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LATEST UPDATES: Racial Justice | Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

Biggest Protests Yet

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MAX RIVLIN-NADLER

An estimated 2,000 protesters crowded University Avenue in North Park on June 4, 2020, to demonstrate against racial injustice.

An estimated 2,000 people took to the streets Thursday evening — the day of George Floyd's memorial service — to protest against police brutality and racial injustice. Also on KPBS’ San Diego News Matters podcast: several hundred California National Guard troops were deployed to support police in La Mesa and deputies around the county after a request from Sheriff Bill Gore, Fiesta Island, Balboa Park and other COVID-19 reopenings coming early next week and more local news you need.

A memorial service was held for George Floyd in Minn eapolis on Thursday.
And, outside San Diego Police headquarters downtown, A group of protesters gathered Thursday evening.
It was just one of several demonstrations that took place yesterday throughout the county to honor George Floyd and protest police brutality.
Protests have been happening across the county since Saturday.

Meanwhile, in Carlsbad an investigation was underway into a social media post in which a young man claims to be putting together a "gun squad" to attack anyone taking part in looting during police brutality protests in that city.

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200 military police and other National Guard troops have arrived in San Diego County.
Thursday morning military police from the National Guard stood watch over a mostly empty city hall and police station complex in La Mesa.

The city was the site of looting over the weekend, but things have been mostly calm through the week.

The troops arrived without public notice late Wednesday night, catching even some La Mesa police off guard. County Sheriff Bill Gore requested the guard. He told KPBS Midday Edition he wanted to backup his officers.

"By using the national Guard to protect infrastructure, that frees up our deputies to keep those demonstrations peaceful and allow us to address any detractors in the group."

Roughly half of the 200 troops will guard sites in La Mesa. Gore says some troops may also guard the county building in downtown San Diego. At this point, others may not be used at all.

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San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced Thursday that several more shoreline park areas and piers and boardwalks would be reopened soon amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The county's rolling 14-day average of positive tests is sitting at about 3 percent and has been trending slowly downward for several weeks.

The mayor said San Diego’s curve has been flattened, and he expects people will continue enjoying outdoor space while maintaining social distancing and wearing masks.

I'm confident that as we reopen more of our parks for our families. Um, it's going to have a hugely positive impact.

On Monday, June 8, East and West Mission Bay Parks will be open for park and water use and Fiesta Island opens to pedestrians, dogs and cyclists only.

The following day, all piers and boardwalks within city limits reopen. And on June 12: Balboa Park Central Mesa reopens and all Balboa Park parking lots will re-open at 100% capacity.

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From KPBS, I’m Kinsee Morlan, and you’re listening to San Diego News Matters, a podcast powered by our news reporters, producers and editors.

It’s Friday, June 5.

If you’re out there protesting, we want to hear from you. Take a minute and call 619-452-0228 and leave a voicemail saying who you are, what neighborhood you live in and why you’re out there protesting.

Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

The San Diego's City council president says she'll put a proposed ballot measure for an independent police practices commission on the council docket this month.

KPBS Reporter Matt Hoffman says some are worried it's all lip service.
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Council president Georgette Gomez says additional oversight would help build trust between communities and law enforcement. She's calling on her council member colleagues to put the measure on the November ballot.
Earlier this week the mayor and the Police Officers Association said they also support the creation of the independent commission. But at a news conference today (Thursday), some advocates worried officials might take away key provisions of the measure like subpoena power or independent legal counsel. Geneviéve Jones-Wright is executive director of Community Advocates for Just and Moral Governance.
11;26;59;15
We need to put pressure on every single council member this is not a partisan issue this a human life issue this a human rights issue
The public will see the proposed ballot language when the June 23rd council agenda is posted. At that meeting council members can decide whether or not to change it before they vote on sending it to the november ballot.

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Every major law enforcement agency in San Diego County has now followed the lead of the San Diego Police Department in banning the carotid (kuh-ra-ded) neck restraint hold.

KPBS reporter John Carroll says an expert in police use of force calls the action a good first step.
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The decision comes from 15 law enforcement agencies across San Diego County. At a morning news conference outside San Diego City Hall, Andrea St. Julian, who co-chairs San Diegans for Justice said it was too little, too late...

However, Cid Martinez, who's an associate professor of sociology at U-S-D specializing in police use of force called it an important first step, a gesture of reconciliation. But Martinez says we should be paying attention to a bigger picture. He says elimination of the hold is a small manifestation of much larger changes taking place. He says white people are joining protests around the country in much larger numbers than previous protests…

And if whites continue to stand up as allies, we could see a shift in some serious police reform and criminal justice reform and also a shift in the color line and race relations in America."

Martinez says Covid 19 has something to do with support from whites. He says the pandemic has put all of us in the same boat… an equalizer leading to calls for change from across society.

***

Play It Again Sports In La Mesa was one of the businesses broken into and looted over the weekend.

Owner Dan Buxton told KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman that someone also started a fire inside.

That night I was pretty much in despair thinking I had lost everything the next morning the parking lot was full of people from the community helping out

Not only did people help clean up, but local businesses are also offering to fix his windows and air conditioning free of charge.

Artists are even creating murals over boarded up windows. One shows George Floyd, whose killing by a Minneapolis police officer sparked nationwide protests.

Dozens of local artists are painting the murals for all the shopkeepers with boarded up windows in La Mesa.

Arts Calendar Editor and Producer Julia Dixon Evans has the story.

Days before Saturday's protest and riots in La Mesa, sculptor Spenser Little knew he'd be making art about police brutality and race, but he didn’t yet know what form it would take. He, like many others who attended Saturday's protest, had watched the video of Amaurie Johnson, a black man, being shoved repeatedly, handcuffed and then arrested with little explanation at the Grossmont Trolley Station by La Mesa Police.

After Saturday's looting and the weekend's cleanup, Little’s idea took shape.

Little was born and raised in east county San Diego. In fact, years ago, his first apartment was on Lemon Avenue in La Mesa, just overlooking the very shopping center in which he organized dozens of artists to paint the plywood boards covering up storefronts damaged during Saturday's looting.

At the protest, he was moved by the peaceful crowd, and expected the police department to make a statement or have a conversation with the protesters, but that didn't happen. "I was amazed that the La Mesa Police Department didn't do anything except dress for a riot," Little said.

As the day turned to evening, and tensions escalated, Little observed a rage and frustration amongst the crowd. "And you know, when you don't meet that rage with any kind of accountability… the police department did absolutely nothing, so what do they expect when they did nothing but start to shower the crowd — man, woman, child — with pepper balls, pepper spray and flash grenades? And what do you think that's gonna do to a crowd that's peaceful? It's gonna make them mad," Little said.

Little watched the crowd disperse and try to find supplies at the Vons supermarket, where the protesters were denied buying milk, he said.

Throughout the course of the evening, rioters, whether they were part of the earlier protests or not, damaged several storefronts and set fire to two nearby banks.

Little's response to the protests was not surprising; he makes art every day. "I'm an artist; that's my only power. That's what I do," he said. "I have a bad day, I make art; I have a good day, I make art. That's just how I react to everything."

He began calling artist friends and enlisted his sister, Megan Little, to reach out to the local businesses with property damage. She paired each business with an artist, and began conversations between each.

They started a GoFundMe campaign for art supplies, and quickly closed the fundraiser after they exceeded their goal. And then, the artists set to work. Dozens of local artists, including Joe Castillo, Jonny Alexander, Vincente Ghoste, Laurie Nasica, Aaron Glasson, Thao Huynh and more.

Artist Chloe Becky painted the unmistakable rendering of George Floyd, the man killed in police custody in Minneapolis last week. The mural, on the windows of the beauty school next to Vons, has served as a makeshift memorial since its completion, gathering flowers.

"I wanted to do his portrait to remind everyone the reason for the protest and the damage that was left in its wake. While I don't condone the smashing up of small businesses, people are angry and rightfully so," said Becky. "I have painted portraits before, but never a memorial. I hope I never need to memorialize another innocent life lost to racism and brutality by those that say they are here to 'protect and serve.'"

Little said that the response has been powerful: After word got out, people flocked to the shopping center to see the mural and approached Little and the artist to discuss the project and the issues affecting the community.

Artists Aaron Glasson and Jonny Alexander were also at the protests on Saturday, and had been working on several murals throughout the shopping center, including one on the side of Albertos. "Art can beautify spaces," said Glasson. "It can inspire people and show images of unity and cooperation, and it can voice our concerns and voice our communal escalations."

Not all of the art is protest art. One in-progress piece, on the Pizza Hut windows, features a slice of pepperoni pizza by artist Lourans Mikhail. Joe Castillo was painting large script lettering with the words "La Mesa Strong" and "Open" on a boarded-up window of the Postal Annex. Little said that they spoke with the business owners and wanted to honor their needs. "This is their property. This is us trying to help them and the community. We're not trying to express political views, we're just trying to do a humane act for fellow citizens," Little said.

The act of creating the murals and creating art on damaged storefronts is itself an ephemeral act; ultimately, these plywood boards will be removed as they're replaced by new windows. But Little is prepared to mobilize for other areas if additional damages occur.

"Will art change anything or will art do anything good? Maybe it won't do anything more than just brighten someone's day as they walk by a smashed window, but I hope it shows people that we're human," he said.

"That portrait of George Floyd, I hope that portrait reminds people that this isn't about property loss, this is about human life loss,” said Little. “This is about huge, huge human oppression and people aren't gonna stand for it anymore."

That was Arts Calendar Editor and Producer Julia Dixon Evans
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And before we go, I wanted to keep checking in with the community and listening to people’s thoughts and opinions about the current protests.

Today...Mandi Jo...a local teacher who recently posted an emotional Facebook video. In it, she wipes away tears as she thanks those who have been part of the peaceful protests.

I just want to say thank you to all the people who have been sitting up and talking about what's important on my page and actually speaking up. Because if you're not emotionally affected by what's going on right now, you need to check yourself. You need to check yourself. If you don't see it, if you don't see it, I'm here to tell you something's going on and the only way it's going to change as white people Change. That's the only way it's going to change. Why people have to call out other white people for racism.

And that’s all for today. Thanks for listening, and have a good weekend.

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San Diego News Matters

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