With protesters outside the Civic Chambers calling for police abolition, Long Beach City Council approves new ‘Framework’ to address systemic racism in Long Beach

Alrededor de 100 manifestantes se reunieron frente a las Cámaras Cívicas de Long Beach el día de la reunión del Consejo de la Ciudad en protesta por ser excluidos de la reunión. Aunque la Ciudad ha decidido permitir que su economía se abra desde la orden de seguridad en el hogar debido al coronavirus, las Cámaras Cívicas aún están cerradas al público. La reunión del consejo de la ciudad de la semana pasada se pospuso, días después de las protestas donde LBPD disparó contra manifestantes pacíficos.

At its June 9 meeting, the Long Beach City Council passed new measures that they say will provide relief from the COVID-19 pandemic, a resolution acknowledging systemic racism in Long Beach and the transparency between the police and the public. 

Just outside the civic chambers, around 100 protesters gathered outside, calling for police abolition in the wake of George Floyd’s being killed by Minneapolis police. Others were also there to protest being shut out from the meeting.

“It’s time to abolish from down up, because if we teach our kids, history, we know that the police was made right after the slaves were freed, to protect property, so when you teach kids that, it makes no sense that now they want to protect us all, because they don’t,” said a women in attendance who called for police abolition rather than reform.

Others called for defunding the police and instead putting that money towards other resources.

“You can definitely put that money to resources, to stop the school to prison pipeline. If you defund the police, give the kids better counselors, the kids are going to be getting less trouble, more community, more places for kids to go and have fun and learn some fucking community, no reform, abolition. ”

Although the City has decided to allow their economy to reopen up since the safe-at-home order due to coronavirus, the civic chambers are still closed to the public. Last week’s city council meeting was postponed, days after the protests where LBPD shot at peaceful protesters.

Framework

Prior to the city council, on Sunday, June 7, councilmember Rex Richardson facilitated a “Discussion on the Framework for Reconciliation”, featuring senator Lena Gonzalez, councilmember Jeanine Pearce, LBUSD board member Juan Benitez and LBCC board member Uduak Joe-Ntuk.

The online webinar drew some comments from users on Richardson’s Instagram page who were concerned with not being notified of the meeting in a timely manner. Richardson had posted the flyer of the “webinar” at 6 p.m. an hour before it went live at 7 p.m. Gonzalez, Pearce, and Benitez had also shared the flyer that same day. Other’s were concerned with the webinar’s lack of accessibility for people who don’t have the proper technology, internet access or social media accounts to view.

Richardson replied in a comment, “This isn’t a city council meeting. The city council meeting is on Tuesday. You aren’t missing out.”

The recorded webinar was posted for viewing on Richardson’s Facebook page that evening.

On June 9, City Council voted to have the city attorney work with the city manager to draft a resolution affirming the City’s commitment to adopting the “Framework for Reconciliation in Long Beach.” 

After weeks of protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police on May 25, protests over police brutality and systemic racism have popped up across the country and Long Beach, calling for reform and abolition of police systems and funding. 

Protesters stand around the message that reads, ” Garcia how much $$$ from LBPD”. (Lissette Mendoza | Signal Tribune)

According to the city council, the purpose of the “Framework” is to acknowledge systemic racism in Long Beach and for the City to commit to rebuilding public trust in the local government. 

The City’s Framework proposes four steps:

Request City Manager to issue a public statement condemning the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN, acknowledging the existence and longstanding impacts of systemic racism in our America and Long Beach;

• Request City Manager to conduct a formal listening process to hear accounts and experiences of racial injustice, inequity, or harm of community members;

• Request City Manager to convene stakeholders to evaluate the feedback from the listening process and shape policy, budgetary, charter, and programmatic reform ideas; and

• Request City Manager catalyze action, presenting immediate, short-term, medium-term, and long-term present recommendations for the City Council to consider.

The Framework calls for modernizing the Citizen Police Complaint Commission and reviewing the status of existing police reforms. It is also a potential ballot measure for the November 2020 election. 

Councilmember Rex Richardson supported the bill saying that rebuilding public trust and addressing racial equity needs to be a top priority for the City as it moves forward. 

“We all witnessed the brutal killing of Mr. George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers,” Councilmember Rex Richardson said. “And, all across America, people are protesting an unjust system where evidence demonstrates that the system is tilted against Black lives, Black bodies and the opportunity or Black communities to succeed. This is not a political opinion. This is backed by science and data and our own eyes, which confirm it.”

Richardson also stated that to rebuild public trust in the institution, the City must work toward providing racial and economic equity. 

One of the issues he addressed was the health of African Americans in Long Beach. Richardson said that the difference in life expectancy in East Long Beach compared to Northwest and Southwest Long Beach is seven years. Additionally, African Americans make up 22 % of COVID-19 cases in Long Beach– despite only making up 12 % of the population.  

“We need to commit our system to ending the narrative of “The Tale of Two Cities” in this moment,” Richardson said. 

Third District Councilmember Suzie Price supported the motion and stated that she understands the frustration of protestors across the nation, but did not agree with the idea of Long Beach as “two cities.”

Jahliyl Mayhand stands with a Black Lives Matter flag in front of the Civic Center. (Lissette Mendoza | Signal Tribune)

“We share one City, and people often talk about this term ‘Tale of Two Cities.’ I’ll be honest. I don’t like that because I think it unnecessarily divides us. We are one city with opportunities and challenges in each area of the city and areas that we need to help promote build up support so that we can continue to be better as a city together,” Price said. 

COVID Financial Support
As COVID-19 continues to affect Long Beach residents negatively, the City Council approved a series of measures to offset the impacts.

The first program voted on by the Council was a rental assistance program for tenants that are impacted by the ongoing health crisis. 

The program will provide up to $1000 a month to tenants who experienced a loss of income from the coronavirus. The program will distribute these payments for up to three months. 

Additionally, the program will provide help to up to 1600 households, who will be chosen by a lottery system. 

The program is similar to a rental assistance program adopted by the City of Los Angeles, but the Long Beach Program will distribute the payments to landlords instead of tenants.  

The program will be supported by funds granted to the City by the CARES Act, which was passed in March 2020, as well as a $300,000 grant by Los Angeles County Supervisor, Janice Hahn. 

The City Council also voted to approve the COVID-19 Small Business Recovery Loan Plan, which will provide emergency relief to small businesses affected by the economic shutdown. 

The plan will focus on businesses that are hit the hardest by the pandemic, such as restaurants, retail, non-profits, and small companies that employ Long Beach residents. 

The Council also voted to approve an amendment extending the moratorium on evictions during the coronavirus pandemic and passed the ordinance that extends supplemental sick leave. 

Police Council 
The Council voted to approve a request for the City manager to report back to the Council within 30 days on the Citizen Police Complaint Commission (CPCC). 

The Council asked that the report contain a summary of investigations over the past five years, ways for the board to improve transparency and accountability between the Long Beach Police Department and the public. 

8th District Councilmember Al Austin, who once served as a commissioner on the board supported the measure. 

In his comments, Austin stated that the Council was created after the killing of Don Johnson, an off-duty Black police officer, by police. 

“Here we are 30 years later, and it’s time for us to look at ways that the CPCC can be updated and improved [with] accountability, transparency, and confidence in the relationship between the community and our Police Department,” Austin said. “It is important that we have a timely conversation now on how to improve the efficacy of the CPCC.”

State of Emergency
The City Council voted to approve an extension of a local emergency ratified by the Council on June 5, 2020. 

The extension was supported by the City Manager, Tom Modica, and Long Beach Police Department Chief Robert Luna. 

“The police chief and I are both recommending that we keep this in place at least for one more week. We do not see this to be a long-term emergency, but we are still seeing a lot of activity in our City,” Modica said. 

The declaration’s extension will only last for an additional week and will be voted on at the June 16 City Council meeting. 

The declaration of emergency was called on May 31, after looters starting vandalizing businesses across Long Beach during a protest against police brutality. 

Street sweeping
The City Council ended the meeting with an update on street-sweeping, along with recommendations on how the Council should proceed. 

The Council voted to restart street-sweeping after a moratorium was implemented in late March. The purpose of the suspension was to provide relief to residents who were forced to remain home under the Governor’s order to stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

When the City resumed sweeping, officials received an influx of complaints from residents who did not know that it had started up again. In response, the City offered a one-time waiver to anyone who was financially impacted by the health pandemic. 

Another way the City has helped spread the word is through flyers distributed to people’s houses. 

According to Craig Beck, the Director of Public Works, the outreach is beginning to show results. 

“We have gone from a very difficult sweeping operation in that some routes were only 10 to 15 % availability to sweep, to around 90 %,” Beck said. “So, we’re getting good compliance, and we will continue to provide education on this issue.”

View the agenda for the June 16 city council meeting here.

The Long Beach City Council meetings are held every Tuesday, except for the last Tuesday of the month. Council meetings are being hosted through teleconference in council chambers in the Civic Center Plaza, 411. W. Ocean Blvd. The public is allowed to participate through online comments and starting next week, limited telephonic public comments.

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