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Newsletter: Trump’s threats, tear gas and a Bible

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President Trump threatened to use the military to end the civil unrest in cities. Along with it came rubber bullets, tear gas and a photo op with the Bible.

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Trump’s Threats, Tear Gas and a Bible

As police and National Guard units fired rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades and tear gas canisters into peaceful demonstrators in Lafayette Park just north of the White House, President Trump proclaimed himself to be a “president of law and order” and threatened to deploy the military to cities where, he said, governors and local officials have “failed to take necessary action” to end civil unrest after the death of George Floyd.

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“These are not acts of peaceful protest,” Trump said during a brief speech in the White House Rose Garden, referring to the demonstrations and sometimes violent acts that have broken out in dozens of major cities. “These are acts of domestic terror.”

During his speech, Trump said he is an ally of legitimate protesters. Yet as he did so, authorities fired into peaceful crowds across the street from the White House and advanced on horseback, so that Trump could later walk with a phalanx of Secret Service agents to St. John’s Episcopal Church. He held up a Bible for the cameras and posed with Atty. Gen. William Barr and Defense Secretary Mark Esper, among others, in front of the boarded-up building, where a fire had been set the previous night. That drew outrage from the church’s bishop and from Democratic officials.

Trump’s bellicose language and his threat to use the 19th century Insurrection Act to allow deployment of military personnel came after 48 hours in which he had been mostly silent in public, except for his angry Twitter feed. But in private, during a call with governors Monday, Trump called most of them weak and urged them to “dominate” the protesters, according to a person on the call.

A second person with knowledge of the call described the president as “bellicose,” raising the possibility of military action and describing the situation as a war. The message was echoed by Esper, who described the need to “dominate the battlespace,” language normally used to describe far-flung conflict zones instead of American streets.

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Trump has deployed troops in and around Washington, where the federal government has direct authority, but his ability to use them more widely over the objections of state officials would raise a host of legal and practical questions.

In contrast to Trump, Joe Biden met with black community leaders at a Delaware church to talk about the ills of institutional racism and held a virtual meeting with mayors across the U.S. to discuss a response to the mass protests and violence.

Voices From the Protest

Across the U.S., it was another day and night of curfews and protests in cities large and small over Floyd’s May 25 death under police restraint in Minneapolis. Arrests and injuries mounted, with some violent encounters between law enforcement and protesters captured on video and then circulated on social media.

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In Southern California, three separate protests moved through Hollywood, including a group that marched down Hollywood Boulevard in the heart of the tourist district. As a 6 p.m. curfew took effect in Los Angeles County, the number of police officers swelled in Hollywood near multiple protests and in Van Nuys, where looters were ransacking businesses along a major commercial corridor. Other protesters gathered in downtown Los Angeles and in Anaheim, as well as thousands in downtown Riverside.

The women and men demonstrating on Southern California streets have been as varied as their motives — a mix of ages and races and ethnicities, fueled by anger at needless death and at inequality laid bare by a pandemic whose victims have been disproportionately low-income people of color.

As darkness falls, it can be difficult to tell protester from agitator from opportunist. One thing is certain: They are all there.

“We are seeing people who are out because they’ve been pent up for months due to the stay-at-home order and intent on causing anarchy,” said Allissa V. Richardson, author of “Bearing Witness While Black: African Americans, Smartphones and the New Protest #Journalism.” “There are factions from either left or right interested in using the Black Lives Matter name to discredit the movement.

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“But then you have genuine concerned citizens willing to risk their lives in a pandemic,” said Richardson, a professor of journalism at USC. “There are not just bad actors but brave actors. People of all races out risking their lives to march. They know they could bring home the disease, but they say this is important enough to come out after more than 10 weeks of sheltering in place.”

More About the Protests

— Attorneys for George Floyd’s family say an independent autopsy commissioned by the family found he died of asphyxiation due to neck and back compression. The 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.”

— George Floyd’s brother tells the nation to stop rioting: “That’s not going to bring my brother back.”

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— Not all protests were violent: In this video, columnist LZ Granderson spoke with protesters in downtown L.A. Sunday and found an unexpected readiness toward goodwill and solidarity, as well as a diversity of representation in the streets.

— LAPD Chief Michel Moore said Floyd’s death is on looters’ hands as much as 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.”

— “Where are the cops?” Uncontrolled looting in L.A. puts police on the hot seat.

— As Trump blames the “lamestream media,” journalists continue to be arrested and injured during protests. Times photographer Carolyn Cole describes the incident in which police injured her eye.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

On this date in 1966, Surveyor 1 landed on the moon — the first successful soft landing for an American space vehicle on the moon and four months after the Soviet Union’s Luna 9 landing.

Surveyor 1 transmitted more than 11,000 images of the lunar surface back to Earth. Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Lab managed the Surveyor program.

June 2, 1966: Scientists and engineers at the Caltech lab whoop it up after word was flashed that Surveyor 1 was on the moon.
June 2, 1966: Scientists and engineers at the Caltech lab whoop it up after word was flashed that Surveyor 1 was on the moon.
(Jack Gaunt / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

San Diego police will no longer use a neck hold known as a carotid restraint, the department chief and the city’s mayor said.

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— A correctional officer in the California state prison system died Saturday after testing positive for the coronavirus, officials said. He could be the first staff member of the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to fall victim to COVID-19.

— How should L.A. be redesigned for a post-coronavirus world? The Times asked architects and their ideas range from more outdoor spaces to rethinking doorknobs.

— The remoteness of the state’s rugged northern counties hasn’t spared them from the economic fallout of the shutdown. And the sparsity of COVID-19 cases in Nevada County has only made the restrictive measures hobbling their livelihoods all the more exasperating.

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NATION-WORLD

— Rep. Steve King is among the most conservative members of Congress, and he represents a district so red that Donald Trump won it by 27 percentage points in 2016. Yet the nine-term congressman is at risk of losing his seat — at the hands of his own party.

— Trump’s repeated warnings of mass robbing of ballots from mailboxes, rampant forgery and flocks of illegal immigrants being permitted to hijack elections have been debunked by voting officials across party lines. But evidence increasingly shows that Americans are losing faith in the integrity of the nation’s elections.

— Thousands of immigrants are stuck in ICE centers. But advocates say their chances of getting out depend on the judge weighing their cases.

— Cities across Europe and Asia began reducing their coronavirus restrictions this week. But while they hope to attract tourists, it is not business as usual yet, with crowd control and other measures still in place.

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HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— Comedian Sarah Cooper has become one of the hottest comics of the coronavirus era with her social media videos, in which she lip-syncs some of Trump’s most controversial pandemic-related pronouncements. He’s blocked her on Twitter. But she says he’s a fabulous “head writer.”

— No more buffet-style food service. Live audiences with face masks. A COVID-19 compliance officer on every set. Those are among the safety protocols recommended by Hollywood union officials and studio executives in a report to the governors of California and New York.

— The good news: The number of women working behind the scenes in television is growing. The bad news: It still isn’t great, but it’s better than film.

— For the first time, nearly every single Studio Ghibli title is available to stream through a single subscription service: HBO Max. So where to start?

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BUSINESS

— The Congressional Budget Office said that the U.S. economy could be $15.7 trillion smaller over the next decade than it otherwise would have been if Congress does not mitigate the economic damage from the coronavirus.

— Across California, independent physician practices, outpatient clinics and hospitals are merging or getting gobbled up by private equity firms or large healthcare systems. California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra is pressing the state Legislature to expand his authority to slow mergers.

SPORTS

USC took swift action in distancing itself from a prominent booster and season-ticket holder, revoking her season tickets and Trojan Athletic Fund membership after a string of “abhorrent and blatantly racist tweets” came to light.

— As professional baseball plans a new start, the MLB players’ union has counter pitched a 114-game season, but hasn’t backed down on asking for full prorated pay. And players’ distrust of team owners could derail the whole season.

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OPINION

— Trump wants armed conflict among Americans. Don’t give it to him, writes Sewell Chan, editor of The Times’ editorial pages.

— It’s natural to look for an easy answer or simple narrative in burning buildings and broken windows. But these fires burn because of us and we need to understand these incidents as part of a larger story of racism, writes columnist Frank Shyong.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— Former President Barack Obama posted an essay on “How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change.” (Medium)

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— Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has demanded an investigation into the assault of an Australian journalist and cameraman by police while the two were covering protests near the White House. (7News)

ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

They call it the Brothbush Academy — a home school for three families in a leafy corner of downtown Riverside. The Bristow, Roth and Furbush families banded together to make sure all their children kept learning during the pandemic. It ended up as a kind of coronavirus commune, as the quarantined families came to depend on each other to stay healthy and safe. But when two ventured out into an environment that could not be controlled, would the group allow them to come back home?

Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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