Newsletter: LAPD shows a different side, protesters disrupt freeways, and struggling bookstores

Welcome to your holiday weekend edition of Essential California. I’m Shelby Grad, the California editor at the Los Angeles Times.

Sign up here: Get the Essential California newsletter delivered to your inbox.

LAPD Shows a Softer Side — And Some Resolve

There were no looting incidents, no fires, no serious injuries. But there were lots of arrests in Los Angeles during three days of protests following a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict the white Ferguson police officer who killed black teenager Michael Brown.

The way the Los Angeles Police Department handled local protests is worth noting, given its troubled history. In the past, L.A. paid out millions of dollars related to police actions during the 2007 May Day demonstrations in MacArthur Park, as well as protests during the 2000 Democratic National Convention. This week, the LAPD seemed to give the Ferguson marchers free rein, allowing them to block intersections and occasionally taunt drivers. Police supervisors said they didn’t want to do anything that would provoke would-be troublemakers into escalating the situation.

At news conferences, LAPD brass talked of respecting the protesters’ 1st Amendment rights. But when officers decided that the crowds were getting out of hand, they acted swiftly and forcefully, making more than 300 arrests Monday and Tuesday. That’s far more than were made in Ferguson or other cities that saw demonstrations. Both sides have kept the peace in L.A., although there has been controversy over the arrests.

Freeways as Moving Targets

The memorable image of the week was of protesters disrupting California’s freeway system. On Monday, it was the 110 Freeway. On Tuesday and Wednesday, it was the 101. In Oakland, protesters shut down the 580 Freeway.

Anti-war protesters block the 10 Freeway in Los Angeles in 1970. Credit: Los Angeles Times Read more

It’s no surprise that demonstrators see California’s freeways as symbolic targets. But the blocking tactic is not new. It dates back at least to the Vietnam War protest days. In 1970, antiwar demonstrators blocked the 10 Freeway. Then two years later, students managed to shut down the 101 in Goleta for four hours.

This week The Times had a team of reporters on the streets who produced this anatomy of a protest, which examined the tactics of police and protesters Monday night on the 110 Freeway.

Struggling Bookstores Shelve Focus on Books

Bookstores have been hit hard by the advance of the Internet, closing at a rapid clip. But in the San Gabriel Valley, some Chinese bookstore owners have found creative ways to stay afloat. The books remain on the shelves, but the businesses have evolved into whatever makes money — shipping packages, selling lottery tickets and snacks, repairing laptops and even teaching calligraphy. The owner of one shop in Monterey Park told reporter Frank Shyong: “If you want to sell books these days, you’re doomed.”

Southern California has seen several venerable bookstores close this year, including Brand Books in Glendale and Diesel Books in Malibu. But writer John McCormick recently noted that for all the greats that have died, many independent bookstores across Los Angeles are alive and well. He recounted this scene from a visit to the Last Bookstore in downtown L.A.:

I asked the clerk, “How are you doing?” And he said, “Do you mean me or the bookstore?” That’s a good sign: The spirit of the indie bookseller is still alive and biting in Los Angeles.

Read about the crazy, beautiful, idiosyncratic bookstores of Los Angeles. Credit: Genaro Molina/ Los Angeles Times Read more

And Finally …

Here are some weekend great reads:

— “Gov. Jerry Brown may have met his match in Janet Napolitano.” So begins George Skelton’s column on the politics of University of California tuition increases.

— Steve Lopez on the magic that happens when members of the L.A. Philharmonic perform at the Twin Towers jail.

— Kurt Streeter on the 93-year-old L.A. rabbi still fighting for peace in a land where it rarely exists.

— Sandy Banks on what happens when a soldier’s slaying in Sylmar turns out not to be quite what it appears.

— Remember the days when cities widened streets to ease traffic flow? Here’s a map by Doug Smith and David Zahniser showing all the L.A. streets that have been narrowed in recent years.

— The West Hollywood gay club scene marks a test case for the emerging world of mobile health technology.

KHJ “Boss Radio” once was king of Top 40 radio in L.A. It’s now a Catholic broadcaster.

— Happy Thanksgiving: Nine L.A. city managers are getting raises of 3% or 5% from Mayor Eric Garcetti, even as officials are trying to forestall salary increases for many other city workers.

— And as you do your holiday shopping, Rong-Gong Lin II explains all you need to know about sales taxes and the risk of being overcharged by the checkout scanner.

Sign up here: Get the Essential California newsletter delivered to your inbox.

Get our Essential California newsletter