Essential California: A red county’s militia fuels a civic revolt

A man tapes posters onto a wall
Richard Gallardo tapes up statements and social media posts by an activist before a meeting of the Shasta County Board of Supervisors.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, May 20. I’m Laura Newberry, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

The city of Redding has long been known for its 300-plus days of sunshine each year and proximity to lush hiking trails and alpine lakes.

Now, the Shasta County community has become a political tinderbox. Residents are increasingly divided over the health risks posed by the pandemic, governmental power and the degree to which a local armed militia should be able to take matters into its own hands, write my colleagues Anita Chabria and Hailey Branson-Potts.


Tensions came to a head on May 4 when Carlos Zapata — a high-profile militia member and a leader in a movement to recall three Republican Shasta County supervisors who supported Gov. Gavin Newsom’s pandemic health orders — allegedly assaulted Black Lives Matter activist Nathan Pinkney at a trendy local restaurant.

The events leading up to this altercation provide important context: Over the past year, members of the so-called Cottonwood militia have shown up at racial justice demonstrations with concealed weapons, and have repeatedly threatened violence at supervisors’ meetings.

Zapata has been at the center of this fray, becoming the poster boy for a media campaign that hopes to redirect the energies of Trump supporters into local politics and encourage civic revolt nationwide. Pinkney made several political parody videos of Zapata, a potential motive for the alleged attack.

Men in a barbershop
Barber Woody Clendenen refused to close his business as COVID-19 spread throughout the state. Clendenen, a leader of the California State Militia, believes the government had no right to shut down or regulate businesses.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The tensions in Redding, while an extreme example, reflect broader rifts in California during this time of national crisis: between rural communities and cities as well as progressive and conservative ideals.

[Read the story “Threats, videos and a recall: A California militia fuels civic revolt in a red county” in the Los Angeles Times]

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

California is considering dropping mask and physical distancing rules for employees at worksites where everyone is fully vaccinated. The state’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board will weigh these potential changes on Thursday. If the board approves the proposal, it will be submitted to California’s Office of Administrative Law, which will have 10 days to review it and make a decision on the proposed regulation. Los Angeles Times

As COVID-19 recedes, California workers are being called back to the office. The Times spoke with a dozen employers about their plans for bringing employees back if they were not already working in person. All acknowledged that workplace culture will change, maybe for the better. Los Angeles Times


Two-thirds of adults in California are at least partially vaccinated. To date, 67.3% of residents age 18 and older have gotten one shot or more, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. After a slow start, California now ranks 11th out of all states in vaccinating its residents. Los Angeles Times


Echo Park Lake will reopen on May 26, two months after the forced removal of unhoused campers. During that time, workers have trimmed trees, renovated the boathouse and removed graffiti, among other improvements. City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell was harshly criticized by many unhoused people and their advocates for his handling of the park’s closure. Los Angeles Times

Can L.A.’s lottery fairly distribute rent relief? L.A. and cities across California are using lotteries to distribute emergency rental assistance. Experts say it may be the most equitable way to distribute emergency assistance as Newsom proposes doubling state aid. CalMatters

The Lakers made the NBA playoffs on LeBron James’ game-winning three-pointer. James had a triple-double and the Lakers earned the seventh seed into the playoffs with a 103-100 comeback victory over the Golden State Warriors. Los Angeles Times

This theater teacher uses Shakespeare to empower young artists in South L.A. Melanie Andrews, the artistic director of Inner City Shakespeare, has shared her lifelong devotion to the Bard with thousands of students — most of them Black or Latino — over her 30-year career. Los Angeles Times


Many Latino men haven’t gotten vaccinated. In L.A. County, 39% of Latino men had received at least one shot, compared to 59% of white men, as of May 9. Misinformation, fear and busy lives have contributed to this trend. Los Angeles Times

a medical assistant vaccinates a man
Tanya Mitchell, a certified medical assistant, left, vaccinates Richard Ayala, 18, at the East Los Angeles Civic Center in May.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Health officials are urging teenagers to get vaccinated for COVID-19, warning that youths are not immune to severe complications or to “long COVID,” which can leave patients sick for months. Los Angeles Times

California restaurants expect the recovery to take years. Restaurant employment is still down one-quarter from before the pandemic, according to the state’s latest numbers. Industry leaders fear that restaurants’ struggle to fill jobs may force even more closures as the economy reopens. Associated Press


President Biden tells Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu he expects “significant de-escalation” in Israel-Hamas fighting. Under pressure to take a more decisive role in ending deadly violence between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, Biden urged an end to Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip. Los Angeles Times

The U.S. House on Wednesday voted to establish a commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The legislation was approved 252 to 175. But the panel faces an uphill battle in the Senate amid Republican opposition. Los Angeles Times

President Biden wants to create a $5-billion program to incentivize local governments to eliminate exclusionary zoning rules that hurt low-income earners. The proposal, part of Biden’s push to address racial equity, is included in his $2-trillion infrastructure plan. But some advocates worry Biden’s plan has too many carrots and few sticks. Los Angeles Times



During a hearing to determine whether actor Danny Masterson’s rape case will proceed to trial, his accuser says Scientologists tried to protect him. The woman on Tuesday described the alleged rape and efforts by Scientology officials to silence her during nearly six hours of emotional testimony. She is one of three women the “That 70s Show” actor is charged with sexually assaulting between 2001 and 2003. Los Angeles Times

A fight outside a Beverly Grove sushi restaurant is being investigated as an antisemitic hate crime. A video that captured part of the attack shows several people in a caravan of cars with Palestinian flags yelling “F— you” and “You guys should be ashamed of yourselves” as they drove by the restaurant. Los Angeles Times

In major reversal, the L.A. County sheriff will name deputies 30 days after they shoot a civilian. Sheriff Alex Villanueva said that the names of deputies who shoot civilians will be released 30 days after the incident, reversing a longtime practice. Los Angeles Times


Some areas of California are so dry that farmers aren’t planting crops this season. The state grows a third of the nation’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts. If dry weather hampers food production, food price inflation — a burgeoning problem for the U.S. economy — could get worse. Bloomberg

Thirty years of fighting to preserve San Diego’s wildlands is finally paying off for an environmentalist who’s been called “crazy” for his efforts. Duncan McFetridge cashed his savings and mortgaged his home to pay for campaigns and lawsuits against backcountry development. Now San Diego’s environmental movement is growing, thanks in part to his dedication. San Diego Union-Tribune


“Pose” star Billy Porter has revealed that he has been HIV-positive for 14 years. “This is what HIV-positive looks like now,” he told the Hollywood Reporter in a first-person piece. “I’m going to die from something else before I die from that.” Los Angeles Times


Bay Area home prices have hit a record high — a whopping median of $1.3 million as of April. The region’s gains have been a driving force behind the state’s median home price surging above $800,000 for the first time. San Francisco Chronicle

For years, the town of Weed in northern California refused to cash in on its name and allow the sale of marijuana. But Weed’s leaders have since had a change of heart, allowing dispensaries to open in town and now a facility with the capacity to grow 150,000 cannabis plants. New York Times

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Los Angeles: mostly sunny, 71. San Diego: partly cloudy, 66. San Francisco: cloudy, 61. San Jose: cloudy, 65. Fresno: cloudy, 72. Sacramento: mostly sunny, 71.


Today’s California memory comes from Fred Pasternak:

In the spring of 1971, I was a houseguest in Whittier for two weeks or so. Most of the time the weather was cloudy and/or smoggy. Disneyland was not visible from the freeway. One day the clouds parted and the mountains surrounding the L.A. basin stood out brilliantly. Among other pursuits, everyone in the house was learning to juggle, a skill I can still practice today. Driving past the La Brea tar pits is something I still remember. I did not want to overstay my welcome and went back to Albuquerque, N.M.

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


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