Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: The darkest days

A mob of Trump supporters climbs the U.S. Capitol walls during a riot Wednesday in Washington.
(Jose Luis Magana / Associated Press)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Jan. 9.

Here’s a look at the top stories of the last week:

Violence at the Capitol. Supporters of President Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol with his encouragement Wednesday, shattering windows, ransacking offices and pounding on the barricaded doors of the House chamber while shaken lawmakers huddled inside. More on the story:

— After lawmakers were able to resume the sessions, Congress confirmed Joe Biden’s presidential win early Thursday, counting electoral votes in his and Kamala Harris’ favor. Some lawmakers still voted to challenge the results, including seven from California.

— Facebook, Twitter and their social media peers spent Trump’s term in office lurching from one crisis to another and now face blame for their roles in the violence. On Friday, Twitter “permanently suspended” Trump’s account, taking away his preferred soapbox.

— As of Thursday night, 82 people had been arrested in connection with the violent mob. Five people were killed, including a Capitol Police officer and a San Diego veteran whose radical path led to QAnon and the deadly insurrection.

— Congress’ Democratic leaders on Thursday demanded President Trump’s removal from office — vowing a swift impeachment, if necessary, though few options may be left. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also spoke to the nation’s top military leader about taking precautions to ensure against Trump initiating a military action or nuclear strike.

— Lawmakers are calling for an investigation into how the mob was able to get past Capitol Police, and some pointed to a racial double standard. The failure prompted the head of the U.S. Capitol Police to resign effective Jan. 16.

— Similar rallies — some of them violent — took place in cities across the country, including Los Angeles, where one Black resident was surrounded and attacked by a mob. “It seemed like these people were trying to kill me,” she said.


Hospitals reach capacity. Stretched to the breaking point by the COVID-19 pandemic, Los Angeles County’s four public hospitals were preparing to take the extraordinary step of rationing care. Already, ambulances have been advised to cut back on their use of oxygen as the National Guard and refrigerated trucks take over handling corpses. Beyond L.A. County, the Inland Empire has been hit especially hard.

A rocky vaccine rollout. Gov. Gavin Newsom set an ambitious target Friday of vaccinating another 1 million people over the next nine days but offered few new details. As of Monday, only about 35% of California’s COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered, a rate he acknowledged was “not good enough.” But one hospital managed a far faster pace when a refrigerator failed and left doses to thaw — giving an unintentional road map for how mass inoculation could work.

Vaccines are met with doubt. An informal survey of Los Angeles Police Department employees found significant skepticism about COVID-19 vaccines, with just 60% of respondents saying they would accept the shots when offered. L.A. firefighters were meanwhile offered incentives from a raffle, with prizes including a bicycle, gift cards and an entertainment system.

More aid on the way. Gov. Gavin Newsom sent a budget to the California Legislature on Friday that calls for a swift and expansive boost in the state’s response to the pandemic, earmarking much of an unallocated tax revenue windfall for efforts to help workers and businesses, boost public health and speed up the reopening of public school classrooms.

Reopening resistance. Superintendents of seven of California’s largest school districts said Wednesday that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to reopen local campuses fails to set a clear statewide standard and risks reversing the state’s commitment to equity-based funding, at the neediest students’ expense. Separately, the Grammys were postponed due to the surge.

Google unionizes. More than 400 workers across Google and other units of parent company Alphabet Inc. have signed up for the union, marking a watershed moment for Silicon Valley activism.

The loss of a Dodgers icon. Tommy Lasorda died of a heart attack Thursday at 93. He Lasorda loved the Dodgers so much, he became the Dodgers, Bill Plaschke writes in an appreciation. In the process, the legend left behind plenty of memorable quotes. What are your favorite memories of him? Share them with us.

And an L.A. icon too. Former L.A. Councilman Tom LaBonge — an irrepressible evangelist for the city who was known by many as “Mr. Los Angeles” — died on Thursday at his Silver Lake home at the age of 67. As Steve Lopez put it: “In Tom LaBonge’s mind, the city was the center of the universe, with more niceties than negatives, a place full of hope.”

Tom Labonge's business card
If you bumped into former Councilman Tom LaBonge wandering his district (or really anywhere in Los Angeles), he would likely ask you to name your favorite L.A. landmarks, and then hand you a business card in case you ever needed to get in touch. Here’s the back of one of his business cards, emblazoned with his personal motto.
(Julia Wick / Los Angeles Times)

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1. Trader Joe’s in north Fresno closes in wake of protests over mask mandate. Fresno Bee

2. How big was San Francisco’s pandemic exodus? Look at U-Haul traffic. San Francisco Chronicle

3. An ex-Oakland cop and veteran was part of D.C.’s pro-Trump mob. He defended the Capitol siege. SFGATE

4. Times reporter Sarah Wire’s first-person account from the Capitol: “I’m in a roomful of people ‘panicked that I might inadvertently give away their location.’” Los Angeles Times


5. “At the End of Life, a Secret” by Reginald Dwayne Betts. Poetry Foundation

ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

The strange saga surrounding the rush to save “El Pino,” a towering East L.A. landmark: What started as a joke soon went viral. Los Angeles Times

How Kelly Loeffler’s WNBA team became her most passionate opponent: Elizabeth Williams and the Atlanta Dream were key to Raphael Warnock’s rise. BuzzFeed News

The “sperm kings” have a problem: too much demand. Many people want a pandemic baby, but some sperm banks are running low. So women are joining unregulated Facebook groups to find willing donors, no middleman required. New York Times

When COVID-19 hit, a Colorado county kicked out second-home owners. They hit back. High Country News

Poem of the week: “Let America Be America Again” by Langston Hughes. Poetry Foundation


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. (And a giant thanks to the legendary Laura Blasey for all her help on the Saturday edition.)