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Newsom urges peace as George Floyd’s death ignites protests by day, violence by night

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Gov. Gavin Newsom met with faith leaders Monday and urged peace as the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis continued to ignite protests by day and violence and looting by night in many cities across California and the nation.

Newsom implored Californians to show empathy to one another in his first news conference since before he deployed the California National Guard to Los Angeles early Sunday morning, marking the third time in more than half of a century that troops have responded to unrest in the city over violence against a black person in police custody.

“You’ve lost patience. So have I. You are right to feel wronged. You are right to feel the way you are feeling,” Newsom said to protesters, adding that “society has a responsibility to you to be better, and to do better.”

Hours earlier, President Trump spoke with governors and called for a harsher police crackdown. Asked several times about the president’s comments, Newsom declined to directly respond to Trump or criticize him.

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In just his second year in office, Newsom faces the delicate task of helping to lead California through yet another crisis, this time brought on by decades of pain and suffering in the black community. Standing at the Genesis Church in South Sacramento with Pastor Tecoy Porter Sr., Newsom committed to addressing “systemic problems” in the United States.

In Sacramento, the Bay Area, Los Angeles and San Diego, and in smaller cities in between, protests gave way to the looting of small businesses, large retail storefronts, markets and grocery stores over the weekend — just as businesses were beginning to reopen from the COVID-19 pandemic that had forced them to shut their doors. Police cars burned, and hundreds of people were arrested as anger, frustration and sadness over unequal police treatment devolved into chaos on the streets.

In videos from the front lines of the protests, organizers decried the looting and sought to distinguish their groups from the bands of vandals and thieves that shattered windows and made many Californians fear public security was spinning out of control.

Newsom said Monday that outside groups were seeking to “create havoc,” but he declined to name specific groups.

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Residents of Los Angeles complained of lawlessness and a lack of police presence, while others said law enforcement had escalated violence toward peaceful protesters. In Oakland, police arrested three people early Monday in a shooting at Police Department headquarters, and a woman was shot in the suburb of Walnut Creek in connection with the unrest, police told the Chronicle.

California closed state offices in downtown or city locations on Monday, and the state Legislature canceled nearly all of its scheduled hearings.

Newsom largely remained quiet over the weekend and after he held a news conference on Friday. The governor released a statement late Saturday on the deployment of the National Guard and commented again on the protests midday Monday.

The governor began his Friday news conference with a monologue that delved into his own privilege, his children’s response to Floyd’s death and their attempts to understand what it all meant.

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“We’ve got to fundamentally change who we are and recognize what we’re capable of being,” he said.

The governor echoed that message Monday.

“You’ve got to change hearts, minds,” Newsom said. “You’ve got to change culture, not just laws. And we have to own up to some very difficult things. The black community is not responsible for what’s happening in this country right now. We are. We are. Our institutions are responsible. We are accountable to this moment.”

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In response to a request from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the governor agreed Saturday to deploy the National Guard. The guard was previously sent to Los Angeles in 1965 over the Watts riots and again in 1992 after police officers were acquitted for the beating of Rodney King.

A spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services said this time the guard would focus on the protection of critical infrastructure, such as electrical substations and water treatment plants.

Newsom said he’s called up 4,500 National Guard members who are available to be deployed to other places if necessary.


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