6/5/20

Today Penny and I went for her run and also picked up some packages and mail from Perry’s Parcel where I have a mailbox. Recent statements, actions, and letters to the public by Mayor Heidi Harmon show that she is pushing a political agenda rather than worrying about the needs and safety of the local community. Some of her questions about police procedures are plain stupid and show her bias. For example, her question, “Are the officers in the San Luis Obispo Police Department required to give a verbal warning to civilians before drawing their weapon or using excessive force? It would probably not be a good idea when someone has a drawn gun and is shooting to say, “please mister citizen stop shooting and put down your gun.” before drawing his or her gun and returning fire. Throughout her questions her bias is clear by the use of the word “excessive” as in the question above and in the question, “Are the officers in the San Luis Obispo Police Department trained to perform and seek necessary medical action after using excessive force?” Also, her claims about racism in San Luis Obispo show a push for a political agenda rather than reality. In 2019, SLO PD Detective Suzie Walsh said there were five documented hate crimes in SLO in 2018. Walsh also indicated that the police department does something many other law enforcement agencies do not do to combat racism and get convictions in hate crimes. They maintain a record of incidents when legally permitted hate speech under the First Amendment are reported so they can show a pattern if a hate crime is committed.

Today county officials reported 3 new cases of COVID-19 in the county, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 291. Health officials indicate that 5 people are in the hospital with 3 in ICU, that 23 people are recovering at home, and 263 have recovered from the virus. One person in the county has died from the virus.

The leading locations of virus cases are Paso Robles with 122 cases, Atascadero with 40 cases, and Nipomo with 27 cases. Over the last 2 weeks there have been an average of 2.4 cases a day.

In her briefing today Dr. Penny Borenstein, county health officer, indicated that the protests have put members of the community at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus, a fact that Mayor Heidi Harmon has chosen to ignore in her push to further her liberal agenda.

Thousands participated in a peaceful protest against police violence in San Luis Obispo on Thursday evening.

At 5 p.m., more than 3,000 attendees gathered at the SLO County Courthouse. Organizers with the NAACP and Cal Poly Black Faculty and Staff said the primary purpose of the protest is to act against violence.

Following several speeches, protesters marched through San Luis Obispo.

This is the fourth protest over the death of George Floyd in San Luis Obispo. During one of the previous protests, several attendees threw rocks and water bottles at police officers, who fired teargas at the crowd.

In anticipation of the protest, and over fears of violence, more businesses boarded up windows, many businesses and government agencies closed early in the day, cruise night promoters canceled their event, and officers closed some off-ramps from Highway 101.

“You must stay home to save lives. You must socially distance and lock down.” Unless you are protesting racism and police brutality.

This appears to be the message from some government and health officials, who for months enforced a rigorous and unprecedented economic shutdown in the name of stemming the spread of the coronavirus pandemic — resulting in millions losing their jobs and students being sent home from schools across the country.

But as states just now begin to emerge from those lockdowns, some have argued in favor of an exception to those guidelines for those protesting the death of George Floyd — suggesting the gains from seeking police reforms outweigh the risks of a new surge in virus cases.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, whose state had some of the harshest lockdown measures in the country, was pictured shoulder-to-shoulder protesting with other officials and demonstrators. Her office told the Detroit News that Whitmer wore a mask and denied she violated her executive order.

But the outlet noted a page of frequently asked questions about the order on the governor’s website specifically says, “Persons may engage in expressive activities protected by the First Amendment within the State of Michigan but must adhere to social distancing measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including remaining at least six feet from people from outside the person’s household.”

The report also noted that a month ago, she was warning that anti-lockdown protesters who showed up at the Capitol risk forcing the stay-at-home order to continue for longer.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, meanwhile, suggested that protesters against police brutality were more important than business owners keen to know when they could regain their livelihoods.

“I don’t want to make light of this, and I’ll probably get lit up by everyone who owns a nail salon in the state,” Murphy said during a Monday briefing. “But it is one thing to protest what day nail salons are opening, and it is another to come out in peaceful protest, overwhelmingly, about somebody who was murdered right before our eyes.

“The decision to go out or not go out, as long as you do it responsibly, safely and peacefully that’s a decision, I would say, in this particular instance, I would leave to the individuals,” he said.

However, most of New Jersey’s edicts have not been left “to the individuals,” and businesses and other activities have been locked down by state mandate.

In Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser on Friday visited a “Black Lives Matter” mural and posed with supporters and officials, while briefly removing her mask to pose for pictures.

Meanwhile, Politico gathered examples of a number of experts who have reversed course on the importance of keeping strict social distancing measures in place.

“We should always evaluate the risks and benefits of efforts to control the virus,” Jennifer Nuzzo, a Johns Hopkins epidemiologist, tweeted on Tuesday. “In this moment, the public health risks of not protesting to demand an end to systemic racism greatly exceed the harms of the virus.”

The outlet also noted that former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden, who strongly warned against efforts to rush reopening, is now supportive of mass protests (The current CDC Director has taken a more cautious tone).

Meanwhile, the Atlantic reported on a letter signed by 100 people in the public-health community, first drafted by infectious-disease experts at the University of Washington, which reaches the conclusion that the protests are OK.

“To the extent possible, we support the application of these public health best practices during demonstrations that call attention to the pervasive lethal force of white supremacy. However, as public health advocates, we do not condemn these gatherings as risky for COVID-19 transmission. We support them as vital to the national public health and to the threatened health specifically of Black people in the United States,” the letter says.

Some experts have pointed out that the virus does not spread easily outdoors. However, this sudden openness to outdoor mass events may surprise those who were scolded for going to the beach in Florida or who live in New York City, where playgrounds are still closed.

The reversal has plenty of critics. Leon Wolf, managing editor at The Blaze, a conservative outlet, fumed in a Twitter thread about how those urging devastating measures to stop the spread have now changed their tune.

He said he drew the conclusion “that they didn’t really believe what they were saying all along. Because an infectious disease does not care about the reason you are gathering or how important it is. It has no social conscience, or conscience of any kind.”

“Many people–out of a respect for social distancing–missed a parent’s dying hours,” author J.D. Vance wrote. “If you think experiencing that–while watching mass gatherings praised by the same scolds who prevented you from seeing family–doesn’t erode trust in authorities, you’re actually an idiot.”

They killed tens of thousands of seniors in nursing homes. They will not let us go out of our own homes for months. They have destroyed the economy. And now if you don’t do what they’ve been telling us not to do all this time – to gather with other people – we’re irredeemable racists,” said columnist Bethany Mandel, who last month was called “Grandma Killer” in a trending hashtag when she called for the lockdowns to end.

Her thread continued: “This is the scandal of the century. We’ve all been played.”

For almost five decades, Santa Monica Music Center was an oasis of arts and education that gave all walks of life the opportunity to bond over melodies.

But in the riots that reached Santa Monica on Sunday, almost everything inside was damaged or pilfered as the distraught owners looked on, and those who tried to defend the building had guns and other weapons pulled on them with no law enforcement to be found.

“It was just a horror movie,” Lana Negrete, 40, who now co-owns the center with her father Chico and runs the business with her husband. “They took everything from us, and no one stopped them. It was so violating.”

Nestled on 19th Street and Santa Monica Boulevard, the center – started in 1972 by Cuban-Spanish brothers Paul “Chico” and Victor Fernandez – rented out musical instruments at low costs to local schools and anyone looking to learn who couldn’t afford to buy their own. Its upstairs music school brought together a vast spectrum of the southern California community from the low income and the struggling, to the young and the old, and to those who wanted to learn anything from Beethoven to Beyoncé to the Beatles and beyond. But its future is now uncertain.

The calamity unfolded in broad daylight just after 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. Negrete and her husband were at the beach with their two daughters, 10 and 12, when they saw that one of the girls’ bike tires had been slashed.

That was something of an omen of what was soon to come as the family made their way east toward their beloved business.

“We heard windows being smashed. I saw a woman with snakeskin pants with her face pressed up against the glass of our store, and then she called a group over,” Negrete recalled, bringing to life every elastic second of her ordeal. “I saw them trying to get in, and I just started screaming and honking the horn.”

A neighboring business owner of a small pharmacy advised them to stand guard outside as a deterrent – he was already donning an AR-15 and bulletproof vest – and Negrete called a group of friends who immediately came to the scene.

“We went in and started hiding what instruments we could, we moved a refrigerator to barricade the door, and we wrote ‘minority-owned’ across the front,” she said. “But soon, it started with groups of five. Then groups of 10 – most with backpacks on skateboards and machetes and hammers in their hands started coming toward the center.”

A few minutes later, when Negrete dared look again, from every direction, there were hundreds of people barreling toward them in a scene she depicted as “pandemonium.” There were cars speeding up to the center – including brand new luxury Mercedes SUVs and Infiniti vehicles – with trunks popping open ready to be filled with loot, and while it was mostly young men, every ethnicity and age assaulted the building before her eyes.

I saw 16-year-old girls in designer clothes stealing, I saw a woman with a small child in the back drive up and push her 13-year-old son, who looked nervous, out of the car to go in and steal,” Negrete said. “There were just so many groups of people there who had nothing to do with the George Floyd protests. Parents there stealing with their children.”

Calling 911 proved to be futile. According to the frightened Music Center owner, they were informed that police could not get to the scene, and if they were registered gun owners, they could protect their private property. However, California has some of the strictest gun legislation in the country, including magazine limitations and a 10-day waiting period after purchase.

The violence only escalated as more and more looters descended.

“There were gunshots fired, and those trying to help us had guns pulled on them,” Negrete tremored. “One of the guys got out of his car and looked at my friend’s baseball bat and said, ‘what the f*ck you going to do with that?’ and pulled out his gun. Another friend had a gun put in his face and was called a f**got-ass b*tch.”

Tons of bricks were also used to smash windows in and around the area. Negrete observed that bricks are typically placed underneath trash cans earlier in the day ahead of scheduled protests, and when the looters arrive, they know where they are and put them to use to terrorize.

In the end, and over the course of many hours, criminals had a field day taking dozens of cellos, trumpets, bases, amplifiers, speakers, and random merchandise, including t-shirts–of which everyone sold goes towards giving a child in need a private music lesson. But if that was not enough, the looters also went about destroying the cash registers, smashing display cases and busting up furniture.

“It wasn’t just about taking the stuff. It was absolute anarchy,” Negrete noted. “They don’t know who they are stealing from; we don’t make much money, we’re low-income ourselves. We give back to charities every month even though we don’t have much money ourselves.”

Just two days before the looting, the Santa Monica Music Center had unlocked its doors for the first time in almost three months following the stringent lockdown orders amid the coronavirus pandemic, and at least part of the business was readied to start again.

As of Wednesday, Negrete said, the police still had not come to take a report.

“They told me it would take two or three weeks,” she lamented. “And I even have a cell phone here from one of the looters.”

She also pointed out that cellos and other instruments they believe to belong to them have started cropping up on Craigslist.

But as the Negretes attempt to clean up and piece their lives back together, with the help of music teachers who have been with them for decades and are akin to family, it is unclear when or if their doors will open again. She said 80 percent of their business has been obliterated, and right now, it is a fight between the landlord and the insurance over who is responsible for paying for what.

“I’m struggling, and I have a family to feed too, and we don’t qualify for any help from the government,” she added, her voice breaking into tears. “We are tax-paying, hard-working people. This is not just stuff to us. This was everything we had.”

Burglars have capitalized on chaos nationwide in the wake of the death of George Floyd. They are allegedly communicating with each other via messaging apps during heists and using the protests and other tactics to throw police off their trail. While opportunists have sometimes joined the frenzy, police and experts say there is a sophistication that suggests a level of planning that goes beyond spontaneous acts.

It is hardly the first-time legitimate protest has been used as a cover for crime. But crime experts, as The Associated Press reported, note the scale of the thefts, which have taken place coast-to-coast, in big and small cities and in suburbs.

“It was very strategic,” Sgt. Ray Kelly of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office said about the auto thefts and other recent heists in the San Francisco Bay Area community.

Kelly said the county began to get a handle on things after imposing evening curfews on Monday. He noted there was a clear distinction between protesters who got out of hand while demonstrating for social justice and other people who seized on the uprising to steal.

“Some of the burning was done out of anger and that was understandable,” he said. “But the strategic looting was definitely for personal gain. It was not to push forward the community concerns around police brutality and reform.”

Some shoplifters displayed surprising brazenness, walking out of stores with stolen goods. TV helicopters captured some people changing into their pilfered attire outside Long Beach shops and another person struggling to close the trunk of a car stuffed with clothes at a Walnut Creek mall near Oakland.

“I’ve been a student of these things. And I have never seen anything like it,” said Neil Sullivan, a nationally recognized expert on mass-events security and retired Chicago Police Department commander.

People who stole during civil-rights protests in the 1960s, he said, tended to be individuals who saw crimes of opportunity as demonstrations spun out of control. By contrast, many of the break-ins that have happened the last week appear to be meticulously planned and coordinated, he said.

One of the first of these crimes unfolded Saturday in Emeryville, a tiny city of retail shopping centers next to Oakland, when a crowd showed up and broke into stores after an Instagram post said they would “hit” the Target and “break every stores” (sic).

“This wasn’t the mafia and organized crime, but this wasn’t individuals acting alone,” said Emeryville Mayor Christian Patz. “There definitely was some organization.”

Police in a small San Francisco Bay Area community were about to help authorities in neighboring Oakland keep the peace during a protest when a more pressing crisis hit home: groups of thieves were pillaging malls, setting fire to a Walmart and storming a car dealership.

By the time San Leandro officers arrived at the Dodge dealership, dozens of cars were gone, and thieves were peeling out of the lot in $100,000 Challenger Hellcat muscle cars. Nearly 75 vehicles were stolen Sunday, including models driven through glass showroom doors to escape.

The brazen heist, carried out by well-coordinated criminals, was one of many thefts nationwide in the last week at big box electronics stores, jewelry shops and luxury designers. Many of the smash-and-grab thefts have happened during or following protests over the death of Floyd.

In New York, some people stealing from stores were using encrypted messaging to communicate and posted lookouts to warn if police were coming.

In the Southern California city of Long Beach, groups of thieves hit store after store Sunday as marchers demonstrated nearby.

Police in Los Angles, which had widespread burglaries for several days, said the crimes didn’t occur until a third night of protests and shifted from thieves on foot to those in cars able to haul more off.

The arrival of more than 1,000 National Guard troops in Los Angeles County to provide security freed up officers to try more aggressively to stop crimes. Sheriff Alex Villanueva said his department was able to thwart “a very significant operation to sack” a large outlet mall in the nearby City of Commerce. Dozens were arrested.

“They were there for only one purpose and that was to loot,” he said.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, tweets warning of looting and rioting turned out to be false, though they led some businesses to close and may have been attempts to divert police elsewhere. Richmond police tweeted that a bogus rumor on social media of an officer being shot occurred around the time a pot shop was ransacked.

Groups of thieves struck a series of big box stores on Chicago’s South Side on Sunday while periodically calling 911 to falsely report that a mall several miles away was being ransacked, Alderman Ray Lopez said.

By the time police rushed to the mall to find no one there, the thieves had moved on to another large store — and phoned in additional false reports to again shake police off their trail.

“It was a game of whack-a-mole,” Lopez said.

In other instances, 10 or more cars would pull up to a store, smash the windows, then wait nearby to see if police would arrive. If they did not, some of the same cars would return to load up with goods and speed off.

A reluctance of officers to use force amid intensified scrutiny of police tactics has emboldened would-be thieves, said Eugene O’Donnell, a professor of police studies at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

“All you have to tell police is to do nothing and they will do nothing,” he said. “And they are implicitly being told, ‘Don’t do anything.”

If one pays attention there are many unusual and beautiful plant life along the coast.

© Copywrite MPFitch

Published by mpfitch

I am a retired disabled veteran and am actively involved with a Baptist Church on the Central Coast of CA. I am a photographer who likes to shoot portraits and scenic photographs.

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