Santa Monica police chief still has no answers, shifts blame five days after Sunday catastrophe

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Today, during a peaceful protest at Santa Monica, CA’s city hall, questions were lobbed at police chief Cynthia Renaud, who took the megaphone despite have stunningly little to say. ⁣ ⁣ Five days after Sunday’s catastrophe, in which police forces first open-fired with tear gas canisters and rubber bullets on peaceful protesters while designating woefully few resources to address the separately occurring looting and destruction, Renaud had the audacity to announce she was aware that “in some cities, in some states,” the police have shown racism and acted aggressively and wrongfully toward the civilian population. All the while, tank-like vehicles and officers garbed in military fatigues lined the perimeter of unarmed protesters. ⁣ ⁣ It was remarkable that she agreed to speak having clearly thought so little about what to say, and even more incredible to hear that she seems to believe the current movement against police brutality that is sweeping the nation has nothing to do with her innocent police force, which by the way, intentionally shot me in the foot with a rubber bullet on Sunday, along with many others, who fared much worse. She even had the nerve to bring a black officer to the center stage with her (though not allowing him to talk) as she declared “We are the Santa Monica police Dept. This is what we look like.” ⁣ ⁣ The crowd, booing loudly, was not entertained. Neither am I. If Sunday’s chaos didn’t prove ineptitude, her inability to apologize for the massive errors — or even recognize or reckon with them publicly — certainly did. 😤 #FireCynthiaRenaud #santamonicaprotest #defundthepolice #laprotest #santamonicapolice

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The state of policing: does “protect and serve” still apply?

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Yesterday in Santa Monica, as the protest we’d been a part of for hours continued peacefully, the police was pulling on gas masks.⁣ ⁣ Like everyone, I couldn’t help but watch them as they faced off with the people they’ve promised to serve and protect. Some of the cops pulled batons from their holsters, gripped their pellet guns as if just looking for a reason to shoot. Others seemed as though they were attempting to embody “neutral” amidst this dystopian show of militant antagonism. ⁣ ⁣ But if that was ever possible, it certainly no longer is.⁣ ⁣ I believe there are members of the police who are trying to be good humans. Some, when they signed up to be a cop, probably believed they were doing something good & helpful for society. Many probably never dreamed they’d be in a situation like yesterday; charged with shutting down peaceful protests, representing and protecting — rather than the community at large — fellow officers who have been exposed on camera breaking the law in horrendous ways.⁣ ⁣ But let’s be honest, this isn’t working. Police indoctrination is broken. The training model is broken. The procedure is broken. The values are broken. The culture is broken. Innocent black Americans are dying at a rate that should infuriate us all.⁣ ⁣ Now, part of an officer’s job includes tear gassing and shooting innocent, peaceful protesters with rubber bullets, as the police did yesterday, shortly after pulling on the masks. The pressure is higher than ever and yet I can’t believe we haven’t seen *more* officers step down right now. Are you all really OK with defending and validating this system?? Can you sleep at night??⁣ ⁣ If you are an officer who is trying to do good in the world, please don’t delude yourself into believing you can spur change from the inside; like a cancer, healing cannot come from within the very forces that created it; the immune system is too weak, the cancer is too strong. It takes something destructive, like chemotherapy, ravaging the entire system in hopes the cancer is rooted out, too.⁣ ⁣ It’s time to reconsider whether being a part of the police means protecting and serving as the oath says — or if it means the opposite.

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Peaceful Santa Monica protests, until law enforcement arrived

A community without walls: Skid Row’s tightly-knit nature sows conflict but reaps beauty

Live Inspired, in partnership with John Reamer and Associates •

Under the shade of the bulbous ficus trees that root this quiet neighborhood block, Pastor Blue glides from the white cargo van to the gas burner with rhythmic ease,  crooning to the Luke Combs’ tunes that stand in place of hymns this evening.

“It’s a match made up in heaven, like good ‘ol boys and beer,” Blue sings as he prepares Saturday supper.

“And me, as long as you’re right here.”

On this stretch of Crocker Street in downtown Los Angeles — where a pop-up draped with international flags and filled with seating forms the “Sanctuary” — just about every evening feels like a backyard barbecue.

Blue cooks — hot dogs, sausages, oxtail with rice. Neighbors drop by and linger over beers and a passed blunt. Stories fill the warm, California air as the sun falls low over the city scape, its shards of golden light bouncing off the asphalt, the brick buildings, the lush, stately branches of Indian laurels that frame the sidewalks.

“Like God himself did the afro,” Blue pronounced one evening, sweeping his arm over the view. “Those trees …the skyline …the weather.

“You’ll see the beauty of California, if you can open your eyes past the tents and the cardboard and the trash.”

WATCHED POT: a docu-series about U.S. intervention abroad

If, like me, you grew up in the U.S., it’s likely you’ve heard the phrase before.

“A watched pot never boils,” perhaps your mother or grandmother told you, admonishing your childish impatience. If one is too attending, too eager, too singularly focused, time will slow; the meal won’t progress.

But when I hear that adage now, I hear something else in those words. Perhaps because of the way we’ve long spoken about global politics and simmering unrest, the phrase sounds to me like a different kind of warning: one not from the pot to the watcher, but from the watcher to the pot — a sober promise from the U.S. to the rest of the world that under it’s vigilant, meddling eye the globe will never bubble into chaos, into Communism, into backwardness. Of course, what that promise really means is that with the U.S. at the helm, the world will never bubble up into something that threatens the U.S.’ own interest and stake in power.

Introducing Watched Pot: a docu-series

Live Inspired: flying home during Coronavirus

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

Past the international baggage claim, an unused security area in Houston’s George Bush International airport looked outrageously big — its gaping confines made larger by an impossibly tall ceiling that felt as though clouds could form inside.

I’d been through this airport many times, and now I wondered: had it always been so cavernous?

Without foot traffic to create its normal humming soundtrack, each step seemed to resonate as I walked through this bizarre expanse. The voices of a single employee and a single other traveler bounced off the lofty metal beams and echoed throughout the chamber.

As I walked in their direction, I didn’t bother to get closer than 50 feet away.

“Am I going out this way for connecting flights?” I asked in a normal speaking voice, yelling being completely unnecessary, as I pointed toward automatic doors. My instincts had been dumbed by the lack of the typical stream of moving bodies.

The airport worker answered in the affirmative, and as she did, the only other passenger in this yawning space breezed past me.

“We’re going to terminal C,” she said. “Let’s go.”

We were two commuting strangers, suddenly linked together as human explorers in a dystopian future not unlike scenes from movies about the end-of-the-world.

El Salvador under quarantine: desolation, heavy artillery, pupusas and hope

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

A ghoulish light descended on the pupuseras as they worked — the TV glare mixing with fluorescent bulbs as it bounced off green walls. But the aroma was practically heavenly.

Scents of charred quesillo and pork fat dripping onto the griddle and oozing through masa cakes floated through the open sidewalk window and out onto the street. That, and the alluring sizzle made me stop in my tracks after first walking past. I spun around and returned.

“Estoy de vuelta,” I’m back, I said, yanking down my blue, medical mask to show my smile. “Por el olor.” Because of that scent.

I ordered a pair of revuelta pupusas to take with me. And I almost felt something I hadn’t in weeks: normal.