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Parkland students: vote to stop gun violence

Garcetti announces voter registration drive on school campuses in September

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The student survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida did not need any more evidence that gun violence hits close to home. But gun violence persists: on Tuesday, July 17, Ayub Ali, the 61-year old owner of Aunt Molly’s Food Store in North Lauderdale, was shot and killed during a robbery. Ali, a native of Bangladesh, leaves his wife Farhana and their four children, two of whom, a son and daughter, survived the Parkland shootings last February.

The tragic news broke as a group of student survivors were in Los Angeles as part of their national summer bus tour, March For Our Lives: Road to Change, organized to educate young people about gun violence, the obstructionist lobbying campaigns of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the power of a voter-savvy youth movement to change what has heretofore been an intractable deadly scourge.

The 20-state tour is complimented by a separate tour— with a number of LGBT activists—visiting every congressional district in Florida. The students are intentionally hitting areas with strong NRA supporters to engage in civil dialogue and debate over gun safety and register young people to vote.

While the nation mourned with the families after each mass shooting, especially the massacre of 20 six and seven year olds and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Dec. 2012, the Valentine’s Day shooting galvanized the grieving students upon learning that the 19-year old accused killer with homophobic and white supremacist views legally purchased the AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle he used to indiscriminately massacre 17 students and staff and injure 17 others.

Three days after the shooting, the angry, devastated Marjory Stoneman Douglas students held a nationally televised rally outside of Broward County Federal Courthouse where they called out the NRA and the politicians who take NRA money.

“They say that tougher gun laws do not decrease gun violence: We call BS!” fumed Emma Gonzalez. “They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun: We call BS!”

The video of Gonzalez’s impassioned remarks went viral and now “We Call BS!” is on a tee shirt, part of the “merch” funding the tour, along with public donations at their website. “We Call BS!” is also part of the campaign to register youth to vote: https://marchforourlives.com/vote-for-our-lives/

The tour hit Los Angeles County with a stop in Palmdale on July 17, then two days in LA, before heading to Irvine and Huntington Beach in Orange County on Saturday. Sunday, they head up to Oakland. Their trip through the middle of the country in June included a June 24 stop at the Twin Cities Pride Festival in Loring Park, Minnesota and a visit to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation three days later.

Interesting in its coincidental timing apart from the tour—three murdered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School coaches were honored Wednesday night at the ESPY Awards in LA broadcast live on ABC. Aaron Feis, 37, Assistant Football Coach and security guard, used his body as a shield. Scott Beigel, 35, a geography teacher and cross-country coach, ushered students to safety in his classroom. Chris Hixon, 49, the school’s athletic director, wrestling coach and Navy veteran, died trying to disarm the shooter.

At some stops, the activists meet with local officials and leaders and hold community events and town halls, partnering with local organizations to share the platform with local activists or survivors.

In LA, the students first met Thursday, July 19, with Mayor Eric Garcetti, who joined his new Student Advisory Council on Gun Violence in Schools & Communities in announcing that LA will join the March For Our Lives youth in becoming the first US city hold a voter registration drive on public high school and community college campuses on Sept. 25.

“Young people in Los Angeles and across America are showing incredible leadership in confronting gun violence,” Garcetti said. “I am inspired by their commitment to improving our country and the democratic process, and proud that L.A. will lead in making it easier for our youth to register, vote, and have their say in the future direction of our country.”

The plan is a result of a partnership between March For Our Lives, Garcetti, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, the LA Community College District and the LA Unified School District (LAUSD). They called for similar actions across California.

“Youth are leading the charge of civic engagement in California and we now have more than 166,000 total 16 and 17 year-olds who have pre-registered to vote,” said Padilla. “But we are looking forward to getting to 200,000 by the Midterms and with the leadership of Mayor Garcetti and his new citywide initiative, I have no doubt we will.”

“Mayor Garcetti and the City of Los Angeles are raising the bar for elected officials around the country,” said a March For Our Lives spokesperson. “Everybody deserves to be heard in our political system, especially students. By committing resources to a community-wide voter registration day on September 25, the Los Angeles Public School system and the Los Angeles Community College District are making it easier for millions of students to make their choice clear at the ballot box. It’s on all of us to ensure those eligible to vote have an opportunity to do so.”

After the announcement, Garcetti moderated a roundtable with members of March For Our Lives, members of the Student Advisory Group on Gun Violence in Schools & Communities, and Captain Mark Kelly, co-founder of Americans for Responsible Solutions, a gun violence prevention organization created with his wife, former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, a victim of wanton gun violence while meeting at a shopping mall with constituents.

A new analysis by TargetSmart, a data firm that works on behalf of Democrats, indicates an eight percentage point jump in voter registration among voters between the ages of 18-29 in Florida after the shooting. “In the two and a half months after the shooting, young voters made up 34.22 percent of all new voter registrations in Florida,” the McClatchy News Service reported July 19.

March for Our Lives movement leader David Hogg, applauded the news, tweeting: “The young people will win,” also congratulating the March For Our Lives AZ (Arizona) for their “AMAZING work!”

“A new generation of political leaders emerged in the aftermath of the Parkland tragedy,” TargetSmart CEO Tom Bonier said in a statement. “We witnessed their ability to organize in Florida and across the country as massive crowds took to the streets for the March for Our Lives, and now we’re seeing a quantifiable impact from that organizing. It remains to be seen how many of these younger registrants will cast a ballot in November, but they are poised to have a louder voice than ever in these critical midterm elections.”

But the NRA also had a record month of fundraising after the Parkland shooting, McClatchy reports.

The NRA was a hot topic at the March For Our Lives town hall meeting at the California African American Museum Thursday night. When asked much of the audience raised their hands as having led or participated in the March 24 walkouts in Los Angeles as part of a March For Our Lives massive national protest.

Their message: Text ‘CHANGE’ to 977-79 to join March For Our Lives.

March For Our Lives strategist and former MSD student Matt Deitsch adroitly dismantled the NRA argument that “a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun.” They’re just trying to sell you two guns—that’s what they do. They sell guns, he said. “Don’t buy the sales pitch.”

The NRA, Deitsch said, “cares more about gun rights than human rights.” He also lampooned loud-mouthed NRA member Ted Nugent who recently called the student survivors “liars,” “poor, mushy-brained children,” and “soulless,” according to Vox, and says gun-free zones “are where the most innocent lives are lost.” Nugent apparently banned guns at his Virginia concert Tuesday citing concerns about the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting.

“According to Roanoke station WSLS, Nugent’s management specifically told Berglund Performing Arts Theater operators just minutes before showtime that guns would be banned from the concert,” the Orlando Sentinel reported. “Given the things that have happened in nightclubs like Pulse and what happened in Manchester, [Nugent’s] security people are taking extra precautions,” center general manager Robyn Schon told WSLS, referring to the 2016 shooting in Orlando that killed 49 and the 2017 bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in England. “They are not novices. They are very serious people.”

Nugent’s spokeswoman Linda Peterson denied the ban telling the Orlando Sentinel Thursday, “Ted always allows legally carried guns into his shows.”

Another panelist also mentioned Pulse, noting that there was a good guy had a gun at the gay nightclub but he didn’t want to go up against the shooter with an AR 15 and possibly kill lots of innocent people.

But while education about the NRA and registering people to vote were primary goals of the town hall, the Parkland students also sought to share their platform with Black Lives Matter and local individuals impacted by gun violence—and that sparked intense serious discussions about police violence, domestic violence, the school-to-prison pipeline and “the constant cycle of gang violence that’s just the system failing us over and over again.”

When you talk about gun intervention, one African American woman said, “you have to include everybody.” For instance, there are laws preventing a convicted domestic abuser from getting a gun—but a number of domestic abusers are police officers and they get away with it. Additionally, there is the militarization of the police force and unaccountable police brutality against minorities with laws allowing the use of deadly force.

“Is it my fault you’re afraid of the color of my skin?” an African American woman said, noting how police justify shooting unarmed black men out of fear for their own safety. Why should such a fearful man be a police officer? “I’m afraid of the police.”

“Where is justice?” asked another, noting that so many shooting deaths have not been solved.

At the end of the town hall, the Parkland students asked that the audience buy the “merch,” which is how the tour is being funded. The merch includes technology tee shirts where the stars in the stars and stripes flag is really a code that when scanned goes to a link with voter registration information. Perhaps because of the nature of discussion, the Parkland students announced that the proceeds from the sale of that night’s merch would go to Black Lives Matter in Los Angeles.

At the end, panelists urged the survivors to call out the names of the victims.

Flipping the script a bit to lift up the good work being done on behalf of human persons – here are the names of the people who participated in both the mayor’s panel and the town hall:

Mayor’s panel:

John Choe
Katherine Henriquez
Natalie Garner
Sarah Robinson
Kevin Ramos
Alfonso Calderon
Kelly Choi
David Hogg
Alex King
Ryan Deitsch
Ariel Hobbs

Town hall panel:
Emma Gonzalez
Matt Deitsch
Manuel Oliver
Ramon Contreras
Edna Chavez
Jenna Cook
Mariam Siddiqi
Deborah Nelson
Donna Brown
Thandiwe Abdullah

Please note: the Los Angeles Blade is featuring an interview with March For Our Lives bisexual leader Emma Gonzales for the next issue’s cover story. Also look for the story online at losangelesblade.com

Los Angeles

LA Times: LAPD execute search warrants in racist audio leak probe

It is unclear how the recordings were made. Recording conversations without a person’s consent is illegal in California, with rare exceptions

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LAPD Chief Michel Moore being interviewed by KTLA 5 in October (Photo Credit: LAPD Public Affairs/Facebook)

LOS ANGELES – Several law enforcement sources told the Los Angeles Times Tuesday that Los Angeles Police Department detectives have served several search warrants as they attempt to find out who recorded a meeting filled with racist and offensive comments among three L.A. City Council members and a powerful labor leader.

The Times reported that the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the probe is ongoing, did not identify the specific targets. But they said the department obtained warrants for several social media accounts, including the Reddit account that first posted the audio leak.

This past October, LAPD Chief Michel Moore announced in a press briefing that detectives were investigating the source of the leaked racist recordings that thrust City Hall into a harsh national spotlight.

“The department has initiated a criminal investigation into the allegation of eavesdropping into the L.A. Fed meeting involving then-Councilperson Nury Martinez, Councilmember Gil Cedillo and Councilmember Kevin de León and the Fed president Mr. [ Ron] Herrera,” Moore said, referring to the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

The recordings took place at the offices of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which has called the leak “illegal” and vowed to have those involved prosecuted. The union attempted to block the Los Angeles Times from publishing details of the recordings, saying they were obtained illegally. The Times refused to halt publication.

It is unclear how the recordings were made. Recording conversations without a person’s consent is illegal in California, with rare exceptions.

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Los Angeles

Trans remembrance vigil held at LA LGBT Center

“We refuse to let violence rob us of the possibility to gather, to love each other, and to dream together in solidarity”

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LA Blade Photo by Simha Haddad

HOLLYWOOD – A Trans Remembrance Vigil was held at the Los Angeles LGBT Center on Monday, November 21st.

Candles and white, pink, and lavender flowers mounted on tiers draped by a trans flag adorned the center stage. A large monitor served as the focal point of the evening above the memorial display. 

The Trans Chorus of Los Angeles started the ceremony with an acapella performance. Following the song of hope and redemption, opening remarks were given at the pulpit by the Anti-violence project manager for the LGBT center, Mariana Morroquin, and representatives from the Trans Wellness Center, Bienstar Human Services, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, Friends Community Center, APAIT, and [email protected] 

Trans Chorus of Los Angeles (LA Blade Photo by Simha Haddad)

“I think it is very important to acknowledge our partners,” said Morroquin, somberly addressing the seated audience of about one hundred and fifty. “We know that hate is real. A lot of us have seen hate pretty close. We are very grateful to have you. We open our arms to receive your love and your support. The way we support each other is by providing jobs, providing spaces for us, and providing opportunities. Because hate is out there. We need this space. We need to welcome everyone. I want you to keep that in your heart. And tomorrow, when we get back to work, let us open our hearts and our minds. Don’t make decisions for us. Invite us to those tables. We know what we need. We’ve been doing this forever. We are going to keep fighting because this is what we do.” 

She then added, “We refuse to let violence rob us of the possibility to gather, to love each other, and to dream together in solidarity. We gather because we must remember what is worth fighting for. For now, we commemorate. We tell the stories of the ones we lost. For tonight, that will be enough.” 

One by one, members of the audience approached the pulpit to read the names and stories of a multitude of trans people whose deaths were the tragic result of hate crimes. The photos, names, and ages of the victims were displayed on the center-stage monitor. 

“My name is Nikai David,” said one speaker, the photo of a pale, curly-haired young lady displayed behind them. “I am a model and social media influencer who aspired one day to own my own clothing boutique. I had just celebrated my birthday a week before I was shot in Oakland California, on December 4th, 202. I was thirty-three years old.” 

Stories of these deaths included shootings by assailants, police, and family members, brutal beatings, and stabbings. The bodies of these victims were found in their homes, in garbage cans, and on streets where they were left, still dying, among other locations. 

The final name read was Daniel David Aston, who died in the recent Club Q mass shooting.  This year, TDOR came on the heels of the senseless massacre in Colorado Springs that left five members of the LGBTQ+ community dead and 25 injured. 

Reverend Valerie Spencer gave an impassioned closing speech, first inviting the audience to take several deep breaths in unison. 

Reverend Valerie Spencer (LA Blade Photo by Simha Haddad)

“We will mourn our family, our siblings,” said Reverend Spencer,  “but we are not having our primary focus on the violent conclusion of their life. We are choosing to see them and know them and celebrate them in the full context of their living. For they were fierce and powerful people.”

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Los Angeles

Karen Bass speaks to Los Angeles for first time as mayor-elect

With her daughter at her side, the mayor-elect spoke of her background & love for the city of LA She addressed issues including homelessness

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Karen Bass speaks to LA for the 1st time as mayor-elect (Screenshot/YouTube KABC 7)

LOS ANGELES – Rep. Karen Bass, (D-Calif.) addressed the City of Los Angeles for the first time as mayor-elect since she was declared winner Wednesday and her opponent billionaire real estate magnate Rick Caruso conceded in a press conference.

With her daughter at her side, the mayor-elect spoke of her background and love for the city of Los Angeles. She addressed issues including homelessness and economic hardship promising that her administration would work hard to get things done for the city.

Her primary focus she said when she takes office in December is to declare a state of emergency and execute actions on the homeless crisis that has enveloped Los Angeles.

KABC 7: Karen Bass to address city of Los Angeles for the 1st time as mayor-elect:

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Los Angeles

Beloved North Hollywood bookstore suffers arson attack

The Iliad Bookshop has been a fixture in North Hollywood for 35 years, the fire is currently under investigation by LAFD arson investigators

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The Iliad Bookshop/Instagram

LOS ANGELES – The Iliad Bookshop, located 5400 Cahuenga at the corner of Cahuenga and Chandler Blvds. in North Hollywood, was the target of an alleged arson attack at around 11 p.m. this past Thursday evening.

LA Fire firefighters responded to the blaze in front of the rear entrance which was fully engulfed after an unknown person or persons stacked up books and items left out by the store.

In interviews with KCBS2 LA, KABC7, and other media outlets, the bookshop’s owner Daniel Weinstein, said that a flyer, which he categorised as “terroristic,” was left at the scene of the blaze. The damage to the building was primarily to the entrance area with noticeable scorch marks, there was smoke damage inside as well. Weinstein added that the store’s iconic two live-in cats, Zeus and Apollo, were not harmed.

There was no information as to the extent of the damages to the store’s inventory.

In a GoFundMe started by the bookshop to repair and recover from the attack, Weinstein wrote:

“We were very lucky: neighbors saw the flames and flagged down a passing firetruck; had the firefighters arrived mere moments later, the entire store would probably have gone up. As it is, we suffered heavy damage to the main entry. The doors (which are metal) are still functional, but will need to be either replaced or fixed. We lost lighting fixtures, signage, and wood framing; we also suffered damage to the mural on the right side of the doors. Smoke filled the interior of the store, but we were able to rescue our two cats Zeus and Apollo and we’re hopeful that the damage to the books and fixtures is minimal.

We have high insurance deductibles so we need to cover the cost of replacing the exterior lights, sign, and trim, and touching up the mural. We expect the funds we’re looking for to be divided between repair costs and a mural artist.”

The Iliad Bookshop has been a fixture in the North Hollywood community for over 35 years. In a March 2019 profile article by Los Angeleno magazine writer Augustus Britton, the shoppe was described as “a cozy mix of librarial reverence and old lore magic. The walls are lined with literary memorabilia, most notably art by R. Crumb and posters of Bukowski alongside author obituaries from days past. An aged photograph showing Weinstein drowning in a pile of hardcovers hangs on the wall.”

Britton goes on to say: “Weinstein’s 10 employees are awesome. There are no better poetic words to describe them. One could say they all look like fictional characters. Grateful Dead fans, Philip K. Dick spies or Stendhal savants eating Chinese food at the counter while the shop’s spunky cats Zeus and Apollo — more nods to Greek mythology — climb over their shoulders.”

The fire is currently under investigation by LAFD arson investigators.

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Los Angeles

LAPD asking for public’s help finding missing teen in West LA

On Sunday, the LAPD issued a brief statement: “Andrew was located and reunited with his family.”

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UPDATED: Monday Nov. 7, 2022 from KABC 7.

A Los Angeles teen who went missing from his home on Halloween night has now returned safely and been reunited with his family, police said Sunday.

On Sunday, the LAPD issued a brief statement: “Andrew was located and reunited with his family.”

Andrew’s mother Anna posted on Facebook that Andrew came home Saturday. She said her son left home voluntarily because he was struggling with some mental-health issues. He then decided to come home on his own volition after about five days of sleeping on the street.

She expressed thanks to the public for providing support and said Andrew saw some of the missing-person flyers “and knows now that he is cared about by so many people.”

LOS ANGELES – The family of 18-year-old Andrew Jason Wright and the Los Angeles Police Department’s Missing Persons Unit are asking for the public’s help in locating him. Wright, an 18-year-old high-school senior, was last seen Monday around 6 p.m. near the 1700 block of Federal Avenue in West Los Angeles.

Wright is described as an 18-year-old male Asian with brown hair and brown eyes. He stands 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighs approximately 190 pounds. He was last seen wearing a black coat, maroon vest, gray pants, and black leather shoes.

His mother told KABC Eyewitness news that Wright has recently been suffering from depression and is extremely worried.

“He went on a walk around 6 p.m.” Anna Wright said. “He was supposed to go trick-or-treating with his little brother and sister at 7. And he never came back.”

Andrew’s father set up a search party where volunteers have been going around looking for him and passing out flyers.

If you have seen, or have any information regarding the whereabouts of Andrew Jason Wright, please contact Los Angeles Police Department, Missing Persons Unit, at (213) 996-1800.

During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (877-527-3247). Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477).

Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most Keypads) with a cell phone. All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.” Tipsters may also go to LAPDOnline.org, click on “webtips” and follow the prompts.

From KABC 7:

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Los Angeles

Trixie Mattel & LGBTQ youth celebrate 30th annual Models of Pride

The sponsor of this year’s Models of Pride was Glamazon L.A.—Amazon’s LGBTQ+ Affinity Group along with the Los Angeles City College

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Trixie Mattel accepts Model of Pride Leadership Award from LGBT Center CEO Joe Hollendoner (Photo Credit: LA LGBT Center)

LOS ANGELES — Amazon’s LGBTQ+ Affinity Group, Glamazon L.A., celebrated the 30th anniversary Models of Pride youth conference which drew hundreds of LGBTQ+ young people and allies—and special award-winner Trixie Mattel—to Los Angeles City College this past Saturday.

Attendees connected with peers, learned from role models, and got to celebrate with live performances and festivities. Parents and professionals had opportunities to learn from one another, build community, and gain tools to support the LGBTQ+ young people in their lives. 

The day’s highlights included drag queen, musician, entrepreneur, and television phenomenon Trixie Mattel accepting the first-ever Model of Pride Leadership Award.

“Right now, we are witnessing drag becoming weaponized by bad actors on the far right. They are banning Drag Queen Story Hours and trying to paint drag queens as enemies of family values,” Los Angeles LGBT Center CEO Joe Hollendoner said in his opening remarks. “This is a disturbing trend happening across America. What we at the Los Angeles LGBT Center know, and what Trixie Mattel’s prolific career embodies, is that drag is powerful. It is a pathway to unlocking new potential for freeing yourselves of the shackles of gender norms and for embracing the creativity that is waiting to be unleashed inside each and every one of you.”

“I didn’t grow up with much representation on television. At most, gay people on TV were allowed to be the snippy gay assistant or the funny makeup artist or, at best, the sexually ambiguous villain,” Mattel said in her acceptance speech. “I think the reason drag is so inspiring is because queer people are told to minimize everything. We’re told to be the friend or the supporting character. Drag makes us think, what if I’m the main character? I want you guys to know that you are all the main character.”

The Rolf/Uribe Models of Pride Leadership Award, given annually to youth and adults who have been models of pride to the LGBTQ community, was awarded to youth activist Alex Flores and PFLAG Los Angeles Vice President Steve Krantz.

The event was attended by more than 500 youth—including more middle schoolers and younger attendees than any previous Models of Pride—as well as more than 200 parents and professionals. Youth, parents, and professionals attended 100 workshops, with the offerings for youth ranging from “Rights of Youth in CA Public Schools” to “Drag Queen Story Hour.” Adult workshops ranged from “When Your Kid Transitions” to “Creating Affirming Spaces for Queer & Trans Elementary-Age Children.”

Entertainment highlights included performances by the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles, Gay Freedom Band of Los Angeles, The Voice finalist Hailey Mia, Mayhem Miller of RuPaul’s Drag Race, DJ Brynn Taylor, and Mike Xavier. Attendees also enjoyed a continental breakfast, a catered backyard BBQ lunch, and a dessert extravaganza.


Models of Pride is the world’s largest free conference for LGBTQ+ youth and their allies, filled with life-enriching workshops, entertainment, resources, and more to help attendees to build confidence and self-esteem while developing valuable life skills. The conference also offers family members, educators, professionals, and all other LGBTQ+ supporters the opportunity to attend the Parents and Professionals Institute at Models of Pride, which offers tailored workshops, a resource fair and celebratory reception.

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