The cities of Long Beach and Los Angeles, as well as the whole county of LA enacted curfews this week in response to the protests against police brutality and the murder of George Floyd. Officials claimed the curfews were set to protect people and property that were being hurt and damaged once the protests turned violent. Although I would very much like to address the protests, I will try to stick to the curfews.
The first curfew in Long Beach was enacted on Sunday, May 31 prior to the escalation of aggression in downtown. Officials claimed it was to keep people safe from any violence and to try to prevent looting, but we all know what it was about. They wanted to arrest protesters and curtail our first amendment rights to free speech.
The sequence of events of that night were documented live on Twitter, and the documentation proves that the LBPD purposely cornered protesters and prevented them from leaving before the curfew hit. They purposely tried to keep protesters outside past curfew so they could arrest them. Over the next few days, curfews were continually enacted and heavily enforced. People were not allowed to travel outside, with few exceptions, and bus routes were shut down extraordinarily early. At some point, Long Beach Police Chief Luna stated that curfews were “voluntary,” but if caught outside you would be subject to fine or arrest. How can anything be voluntary if there is a risk of penalization? A contradictory statement if I ever heard one, but I digress. The guise behind the curfews is public safety. But where was this concern for public safety when the pandemic hit? When infection rates were climbing at alarming rates in Long Beach, Los Angeles, and all of LA County, where was this hammer-like authority to preserve the “health and safety” of our communities?
When low-income, black and brown communities were being hit with the highest rates of infection, where was Mayor Garcia with his concern for our well-being? Infection rates continue to rise in ALL of Los Angeles County, including our very own Long Beach. Yet, Garcia and Long Beach City Council moved forward with plans last week to re-open more and more businesses, without a real regard for the health and safety of those populations who have been hit the hardest. This was due to their overwhelming concern for the economy.
However, when their actions and their authorities were called into question, Garcia, Garcetti, and all of LA County were swift in shutting down entire cities well before regular business hours and for several days straight. Where was this kind of intervention when we needed it most? It was virtually non-existent. When infection rates were at their worst, people continued to gather outside at all hours with no masks and no concern for social distancing.
When the panic hit our region, grocery stores were ransacked and essential, but underpaid (minimum wage), workers were left to try and maintain order on their own. Intervention was minimal, vague, and left largely to interpretation. When the City of Long Beach decided to enact and enforce their curfew on Sunday afternoon in the midst of a protest advocating for black lives, they made one thing very clear to the rest of us: the need to protect property is more important than the need to protect our lives.
I am a Long Beach native. I have lived here my entire life. When my family first immigrated to the U.S. from Guatemala two generations ago, they made their new lives in this city. We have strong roots in Long Beach and we care very much about our people, but I am greatly disappointed in how inadequately Mayor Garcia and the whole of Long Beach City Council have addressed the concerns of the people. From a severe deficit of affordable housing to a gross misspending of public funds, Robert Garcia has proven himself time and again to be against the interests of his constituents, and I for one have had enough.
Tania Perez, Long Beach Resident