VP of Cypress. Unfortunately, Elguira said, “all calls were evaded. I spoke with several staff to communicate our group’s message, but these conversations were fruitless.”

The Event-NewsEnterprise also reached out to Forest Lawn Cypress and received the following statement.

“Forest Lawn Memorial-Parks strives to provide safe environments and beautiful settings for visitors at each of our six memorial parks. Safety is our #1 priority for families and park employees. Information on decorations, what is safe, and when items may be removed are posted at Forest Lawn park locations through banners, informational flyers and signage,” said Tom Smith, Director of Public Relations at Forest Lawn.

Further, his email only noted “specific information on decoration and removal policies can be found at the following website locations in three languages (with the web address).”
In a brief interview, Smith acknowledged the other grievances but said now, the statement would stand as presented.

Elguira said the group was protesting outside of Forest Lawn “to show our group’s discontent.” She said “our goal is to raise awareness about the company’s neglect of the cemetery for the past two years.” This negligence resulted in the dismal maintenance of the cemetery, resulting in these ongoing problems, including:
• Overgrown grass covering tombstones and tablets.
• Unreadable tombstones.
• Missing grave markers or unmarked graves.
• Cracked, damaged tablets.
• Depressed graves that lie several inches below ground level.
• Potholes throughout the cemetery.
• Staff and hired workers drive over graves and tablets scratching and leaving marks, even breaking them.
• Ongoing theft inside the cemetery.
• Minimal security supervision.
• Cemetery becoming a haven for unhoused, criminals, drug dealers and even prostitutes.
She said on September 13, the day of the protest, Cypress Forest Lawn officials were scheduled to permanently remove all decorations including plants, flowers, plant holders and other ornamental decorations in the cemetery.

“This is their answer to silence everyone that complains to management about dismal maintenance of the park,” Elguira said in the statement.

However, she said, more in depth research shows that Cypress Forest Lawn have been functioning on a skeleton crew to maintain the cemetery and the budget allotted for maintenance was diverted as bonuses to their executives.

She said another protest is planned for this weekend and that they will continue until they are granted a meeting with management.