By TINA RYNBERG and JEFF BENESCH
As new polling shows 80% of all Americans think the country is out of control, most of us are looking for stable leadership, a commitment to social justice and an end to inflammatory rhetoric from our leadership in Washington, DC.
When peaceful protesters were driven out of Lafayette Park near the White House by tear gas, mounted police and flash bang grenades so the President could do a photo op in front of St. John’s Church holding an upside down Bible, Americans of all persuasions were shocked and dismayed. When Trump announced he was prepared to send in federal troops to put down demonstrations in states across America, even four-star generals were alarmed at our slide toward fascism. When Republican senators were asked if they were taken aback at the administration’s unconstitutional machinations, sanctioned by Attorney General Barr, they failed to register any protest at all. The Black Lives Matter movement now enjoys wide acceptance and support among a majority of Americans, but you wouldn’t know it by the actions (and inactions) of the Congressional Republican caucus.
So just a week after the nation watched the killing of a hand-cuffed black man suffocated for nearly nine minutes by the knee of a white Minneapolis cop while his fellow officers looked on, millions of Americans have marched, protested, registered their outrage, and called for police reform, in every state, and hundreds of communities, including many across San Diego County.
On June 3, a couple hundred La Mesa Foothills Democratic Club members heard from our local leaders and influencers via a zoom meeting and YouTube broadcast that broke new ground for our active club. With our July 1 Party in the Park still up in the air at this time, it was astounding to see so many of our club favorites share news, observations and opinions about the state of our politics, protests, pandemic, and social justice issues at the forefront of every day’s news.
Assembly member Shirley Weber kicked things off to discuss her efforts at police reform and other state bills, including limiting police use of force. She was followed by La Mesa City Council member Dr. Akilah Weber, who addressed the rioting and civil unrest in La Mesa, and the rough arrest of an apparently innocent African American La Mesa man at a trolley stop near Grossmont Center. Charges have since been dropped.
Rep. Susan Davis followed with an update on congressional efforts to transform policing in America to combat police brutality and racial injustice. She has since commented: “We are at a pivotal moment in American history with a real opportunity to reform how the police engage with our communities, especially communities of color. We cannot let this opportunity slip by. Never again should any family or community have to suffer through what has become a recurring nightmare in America.” Davis also shared some of her future plans after closing out her term in office in January.
Professor Carl Luna enlightened us with his reaction to the turmoil in American politics, and how it has made a significant change in his prediction for the November election. Pre-pandemic, and before the country was rocked by the untimely and racially-tinged deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, Luna figured Trump would run on the economy and achieve re-election. He now feels that Trump’s shortcomings in handling both the pandemic response, and his inability to address social injustice and institutional racism across America, will lead to his loss this November to former Vice President Joe Biden. Current polling supports Luna’s suppositions as Biden enjoys not only a large national lead, but also leads in most key battleground states.
Supervisor Nathan Fletcher updated county efforts on several fronts including protest reactions by the Board of Supervisors; San Diego’s COVID-19 progress made in slowing the spread of the virus; and his profound disgust at the military-style excessive force being used against those protesting excessive force. He related that he has called on Sheriff Bill Gore to eliminate the carotid neck restraint, and that has since happened!
San Diego City Council President Georgette Gomez related that she joined Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Council member Monica Montgomery and San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit in announcing an end to the Police Department’s carotid restraint (chokehold) protocol. Gpmez also announced plans to move forward with a ballot measure to expand police oversight by creating an Independent Police Practices Commission which will review community complaints of police misconduct and recommend reforms. Her opponent for the CA-53 seat, Sara Jacobs, went into great detail about her views on criminal justice reform, and also the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and protests in major cities affecting small businesses and the economic recovery.
The La Mesa Foothills Democratic Club meets, usually in person, but lately just virtually, the first Wednesday of every month. We think our return to the La Mesa Community Center may come as soon as August. Check out our last couple virtual meetings on our Facebook page, or visit our website at lamesafoothillsdemocraticclub.com.
— Tina Rynberg is president and Jeff Benesch is vice president of programming for the La Mesa Foothills Democratic Club.