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Newsletter: A widening call for racial justice

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The protests after the killing of George Floyd have spawned a movement to address racial justice issues.

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A Widening Call for Racial Justice

A national conversation about race and justice. A multicultural movement. And the question: What are the next steps?

This weekend saw large, peaceful demonstrations across the U.S. in cities big and small to protest the killing of George Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis with a white police officer’s knee on his neck, and many others, including Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician who was shot by Louisville, Ky., police in her apartment.

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Despite the risks presented by the coronavirus, protesters jammed onto the Brooklyn Bridge in New York and Lake Shore Drive in Chicago; flowed past the White House, newly fortified to keep the nation’s citizens at bay; and marched on USC, Sunset Boulevard, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles City Hall, San Pedro and Huntington Beach, among several other Southern California locations. Amid the many demonstrations, officials said the National Guard plans to pull out of the Los Angeles area.

The broad reach of the protests has marked a significant shift in recognition of the Black Lives Matter movement. Those on the streets are people from all races and walks of life, many of whom have not previously been actively involved in racial justice issues. Some are from whiter, wealthier, more conservative suburbs. In Washington, D.C., Sen. Mitt Romney became the first Republican senator known to have marched in protest.

This is a wide, multicultural activist movement unprecedented in scope when compared with protests that have resulted after other notorious cases of police abuse.

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But some also wonder if things will soon enough revert to old, unjust ways. Two weeks after Floyd’s death, much the country is asking: Where do we go from here?

On Sunday, the Minneapolis City Council indicated that changes there could prove dramatic, when nine out of 12 members announced that they intend to dismantle the current Minneapolis Police Department in favor of “a vision for community-based public safety.”

The Political Ramifications Grow

President Trump and his administration are continuing to receive widespread pushback on the use of force against peaceful protesters in Washington last week and the president’s threat to deploy the military to American cities.

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Former Secretary of State Colin Powell became the latest leader of the American military establishment to criticize Trump for threatening to use active-duty U.S. troops against protesters, saying it shows he has “drifted away” from the U.S. Constitution. Powell, who served under Republican President George W. Bush, says he’ll vote for Democrat Joe Biden in the general election.

Powell’s statement drew Trump’s ire on Twitter, where he continues to tweet “LAW & ORDER!” and attack the gesture of kneeling.

On Sunday, Trump asserted that “everything is under perfect control” and tried to claim credit for the weekend’s nonviolent protests. He tweeted that he had ordered National Guard troops to begin withdrawing from Washington, adding that they could “quickly return” if needed to support law enforcement.

Meanwhile, Biden wrote in an L.A. Times op-ed that “Congress should take action immediately to outlaw chokeholds, stop the transfer of weapons of war to local police forces, improve oversight and accountability, and create a model use-of-force standard.”

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Mass Arrests, Then Leniency

Faced with growing criticism over the arrests of hundreds of peaceful demonstrators, top Los Angeles law enforcement officials say they will not pursue criminal or financial penalties against the protesters.

The decision follows complaints by many of those arrested that they spent hours in plastic handcuffs in crammed buses without justification, leaving them with injuries and potentially exposing them to the coronavirus. Many of those were taken into custody last week for either violating curfew rules or failing to disperse after the LAPD had declared their protest unlawful.

A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and Black Lives Matter L.A. claims the curfews illegally suppressed constitutionally protected protests and violated people’s freedom of movement. The organizations have also decried videos that show police officers responding with violence against protesters, including swinging batons and firing foam and sponge projectiles.

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More From the Movement

Greg Doucette, a criminal defense lawyer from Durham, N.C., is tweeting videos of police using force at protests. There are more than 350.

— Gov. Gavin Newsom has called for new restrictions on crowd control techniques and the use of force by law enforcement, including a ban on so-called “carotid holds,” in California.

“I could have died too.” Voices from the streets of L.A. as protests spread across the city.

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— What is anti-racism? And what do experts say you can do?

— How do you sign “Black Lives Matter” in American Sign Language? For black deaf Angelenos, it’s complicated.

The Black Jobs Crisis

Before the pandemic hit, black Americans were facing long-standing economic inequities and a dearth of stable, well-paying jobs. The shutdown has only made that situation worse.

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In California and nationwide, the coronavirus crisis is not only killing black Americans at a disproportionately high rate — twice the rate for white people in L.A. County — but it’s also widening the racial divide between haves and have-nots.

“Nearly half the black community has had either no job or a poverty, dead-end job that doesn’t pay basic needs of housing and food,” said Lola Smallwood Cuevas, founder of the Black Worker Center in South Los Angeles.

“The financial instability has been tearing at the social fabric of black communities,” she said. “It is fueling a lot of what we are seeing in this recent uprising. Many black residents have to stitch together two or three jobs to survive.”

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

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— Facing threats from the coronavirus and Trump, postal carriers just keep delivering the mail.

Nail salon owners are pushing hard to reopen in California, and they say they’re battling a misconception.

L.A. is less cautious than the Bay Area in reopening. Here’s why the two regions diverged.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

On this date in 1940, thousands gathered at a peace rally organized by the Congress of Industrial Organizations at Los Angeles City Hall to urge the U.S. to stay out of World War II. Mayor Fletcher Bowron was invited to address the crowd, whose members greeted him with boos and a scattering of catcalls.

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“Common sense and American principles compel us to the conclusion that our fervent desire for peace in America must not be that kind of peace that will lend aid and succor to the forces of Nazism, Fascism, or Communism,” he told the demonstrators. “When the time comes, I am proud to say that I am ready to fight for my country.”

As Bowron continued his speech, The Times article reported, “boos swelled from hundreds of throats.” But the rally ended peacefully.

June 8, 1940: Crowds gather at Los Angeles City Hall to urge the U.S. to stay out of World War II.
(Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

— Trump’s recent decision to halt entry of some Chinese graduate students to the U.S. is sowing broad anxiety, particularly in California, as universities fear they could lose an essential source of research talent.

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— Federal investigators are trying to determine whether the slaying of a Santa Cruz County sheriff’s deputy is connected to other recent crimes in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the shooting of an officer last month in Oakland.

— Archbishop José H. Gomez celebrated the first in-person Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels since public services were suspended on March 16 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jimmy Williams and his son Logan build gardens for the rich and famous. And they still get stopped by the police.

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NATION-WORLD

— In Germany, two conservative lawmakers have criticized the reported decision by Trump to withdraw more than a quarter of American troops stationed in the country.

— The New York Times has announced a shake-up, including the resignation of editorial page editor James Bennet, after publishing an opinion piece by a GOP Sen. Tom Cotton, who advocated for military force to quell civil unrest in American cities.

— Black Lives Matter protesters toppled and threw a statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston into the harbor in Bristol, England.

— This fantastical sea creature helps remove planet-warming gases from the atmosphere.

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HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— A flurry of films and documentaries on the black experience, racism and social justice are coming online for viewing amid the nationwide protests over police brutality.

— “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling is being called anti-transgender after a series of tweets over the weekend.

— YouTube threw “a virtual commencement celebration” featuring the Obamas, Beyoncé and many more. They had quite a few things to say.

— After five decades, the owners of McCabe’s Guitar Shop are retiring. The threat of catching the coronavirus has prompted them to speed the transition of the music store and performance space’s operations to their daughter and son-in-law.

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BUSINESS

Civil rights groups have received a surge of corporate donations, transforming the fortunes of some of the organizations hit hardest by the COVID-19 crisis.

— Los Angeles’ average rent fell 3% in May from a year earlier as the coronavirus hit the economy.

SPORTS

— The Lakers were the hottest team in the NBA when the season stopped. Now, they’re getting ready to restart next month and, they hope, play into the October finals.

Santa Anita saw its 14th horse death of the meeting when Lightsaber, an unraced 2-year-old filly, had a life-ending breakdown during training.

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OPINION

— Trump loves to manipulate policy in times of crisis. Here’s how Congress can stop him.

— How the FBI and the Los Angeles Times destroyed actress Jean Seberg‘s life 50 years ago and how it’s relevant today.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

Journalists at some of America’s biggest newspapers are holding newsroom leaders to account. (New York Times)

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— Cops are taking a knee. Not everyone is convinced, wondering if it’s more than an empty gesture or a PR move. (Vice)

ONLY IN L.A.

It was one of the most unromantic proposals imaginable: “We need to get married. Today.” She added: “If I were to get sick with the coronavirus and die, you’d be up ...” that proverbial creek. But amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s easier said than done. That’s how Veronica and Sylviane ended up calling a place named Instant Marriage, just 15 minutes from their house. Soon, they were standing under a “cascade of cheap plastic white flowers in a cheap plastic gazebo with my cellphone leaning against the back of the seat of a chair, recording it all.”

For the record: An item in the June 4 edition of this newsletter incorrectly stated that Sen. Hubert Humphrey visited a North American Rockwell plant in Downey on June 5, 1987. As the photo caption noted, the date of his visit was June 5, 1972. Humphrey died in 1978.

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


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