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Newsletter: Curfews and protests continue

Sean Welch, 40, protesting the death of George Floyd on Monday afternoon at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Laurel Avenue in Los Angeles.
(Julia Wick / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, June 2, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

Sean Welch was a 12-year-old kid living in South Central the last time National Guard Humvees were rolling through the streets of Los Angeles.

“It’s almost a similar feeling,” he said, comparing the unrest of 1992 to the nationwide protests this week after George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minnesota police. “They expect you to live in fear, but you show defiance because you know what’s wrong is wrong.”

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The 40-year-old apartment manager was standing with a large group of peaceful protesters on Sunset Boulevard across from the Laugh Factory and Greenblatt’s deli on Monday afternoon. He wore a homemade white T-shirt with the words “DYING BREED” scrawled across it in black and red Sharpie, just above Floyd’s name, because he said that as a black man in America, that’s what he is.

“Cops have been killing us for years. What makes them believe it’s OK? People don’t even realize it until it has some massive effect like this,” he continued.

[Read the story: “Voices from the protests: ‘People of all races out risking their lives to march’” in the Los Angeles Times]

Behind him, a crew of men from a disaster recovery and property restoration company had set up a staging area along the edge of Laurel Avenue, as they worked to board up the exterior and doors of a CB2 furniture store in Sunset Plaza.

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The crew had been busy. They’d been there since 7 a.m., and had boarded up parts of the Beverly Center, a Trader Joe’s and a MedMen marijuana dispensary in the days prior. Douglas, who declined to give his last name, was leading the small crew. He said they were using 50 sheets of wood and 100 two-by-fours to board up the home decor retailer, and that he had “no comment” on the protests.

But to Welch, these protests represented “a moment in history.” He didn’t think Floyd’s death was a tipping point, but rather a reminder of all the names that had come before — all the black men and women whose names have become hashtags and rallying cries following their senseless deaths, often at the hands of police.

“How long does the list have to go?” Welch asked, as the crowd around him chanted three words that anguished protesters have repeated for nearly six years, since the July 2014 death of Eric Garner: “I can’t breathe.”

Welch was far from alone in taking to the streets Monday, as protests over the death of George Floyd continued well into the night across California and the nation.

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Monday also brought news that an independent autopsy commissioned for Floyd’s family contradicts the official report. The independent autopsy found that Floyd had been healthy, and he died of asphyxiation due to neck and back compression when a Minneapolis police officer held his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes and ignored his cries of distress, the family’s attorneys said Monday.

[Read the story: “Independent autopsy of George Floyd contradicts official report” in the Los Angeles Times]

Those findings contradict a local autopsy, which noted the effects of being restrained but also Floyd’s underlying health issues and potential intoxicants in his system and found nothing “to support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation.”

Given the new findings, the family’s attorneys called for the charge against Officer Derek Chauvin to be upgraded from third- to first-degree murder and for the three other officers involved to be charged.

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Meanwhile, President Trump addressed the nation Monday, calling himself a “president of law and order” and threatening to deploy the military to cities where, he said, governors and local officials have “failed to take necessary action” to end civil unrest. Although Trump did deploy troops in and around Washington, where the federal government has direct authority, his ability to use troops more widely over the objections of state officials would raise a host of legal and practical questions that he ignored in his remarks, as my D.C. colleagues explain in their story.

Here’s what else you need to know about the protests unfolding across California:

  • In a comment that drew widespread rebukes, LAPD Chief Michel Moore said Floyd’s death was on looters’ hands “as much as it is those officers.” The chief later walked back those comments, which were delivered during a news conference alongside Mayor Eric Garcetti, and said he regretted suggesting looters had “blood on their hands.” As the entire world is well aware, Floyd’s videotaped death occurred at the hands of Minnesota police, well before any looting took place. Los Angeles Times
  • Thousands turned out for peaceful protests in Riverside. Mothers stood side by side with daughters, young people danced, and students handed out water bottles and masks. Los Angeles Times
  • As a 6 p.m. curfew took effect Monday in Los Angeles County, the number of police officers swelled in Hollywood near multiple protests and in Van Nuys, where businesses along a major commercial corridor were ransacked. Los Angeles Times
  • Hundreds of National Guard officers are arriving in Sacramento. More cities could follow depending on requests from mayors and other leaders, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom. Sacramento Bee
  • Police in Oakland and Walnut Creek fired tear gas on protesters. “The tear gas in Oakland came after the conclusion of a large peaceful march that included speeches outside City Hall.” San Francisco Chronicle
  • “It is heartening.” Long Beach has been overwhelmed by volunteers helping to clean up after looting. Los Angeles Times

And now, here’s what else is happening across California:

L.A. STORIES

USC cut ties with a prominent booster who tweeted that protesters and looters “should be shot.” USC took swift action in distancing itself from a prominent booster and season-ticket holder, revoking her season tickets and Trojan Athletic Fund membership on Monday after a string of “abhorrent and blatantly racist tweets” were brought to light in the wake of the weekend’s mass protests over the death of George Floyd. Los Angeles Times

Hollywood union officials and studio executives recommended new safety protocols for resuming film and TV productions in a report to the governors of California and New York. The recommendations, contained in a white paper, were from a labor-management safety task force, comprising the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the Teamsters, SAG-AFTRA, Directors Guild of America and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, among others. Los Angeles Times

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IMMIGRATION AND THE BORDER

Thousands of immigrants are stuck in ICE centers. Getting out depends on the judge. Los Angeles Times

POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

California state government offices will remain closed Tuesday amid the protests. Offices in West Sacramento also will remain closed, along with those in all of Los Angeles County, nine Bay Area counties and San Diego County, according to a release. Sacramento Bee

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California’s schools chief vows to address bias: California Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said he is “haunted by the sound” of Floyd’s voice “begging to breathe, begging for life” and vowed to initiate a greater focus on teaching about implicit bias in California classrooms. Los Angeles Times

Former and potentially future Rep. Darrell Issa, who is suing Gov. Gavin Newsom for his all-mail ballot move, reportedly voted absentee 16 times in the past 20 years. Times of San Diego

CRIME AND COURTS

Scott Peterson’s appeal for a new trial will be heard Tuesday by the California Supreme Court. The hearing comes more than 15 years after Peterson was found guilty in the murder of his wife, Laci, and their unborn son. Modesto Bee

HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Kings County in the Central Valley reported another large surge of positive results for the coronavirus, again driven by the outbreak at Avenal State Prison. Fresno Bee

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CALIFORNIA CULTURE

Residents in many of the state’s rugged northern counties, from the Del Norte coast to the Sierra foothills, are largely watching the pandemic unfold from afar. But their remoteness hasn’t spared them from the economic fallout of the shutdown. Los Angeles Times

Elizabeth Poston, owner of Living Outdoors Landscapes, waters plants on Main Street in Grass Valley.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Lassen County, the first California county to backpedal on its reopening plan, has reversed itself again. The northeastern California county decided to allow dining in restaurants and shopping in stores after determining it had successfully mitigated its first small outbreak of COVID-19 cases. Redding Record Searchlight

“We have never seen anything like it.” San Francisco and Silicon Valley rents have tumbled amid the economic downturn. San Francisco Chronicle

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Mark Zuckerberg is facing a backlash from within Facebook after several senior employees publicly criticized the chief executive for refusing to take action over posts by President Trump that Twitter censured last week for “glorifying violence.” Los Angeles Times

A poem to start your Tuesday: “Pulled Over in Short Hills, NJ, 8:00 AM” by Ross Gay. Poetry Foundation

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CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: cloudy, 84. San Diego: partly sunny, 75. San Francisco: sunny, 75. San Jose: sunny, 93. Fresno: sunny, 98. Sacramento: sunny, 100. More weather is here.

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AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory comes from Dave Sweeney:

I was born in Hollywood in 1936. By the time I was 7, I had become accustomed to our phone ringing at all times, day and night. My dad was a salesman and was listed in the directory. The L.A. Angels farm club of the Chicago Cubs was managed by a man with the same name (one of three at that time). He was NOT listed. Busiest time was when the bars closed and his “fans” decided he needed their advice. Happy when he got fired.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.


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