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Convention Center Reopens

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San Diego Convention Center employees applaud during the ceremonial reopening of the San Diego Convention Center in downtown San Diego on July 30, 2021.

MATTHEW BOWLER

The San Diego Convention Center held its first convention this weekend. Meanwhile, a teen from Encinitas is preparing to represent the US at the Paralympics in Tokyo. Plus, violence between an obscure right-wing group and counter-protesters broke out at a recent pro-Israel rally in El Cajon.

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Monday, August 2nd

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The San Diego Convention Center reopens for events

More on that next, but first... let’s do the headlines….

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San Diegans are turning to retail clinics for covid-19 vaccines. According to county data, retail pharmacies provided the most shots in July -- administering more than 100,000 doses in July. Overall vaccination rates are on the rise as Covid-19 cases also continue to go up in San Diego. On Friday the county reported 1,273 new Covid19 cases -- the highest daily total since February 5th.

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An off-duty San Diego police officer was arrested on Sunday on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and brandishing a firearm in Pacific Beach. San Diego Police say they responded to a call about a disturbance outside of a bar. They later arrested Trevor Sterling, a off duty officer who was allegedly carrying a personal firearm during the incident. According to the police department, Police Chief David Nisleit immediately suspended Sterling without pay, saying the behavior is unbecoming of any police officer, and that the incident will be investigated to the fullest.

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The National Weather service has issued a heat advisory for the mountains of San Diego, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties. It’ll be in effect from 10am this morning to 8pm on wednesday. The NWS also issued an excessive heat watch, starting tomorrow morning through Wednesday for the San Diego County Deserts and Coachella Valley where temperatures are expected upwards of 120, with lows in the 90’s. The NWS says to drink plenty of fluids, stay in air conditioning, stay out of the sun, and do not leave your pets unattended.

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From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now.

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

For the first time since March 2020, the San Diego Convention Center is open for conventions. It had its first show on Sunday, thanks largely in part to the county’s vaccination efforts.
KPBS reporter Melissa Mae was there for the ceremonial reopening on Friday.

The San Diego Convention Center will welcome its first show this Sunday, August 1st… in large part because of the County’s vaccination efforts.
Rip Rippetoe // San Diego Convention Center President & CEO
“San Diego is among the most vaccinated of major convention destinations in the United States. More than 70% of our eligible population is fully vaccinated.”
Rip Rippetoe (RIP-eh-toe) is the San Diego Convention Center’s President and CEO. He says the facility served the community in other ways for the last 15 months.
Rip Rippetoe // San Diego Convention Center President & CEO
“We never really shut down, we operated as a homeless shelter. We operated as an emergency intake site for unaccompanied minor children, so we’ve had more experience than most in operating through a pandemic.”
The convention center did take an economic hit.
Rip Rippetoe // San Diego Convention Center President & CEO
“We lost 150 events over that 15 month period and it equated to 2 billion dollars in economic impact into the community.”
The reopening comes amid new worries about the Delta variant. County Supervisor Nora Vargas addressed those concerns.
Nora Vargas // San Diego County Board of Supervisors
“They’re going to be requiring masks inside the convention center, but at this time we are just monitoring and doing whatever the safest guidelines are from CDC guidelines, etc. Right now, that’s just making sure people get vaccinated, but it’s not mandated to come into the convention center.”
Rippetoe says protocols are in place to keep people safe.
Rip Rippetoe // San Diego Convention Center President & CEO (
“Through October 1st, any show that has 5000 attendees or more are required to show that they are either negative test or have been vaccinated.”
Rip Rippetoe // San Diego Convention Center President & CEO
“We’ve gone through and done improvements on our ventilation systems. We’ve put signage in restrooms talking about personal hygiene. We’ve got disinfecting stations throughout the venue for people.”
They also have a cleaning protocol that matches the California Department of Public Health and Cal-OSHA standards. And cleaning is done throughout the day.
Some notable upcoming events scheduled at the convention center are the Celebration of Life for Father Joe Carroll on August 10th… And Comic Con Special Edition will be in town November 26th to the 28th. Melissa Mae KPBS News.

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While top athletes from around the world are competing for glory at the Tokyo Olympics, one teenager from Encinitas is preparing to represent the U-S at the Paralympics.
Also being held in Tokyo, it’s an international competition for athletes with disabilities.
KPBS’s Alexander Nguyen (WYNN) has his story.

Watching Joel Gomez run on the track and you wouldn’t know that the recently turned 18-year-old is legally blind.
CG: Joel Gomez // Paralympics Distance Runner
“So my visual impairment is called blue-cone monochromacy. And I’ve had it since birth, it’s a genetic condition.”
random runner, orange cone on green grass (transition from color to b/w)
It means that things further than an arm’s length are a blur and he can’t differentiate between certain colors … such as orange cones on green grass.
CG: Joel Gomez // Paralympics Distance Runner
“So, once my dad was running alongside me — they had already packed up at the end of the meet because ours was the last race of the day — so he was carrying the chair and our dog on a leash telling me, ‘Go this way, go this way,” and the announcer was saying, ‘Parents, don’t run with your athletes,’ so we had to explain to the announcer after that.”
In high school, Joel ran with sighted runners. Competing for the Paralympics was never the dream. In fact, Joel and his parents didn’t even know about it. It was through a call with the US Track and Field Para Athletics Committee chairman Richard Robert that the Gomezes learned about the Paralympics.
CG: Rynn Whitley Gomez // Joel Gomez’ mother
“I was the one that contacted him when they would not let Joel wear sunglasses at his competition in high school. So Richie Robert asked me on the first phone call, ‘Well, how fast is he and how legally blind is he?’”
It was through that phone call that Joel’s parents eventually agreed to let Joel be visually classified with the Paralympics. He’s classified in T-13 — the least visually impaired division. It means he can differentiate between shadows and forms.
World Junior Para Athletics Championships
For Joel Gomez, very good run for the american”
While Tokyo is Joel’s first Paralympics, he is no stranger to competing on the world stage.
CG: Joel Gomez / Paralympics Distance Runner
“In 2019, I was nominated to the World Junior Para Athletics Championships in Nottwil, Switzerland. And I competed in the 1500 and 400 meters and I won gold in both events. Then I went to Para America games, which was held in Lima, Peru that August and I finished second in that event.”
Still, making the U-S Paralympics team wasn’t a sure thing. So when his name was announced, CG: Joel Gomez / Paralympics Distance Runner
“It was just pure ecstasy, it was amazing.”

That reporting from KPBS’ Alexander Nguyen. In Tokyo, Joel will be competing in the 15-hundred and four hundred meter races. The Paralympics competitions start August 24th and go through September 5th.

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THREE REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES IN THE SEPTEMBER RECALL ELECTION HAVE HIT THE THRESHOLD REQUIRED TO GET AN ENDORSEMENT FROM THE STATE PARTY. CAPRADIO’S MIKE HAGERTY HAS MORE.

The rules say a candidate must have at least 200 delegate nominations by 11:59 p.m. Saturday to be eligible for a party endorsement. As of now, only three candidates---talk show host Larry Elder, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Assemblyman Kevin Kiley---have reached that number.
Other well-known Republican candidates such as Olympic gold medal winner and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner, former Congressman Doug Ose and failed 2018 gubernatorial candidate John Cox have less than half the delegate nominations they’d need. Cox is among the candidates blasting the state party for the endorsement rules, calling it a “backdoor deal” that would “dampen the enthusiasm of the grassroots”.
The final vote on a party endorsement is August 7th.

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Coming up.... during a recent Pro-Israel rally held in El Cajon, violence erupted between a far-right extremist group and counter protestors. We’ll have more on that next, just after the break.

More now on a recent event in east county that drew republican recall candidate Larry Elder and others to El Cajon. It was billed as a local show of support for Israel, but that’s not how it’ll be remembered.

Violence between an obscure right-wing group and counter-protesters broke out. And now there’s questions about whether there was coordination between local groups and local law enforcement…. The San Diego Union Tribune’s Andrew Dyer is on the story, and he’s done a lot of work on these east county groups over the past year. He joined KPBS’ Cristina Kim on the Roundtable. Here’s that interview.

What exactly happened last Sunday? What did you see? Yes,

Speaker 4: 08:19 Well, um, this rally in Elka home with, uh, you know, former secretary of state Mike Pompeo and, uh, California governor candidate, Larry elder, just about as soon as it was announced, organizers on the left and pro Palestinian groups started planning their own kind of counter demonstration plan was to mark from, uh, the, the city parking lot in the home to the rally and disrupted in, in some kind of undefined way. Okay.

Speaker 1: 08:49 And what exactly happened? I know there was bear repellent being sprayed. It did become violent in nature.

Speaker 4: 08:54 So the March per several blocks with no issue until it got about a block east of where the, the, we are Israel rally was being held and a handful of, um, you know, I described them in the story as, as extremists from far right. Groups were kind of there waiting for the protestors, these protestors, I, I really want to clarify this was a, a group of several groups, right? So there was some pro-Palestinian youth organization at Jewish voice for peace. Um, but there were also, uh, I guess you would describe them as leftists or BlackRock or Antifa was also there kind of as an ad hoc security force for the main body of the protest. And once we got to this traffic barricade, it was the, the members of the black block who were kind of on the Vanguard of this March. And, um, almost immediately whenever they got their alcohol lease, there were two police officers, um, uh, videos after videos shared online show this, um, who kind of backed off and disengaged while these far-right individuals came up and immediately started kind of taunting. And, and just the, you know, you know, when people are about to fight, there was a lot of, uh, posturing and kind of, uh, chest up being it didn't take long before a punches were thrown

Speaker 1: 10:24 In your reporting this week. You really tried to answer the question, whether event organizers and alcohol and police communicated with a group called exiled Patriots police and the main group called shield of David, deny it. But why did this question even pop up in the first place?

Speaker 4: 10:37 Well, so Xcel Patriots is led by, uh, a guy named Mike Fasano. He used to be one of the leaders of defenders county, which is kind of like a larger and more well-known group that sprung up last year during the George Troy protest, they had a falling out with leadership. And so, you know, for, as almost started his own group and they've been front and center at several protests that have had clashes between, you know, either black lives matter demonstrators and, and, and the right, but on a, on a, on his Instagram account, um, the day after the rally also on video, he, he said that the organizers from children, David reached out to him and his organization to talk about what the security structure of this, uh, this event was going to be like, no, this is kind of a shocking allegation because, you know, you know, for example, w w would deny this, I think, but some of the people he's with were members of American guard, which is described as a hardcore white supremacist group and for a Jewish organization, you know, just for there to be an allegation that this order would coordinate with with people like that.

Speaker 4: 11:48 It's kind of like, you know, strange bedfellows. So yeah, I asked, I asked the point blank, like, did you talk with [inaudible]? And they, you know, it ain't phonically denied it, you know, pointing out they had private security, they had state department security because of Pompeo's presence. Um, and they had the local police force and they had no need for this group now, whether or not they, there was any formal arrangement here. What happened on the ground was that this far-right group certainly saw themselves as there to protect the pro-Israel rally. And if that was their goal, then I guess they succeeded because after the fights and the spraying of the bear spray and this pro Palestinian protest, you know, they turned around and went back and that was the end of it. But there was allegations online, additionally, that, um, alcohol police department, but some of these folks park in their parking lot at the police station. Now the police say that, you know, they never talked with this group and that, that parking lot is open anyway. And they don't let people park there, but they'd also don't stop people from parking there. So, yeah, they, they also denied any, any coordination with

Speaker 1: 12:58 No Russ remade this past Sunday, but you do know that Chris Weirich was there, he's currently facing charges for alleged violence elsewhere. Is that right? Why was it important to note that he was also at these events? You know,

Speaker 4: 13:09 It's important because this is something that we see happening over and over again. Um, in Southern California, it happened in ocean beach on January 9th. It happened, um, in Lamesa on August 1st. Um, it happened in Yorba Linda in September, where a, a woman drove her car over a man and the spacing charges for that. Um, just at the same place where Weirich allegedly fired, bear spray, Nope, this is happening and it keeps happening. And if you pay attention that it's the same people who keep showing up at either protests or political rallies as kind of an opportunity to, to engage in violence with their perceived political enemies.

Speaker 1: 13:53 Thank you for mentioning that, because sometimes I think listeners hear about these incidents and they see kind of like one-offs, and they don't really know how to make sense of them. I think you've started to do this, but how do we put what happened this past weekend in a greater political and racial context here in the San Diego region? What does it really tell us about what we're living in? How are all of these kinds of skirmishes or standoffs connected?

Speaker 4: 14:15 You know, that's, that's the same question I had and it didn't make it into my story, but I did talk with a researcher and then P semi, he, he researches, you know, extremist groups. And what he told me was that, you know, one of the things that are happening right now that create kind of like a perfect storm for this, for one, the pandemic people being in lockdown, being online more where, you know, this political rhetoric is, you know, it's a cauldron of, of misinformation, of disinformation of, uh, of this sort of thing. You have the George Ford protests last year, we have mass mandates and people were opposing mass mandate. So we have, you know, just, there's a lot of things that are motivating people to take their activism off of the internet and into the street, you know, so it's kind of like just this perfect storm and thinking in the context of what we saw after the election, you know, the, the January 6th, uh, insurrection at the Capitol, that was not the first instance of, of street violence in DC after the election, you know, there was also kind of a proud boys, rally and riot in, in December.

Speaker 4: 15:23 So from that perspective, when we're talking about looking at patterns and what's happening on the streets, is that it certainly appears that like street fighting is somehow or somewhat a part of, of our politics right now,

Speaker 1: 15:37 Quote for Zano boasting that it's going to take more than bear repellent to stop them saying, quote, they underestimate the kind of beast we have on our team. And quote, what does this tell you about the psychology and the values of exiled Patriots?

Speaker 4: 15:50 You know, I really don't, and I don't want to put words into, into for examples now, but I have watched a lot of his videos and listened to him. And if you listened to him talk, you know, his slogan for his group is hate, is for rookies. They don't want to be associated with white nationalism or racism. And in speaking with Simi, he, you know, he describes it as, as civic nationalism, which is this kind of a pseudo white nationalism, where you take all of the elements of, you know, the extreme nationalism, traditional values and package it in a way that is racially inclusive. And it makes it a little more palatable for the mainstream. The group that Weirich is affiliated with American guard, the, you know, the ADL calls him her port white supremacists, but semi told me that they've also paved into this more civic nationalists mindset and a rally.

Speaker 4: 16:43 Like we are Israel kind of presents this perfect opportunity because it's a, it's a Jewish group one, uh, Larry elder is a black man too. So it gives them kind of some cover to come out and say, how can you call us racist? This is a Jewish group and a black man speaking. And we're here saying that you can't disrupt that. So certainly that, that element is there. It's also a lot of, kind of that machismo alpha male at a mindset when people might call it toxic masculinity. But I think it's a lot of cost and I liken it to like a, a pro wrestler, you know, taunting his next opponent, um, um, on WWE. It that's, I mean, that's the best comparison I can make. That's what this kind of rhetoric reminds me of

That was Andrew Dyer with the San Diego Union Tribune. He was speaking with KPBS Cristina Kim on the Roundtable.

That’s it for the podcast today. Be sure to catch KPBS Midday Edition At Noon on KPBS radio, or check out the Midday podcast. You can also watch KPBS Evening Edition at 5 O’clock on KPBS Television, and as always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

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San Diego News Now

San Diego news; when you want it, where you want it. Get local stories on politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings. Hosted by Anica Colbert and produced by KPBS, San Diego and the Imperial County's NPR and PBS station.