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California

Newport Beach man will stand trial for hate crime in Blaze Bernstein’s murder

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Lincoln Woodward and Blaze Bernstein. (Photo via Facebook)

Samuel Lincoln Woodward, 21, was ordered to stand trial in Orange County Superior Court Tuesday, Sept 4, on murder and hate crime charges. OC County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ prosecutorial team linked Woodward to the fatal stabbing of his former high school classmate, Blaze Bernstein. He has pleaded not guilty.

Woodward stabbed Bernstein nearly 20 times in the face and neck after the two met at a park last January, prosecutors said. The two had connected earlier in the evening on Snapchat, after which Woodward picked up Bernstein at his home.

Bernstein’s murder made national headlines after his body was discovered in a shallow grave in a park in Lake Forest near his home on Jan. 9, a week after he disappeared.

Bernstein’s high school classmate, Woodward, then 20, was arrested on Jan. 12 after DNA evidence found at the grave and in Woodward’s car linked him to the slaying. No murder weapon has been found.

The Associated Press reported that about six months before his death which prosecutors have now categorized as a hate crime, Bernstein graphically discussed hopes to have sex with the man charged in his killing, an investigator told the court during Tuesday’s preliminary hearing.

Bernstein had texted a friend a photo of Woodward and said “the two had run into each other and he thought they were going to hook up,” saying sex with the former schoolmate would be “legendary.”

What led to that encounter was not clear during the hearing on the murder and hate crime charges, but Orange County Sheriff’s Investigator Craig Goldsmith said among the anti-gay and hateful material found on his phone was mention of his efforts to pose as “gay curious” to attract men and then reveal it as a prank.

“That’s what they deserve,” Woodward wrote, using an anti-gay slur.

At the close of Tuesday’s preliminary hearing, Superior Court Judge Karen L. Robinson found there is enough evidence for the case to proceed to trial.

Testimony during the day-long hearing provided new details about the evidence investigators allege ties Woodward to Bernstein’s death. In addition to the DNA evidence, prosecutors presented the court with evidence that he had troves of homophobic and neo-Nazi material on his mobile phone. Prosecutors say this illustrates his suspected homophobia, as well as his ties to Atomwaffen Division, an armed fascist organization.

Woodward’s defense lawyer, Edward Munoz, didn’t present any witnesses, but on cross-examination it was revealed by his client that he was autistic and was socially awkward and sexually confused.

Munoz argued there was no evidence of a hate crime because reprehensible writings found on Woodward’s phone were not shared with others, but in emails to himself.

“I think in a hate crime instance you have to have an outward manifestation of your loathing to the world,” Munoz said after the hearing.

If convicted of first-degree murder and the hate crime allegation, prosecutors could seek a sentence of up to life in prison without parole.

Reporting by The Associated Press, The Orange County Register, the staff of the Los Angeles Blade, and wire service reports.

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Southern California

Triple A: Memorial Day travelers get a break at the pump

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $5.15, which is nine cents lower than a week ago

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Triple A Auto Club/Los Angeles Blade

LOS ANGELES – Gas prices continued downward for a fifth straight week, giving some Southern California Memorial Day travelers the chance to fill up for about $4.50 a gallon or even less in a few areas, according to the Auto Club’s Weekend Gas Watch. The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $5.15, which is nine cents lower than a week ago. The average national price is $3.61, which is one cent higher than a week ago.

The average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $5.11 per gallon, which is ten cents less than last week, 27 cents less than last month, and 25 cents higher than last year. In San Diego, the average price is $5.13, which is ten cents lower than last week, 23 cents lower than last month, and 29 cents higher than this time last year.

On the Central Coast, the average price is $5.16, which is five cents lower than last week, 17 cents lower than last month, and 30 cents higher than last year. In Riverside, the average per-gallon price is $5.02, which is ten cents lower than last week, 28 cents lower than last month and 25 cents higher than a year ago. In Bakersfield, the $5.17 average price is five cents less than last week, 15 cents less than last month, and 36 cents higher than a year ago today.

“With an all-time record number of Southern California travelers expected for this Memorial Day getaway weekend, the gas price drops are providing some welcome relief,” said Auto Club Spokesperson Doug Shupe. “Those travelers who are planning out-of-state trips should expect to pay even less when they fuel up for their return, since California continues to be the only U.S. state with a gas price average above $5 a gallon.”

The Weekend Gas Watch monitors the average price of gasoline. As of 9 a.m. on May 23, averages are:

052324 FINAL CHART CA

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Los Angeles County

New on the LA County Channel

You can watch on Channel 92 or 94 on most cable systems, or anytime here. Catch up on LA County Close-Up here

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

New on the County Channel

Meet Fabian, an artist, an advocate and Founder/Executive Director of the Homeboy Art Academy. Fabian and his team are bringing hope and healing through art thanks to the support of LA County’s Creative Recovery Grant, which is funded by the American Rescue Plan.

LA County is using $1.9 billion in American Rescue Plan funding to address LA County’s most urgent inequities. Visit LACountyandYou.com to see more stories from people who have received support to help themselves, their families and business get equitably back on their feet.

You can watch more stories like this on Channel 92 or 94 on most cable systems, or anytime here. Catch up on LA County Close-Up here.

In Case You Missed It

LA County Rent Relief Program is Now Open 

Following a successful initial launch, the Los Angeles County Rent Relief Program is set to open for a second round of applications. Landlords affected by the COVID-19 pandemic can apply to receive up to $30,000 per rental unit to cover past-due rent and other eligible expenses incurred since April 1, 2022.

The application window is open through Tuesday, June 4, 2024, at 4:59 p.m. To learn more about the eligibility criteria, and to receive a direct link to the application when it goes live, visit the LA County Rent Relief Program website at lacountyrentrelief.com.

At Your Service

Supporting Young Learners

LA County Library is excited to introduce the new Summer Stars tutoring program, which offers free in-person tutoring for students in grades 1-6. This initiative aims to provide extra support in reading and math to help young learners excel.

The Summer Stars tutoring program features two 4-week sessions:

  • Session 1: Reading, June 18 – July 11, 2024
  • Session 2: Math, July 16 – August 8, 2024

Sessions run from Tuesday to Thursday each week. Appointments are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and space is limited.

For more information and to complete an interest form, visit LACountyLibrary.org/summer-stars.

Out and About

Tribute to Veterans and Military Families

Join Los Angeles County this weekend for a special day in support of those who’ve served. The event includes a ceremony honoring veterans, resource fair, equipment displays, food trucks, live music, and lots of family fun!

Admission and parking are FREE.

Saturday, May 25, 2024 | 10 A.M. to 1 P.M.

Arcadia County Park
405 S Santa Anita Ave, Arcadia, California 91006

Photo Finish

(Photo Credit: Los Angeles County/Mayra Beltran Vasquez)

Join in on all the fun at the LA County Fair. Don’t miss out – this is the final weekend of the 2024 season!

Click here to access more photos of LA County in action.

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California

1,000+ reported acts of hate in first year of Calif. vs hate hotline

This reporting system is 1st of its kind – operating separately from law enforcement & partnering with community organizations across Calif.

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California Civil Rights Department officials and other stakeholders come together for a press conference on May 22, 2023 to launch CA vs Hate. (Photo courtesy of the California Civil Rights Department)

SACRAMENTO – The California Civil Rights Department (CRD), alongside state and community partners, today released new data highlighting the impact of California vs Hate in its first year of operation and announced new and ongoing initiatives to combat hate across the state.

Officially launched a year ago this month by Governor Gavin Newsom, CA vs Hate is the state’s first-ever multilingual statewide hotline and online portal that provides a safe, anonymous reporting option for victims and witnesses of hate acts. In the first full year of operation, initial data submitted to CRD shows approximately 1,020 acts of hate reported to the hotline.

“CA vs Hate is about recognizing and protecting the incredible diversity of our state and sending a clear message that hate will never be tolerated,” said Governor Newsom.

“When California was confronted by an alarming increase in hate, we didn’t just sit back and hope it got better,” said CRD Director Kevin Kish. “We came together and launched an array of nation-leading programs to ensure all our communities feel welcome and protected. I’m incredibly proud of our state’s resilience and commitment to a California for all. This work is only just beginning, but it would not be possible without the advocacy of our community partners and the foresight of our state’s Administration and Legislature. With CA vs Hate, we’re doing our part to ensure that when people report they get support.”

Many hate crimes have historically gone unreported due to a variety of factors, including fear of retaliation, lack of culturally competent resources, concern around potential immigration consequences, and distrust of law enforcement. CA vs Hate aims to help address some of these issues by offering people targeted for hate — and their communities — additional resources to report acts of hate through a community-centered approach that does not require engagement with the criminal legal system.

Hotline services are confidential and provided for free, regardless of immigration status. CA vs Hate accepts all reports of hate and is not limited to only receiving reports that are criminal in nature. Whether individuals report to CA vs Hate online or by phone, they are eligible to receive ongoing care coordination to ensure people impacted by hate are able to access resources and support, including legal, financial, mental health, and mediation services.

As part of the effort to make CA vs Hate as inclusive and easy-to-use as possible, individuals who report an act of hate can remain anonymous and, recognizing that hate can target multiple aspects of a person’s identity, may select multiple bias motivations related to the report. To the extent that individuals who report are comfortable doing so, CA vs Hate staff engage extensively with them through initial contacts over the phone or follow up care coordination to better understand the incident and services needed.

In the first full year of operation, initial data submitted to CRD shows approximately 1,020 acts of hate reported to the hotline, across nearly 80% of the state’s counties. 

For a subset of 560 reports where data were further validated by CA vs Hate staff, the most cited bias motivations included:

  • race and ethnicity (35.1%)
  • gender identity (15.1%)
  • sexual orientation (10.8%)

Most common reasons for reporting: 

  • Discriminatory treatment 18.4% 
  • Verbal harassment 16.7% 
  • Derogatory names or slurs 16.7%

Most common locations where incidents occurred: 

  • Residential 29.9% 
  • Workplace 9.7% 

More granular data verified through that process is also included below. While CA vs Hate data serves as an important indicator, the hotline is new, and the data should not be treated as being representative of all acts of hate in California. In all, people who reported to CA vs Hate were directed to more than 100 different forms of resources and support. In the first full year of operation, CA vs Hate:

  • Had 2,118 contacts from members of the public seeking assistance — including non-hate related reports — and directed people to resources, regardless of whether a report was tied to an act of hate. Of those contacts:
  • The most common reasons cited for the reports were discriminatory treatment (18.4%), verbal harassment (16.7%), and derogatory names or slurs (16.7%).
  • The most common location types for where an incident occurred were residential (29.9%), workplace (9.7%), and public facilities (9.1%).
  • Received 1,020 actual reports of hate based on the information provided by the individual reporting the act. Of those reports:
  • Roughly four out of six people agreed to follow up for care coordination services, including direct and ongoing support accessing legal aid or counseling.
  • Nearly 80% of California’s counties were represented, including all 10 of the state’s most populated counties.
  • Further validated bias motivation information for 560 reports through additional CA vs Hate staff review. Of those reports:
  • Race and ethnicity (35.1%), gender identity (15.1%), and sexual orientation (10.8%) were the most cited bias motivations.
  • Anti-Black (26.8%), anti-Latino (15.4%), and anti-Asian (14.3%) bias were the most cited reasons for reports related to race and ethnicity.

As reported hate crimes have risen in recent years, California has led the charge in responding through increased grant funding, innovative programs, and expansive outreach efforts across state government and in collaboration with community-based organizations.

These partnerships — whether through the Stop the Hate Program or Ethnic Media Outreach Grants — are critical to CA vs Hate’s success. As CA vs Hate continues to grow, the program is launching new initiatives and building on existing efforts aimed at strengthening the hotline’s statewide support network and improving access to resources for all of California’s diverse communities. These ongoing or upcoming efforts include:

Outreach Campaigns

  • Kicking off CA vs Hate’s first-ever billboard campaign to support increased awareness of the hotline and available resources across half a dozen cities.
  • Launching targeted outreach materials to support increased access to CA vs Hate resources for historically hard-to-reach and underserved Californians, including new digital assets developed in coordination with tribal partners and members of the AAPI community.
  • Developing new pathways to reach members of the public, including through a digital ad partnership with the California Department of Motor Vehicles and in-person event engagement with California-based sports teams.

Capacity Building

  • Launching a partnership with UC Berkeley’s Possibility Lab to support increased data collection and analysis going forward.
  • Exploring the launch of a text-responsive reporting option to support increased access to the CA vs Hate hotline.
  • Stepping up statewide coordination efforts through ongoing collaboration with United Against Hate Week.

Community Engagement

  • Bolstering community-specific engagement through the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act grant to ensure communities most targeted for hate have access to resources, including a new partnership with California Black Media.
  • Establishing new quarterly meetings with city and county government partners to support increased responsiveness to local communities and build on existing feedback mechanisms in place for community-based organizations.
  • Standing up a coalition of faith-based leaders from a range of backgrounds to better address acts of hate targeting Californians on the basis of religion.

Information about the hotline and online portal:

CA vs Hate is a non-emergency, multilingual hate crime and incident reporting hotline and online portal. Reports can be made anonymously by calling (833) 866-4283, or 833-8-NO-HATE, Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT or online at any time.

Hate acts can be reported in 15 different languages through the online portal and in over 200 languages when calling the hotline.

For individuals who want to report a hate crime to law enforcement immediately or who are in imminent danger, please call 911.

For more information on CA vs Hate, please visit CAvsHate.org.

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San Diego

LGBTQ+ clubs targeted in San Diego pellet gun attacks

SDPD are investigating the multiple incidences from Saturday morning & also cannot yet confirm whether this was motivated by anti-LGBTQ hate

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Los Angeles Blade/file photo

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – A spokesperson for the San Diego Police Department said that multiple establishments in the Hillcrest and North Park neighborhoods that serve LGBTQ+ patrons were targeted by an unknown suspect or suspects in a dark-colored sedan early Saturday morning.

According to the San Diego Police Dept., they received reports of a pellet gun being fired out of a vehicle just after 1 a.m. Saturday morning. As of Sunday evening, the locations police could confirm were shot by the assailant were Rich’s, The Rail, #1 on Fifth Avenue and PECS in the Hillcrest and North Park neighborhoods.

SDPD confirmed that one of these incidents struck three people outside Rich’s Nightclub and hospitalized one.

Witnesses told San Diego CBS affiliate KFMB-TV8 it appeared to be a BMW, but police have not released an official suspect or vehicle description.  

In an interview with CBS 8, Eddie Reynoso, a host at Rich’s said that he was standing outside and turned when he heard someone yelling expletives at the patrons outside the bar. Reynoso saw what he believed to be an AK-47 and hear myriad rounds being shot off. 

He tried to crouch but it was too late. 

“I get hit directly in the eye,” he said. ” I feel something kinda like explode almost like something popped. And by then I was already falling to the ground. In my mind, I thought I just got shot through the eye and my eye just flew out.”

He said it wasn’t the first time Rich has been the target of a crime like this. And he’s confident it won’t be the last. 

A man named Abel was also hit with at least five pellets at Rich’s. He said he’s glad everyone is safe. 

“It was still scary,” he said. “It was traumatic.” 

At The Rail in Hillcrest, Donny Hurry, a security guard told CBS 8 he saw someone shooting out of the car’s back window. The suspect started shooting at him, and he ducked into the building before he realized it wasn’t a real gun. 

Hurry had been hit in the arms and back multiple times but tried to run back out to get a description of the suspect of the vehicle. 

SDPD are investigating the multiple incidences from Saturday morning, but are not specifying whether the non-lethal rounds were pellets or paintballs.

Police also cannot yet confirm whether this was motivated by anti-LGBTQ hate. 

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Long Beach

41st Annual Long Beach Pride Celebration drew tens of thousands

The parade drew tens of thousands along its route on Ocean Boulevard between Lindero and Alamitos avenues in downtown Long Beach

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Long Beach Police Chief Wally Hebeish & officers march in the 41st Annual Long Beach Pride Parade. (Screenshot/YouTube)

LONG BEACH, Calif. – The 41st Annual Long Beach Pride Celebration & Parade weekend kicked off on Friday with a Teen Pride celebration which was held from 5 p.m. till it ended at 9 p.m.  The theme for Pride this year was Rhythm of the Rainbow.

The Long Beach Pride festival opened at 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday at Rainbow Lagoon, 386 E. Shoreline Drive.

Photo Credit: California Attorney General Rob Bonta

The Pride Festival offers hundreds of arts and crafts vendors, disc jockeys, dancing, drag shows and more. Reggaeton star Ivy Queen will headline Sunday and Valentina of “Ru Paul’s Drag Race” TV series will also appear.

Also on Sunday the 41st Annual Long Beach Pride Parade, broadcast by NBC4 and Telemundo 52, drew tens of thousands along the parade route on Ocean Boulevard between Lindero and Alamitos avenues in downtown Long Beach.

Among the celebrants was California Attorney General Rob Bonta who posted on X (formerly Twitter): “Had a great time at the Long Beach Pride parade with Vice Mayor Cindy Allen.   In California, we work tirelessly to protect and defend our LGBTQ+ communities all year long—not just the month of June.”

Watch coverage of the 41st Annual Long Beach Pride Parade from NBC4-LA here: (Link)

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West Hollywood

West Hollywood in brief- City government in action this week

Older Adults Health Fair, May is Mental Health Awareness Month, Foster Care Panel Discussion, Kings Street Design Concept Plan plus more

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Photo by Paulo Murillo

Older Adults Health Fair on Tuesday, May 21 at Plummer Park

WEST HOLLYWOOD – To celebrate Older Adults Month, the City of West Hollywood will host its 19th Annual West Hollywood Older Adults Health Fair on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Plummer Park’s Community Center, located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard. Admission is free; no RSVP is required.

The Older Adults Health Fair is a no-cost event co-sponsored by Cedars-Sinai and Jewish Family Service LA. The event will feature health screenings, information from more than 25 health and social services community partners, vaccinations, a Human Library activity, complimentary lunch while supplies last, giveaways, and more. Local organizations will provide health and social services information, Cedars-Sinai will conduct health screenings, and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health will administer COVID-19 and flu vaccinations.

Limited free parking is available at the Plummer Park parking lots, located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard and Fountain Avenue/ N. Vista Street at the north end of the park. There are also paid parking meters in the surrounding area.

The City of West Hollywood provides free transportation to Plummer Park through its Cityline service. Cityline is a friendly and accessible alternative to the larger bus system and all shuttles are ADA-accessible. Cityline operates Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and shuttles arrive approximately every 30 minutes. For additional information and a detailed route map, visit www.weho.org/cityline — route maps are also available on Cityline shuttles and at West Hollywood City Hall, located at 8300 Santa Monica Boulevard.

For more information about the Older Adults Health Fair, please contact Becca Lubin, City of West Hollywood Strategic Initiatives Program Administrator, at (323) 848-6518 or at [email protected]

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

The City of West Hollywood joins organizations and mental health advocates across the nation in recognizing the month of May as Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to work together to fight stigma, provide support, educate the public, and advocate for policies that support the millions of people living with mental illness and their families.

In commemoration of the month, from Wednesday May 15, 2024 through Wednesday, May 29, 2024, West Hollywood City Hall will be lit green, the color of recognition for mental health awareness month.

Mental Health Awareness Month began in the United States in 1949 and was started by Mental Health America (MHA). Mental illness affects more than 50 million people in the United States. According to the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five U.S. adults experiences a mental health condition each year. Annually, mental illness affects; 16% of Asian adults; 21% of Black/African American adults; 18% of Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander adults; 21% of Hispanic adults; 27% of American Indian/Alaska Native adults; 24% of White adults; 35% of multiracial adults and 50% of LGBTQ adults.

The impacts of mental health challenges are significant among youth. One in six U.S. youth experiences a mental health condition each year, and only half of them receive treatment. Data also shows that mental health treatment, i.e. therapy, medication and selfcare has made recovery a reality for most people from mental illness.  People receiving treatment in a given year are 47% of adults with mental illness, 65% of adults with severe mental illness and 51% of youth (6-17) with a mental health condition. Last year 56% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adults with a mental health diagnosis received treatment or counseling.

Mental Health Action Day was founded to shift mental health culture from awareness to action. Now in its fourth year, this global movement is powered by a growing coalition of more than 2,300 nonprofits, leading brands, government agencies, and cultural leaders that spread the message that, just like our physical health, we can take actions to improve our mental health.  This year’s call to action is to dedicate one hour to social connection. For more information about how to participate in Mental Health Action Day go to www.mentalhealthaction.network

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, connect to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline 24/7 by calling or texting 988 or connect to emergency community services by calling 211. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, across the United States. 

 Those in need of mental health support or connections should reach out to the following resources for assistance:

  • APLA Health – West Hollywood provides individual and group therapy sessions to assist with a variety of concerns including depression, anxiety, grief, and trauma. Contact (213) 201-1369 or visit https://aplahealth.org/
  • Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services provides counseling, psychiatric services, medication support and substance abuse programs at various sites. Contact the 24/7 Crisis Line: (800) 273-8255 or (888) 807-7259 or visit www.didihirsch.org.
  • Jewish Family Services Comprehensive Service Center provides social services programming for seniors and people with disabilities that includes counseling, psychiatry, and case management. Contact (323) 851-8202
    or visit www.jfsla.org.
  • Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (DMH) directly operates more than 80 programs and contracts with more than 700 providers who provide a spectrum of mental health services to people of all ages.  Contact the 24/7 Help Line at (800) 854-7771, or text “LA” to 741741 to be connected to a crisis counselor via text message, or visit https://dmh.lacounty.gov/.
  • Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Mental Health Services team provides counseling, group support, addiction recovery, and psychiatry services for LGBT and non-LGBT individuals for issues including depression, anxiety, domestic violence/intimate partner violence, and substance use. Contact (323) 993-7669 or visit www.lalgbtcenter.org
  • Maple Counseling provides free and low-cost comprehensive mental health services to individuals of all ages, couples, and families. Contact (310) 271-9999 or visit www.maple4counseling.org
  • The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)  provides free education, support, and advocacy. The NAMI Westside Los Angeles Chapter can be reached by contacting (310) 889-7200 or visiting www.namila.org
  • The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) website at www.ncadv.org offers comprehensive and inclusive information for all about warning signs of domestic and intimate partner violence and abuse, including psychological abuse, and how to get help. NCADV runs the National Domestic Violence Hotline website at www.thehotline.org, which offers immediate help to everyone  24/7/365 via the “chat now” button on the website or by calling (800) 799-SAFE (7233) or texting LOVEIS to 22522, and for people who are Deaf/hard of hearing: (855) 812-1011 (VP) or (800) 787-3224 (TTY).
  • Saban Community Clinic provides individual therapy and support groups for stress, anxiety, and more to help develop practical coping skills. Contact (323) 653-1990 or visit www.sabancommunityclinic.org.
  • The Trevor Project provides confidential and free crisis counseling, information & support to LGBTQ young people 24/7, all year round. Contact (866) 488-7386, or text 678-678, or via online chat at www.thetrevorproject.org.

The City of West Hollywood’s Human Services Division website area provides information about available local mental health services and resources at https://www.weho.org/services/human-services/mental-health or contact staff at (323) 848-6510. 

The City of West Hollywood’s Recreation Services Division provides information about quality leisure service experiences that promote health and wellness at https://www.weho.org/community/recreation-services including the City’s Be Well WeHo program designed to support physical and mental health at any age.

For more information about the City of West Hollywood’s recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, please contact Larissa Fooks, the City of West Hollywood’s Community Programs Coordinator, at (323) 848-6413 or at [email protected].

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

City of West Hollywood will Host a Foster Care Panel Discussion

The City of West Hollywood will host a free panel discussion that will focus on the effective practices and challenges within the foster care system and the transformative power and compassion of fostering.

The panel discussion will take place on Tuesday, May 21, 2024 at 6:30 p.m. at the City of West Hollywood’s Council Chambers/Public Meeting Room, located at 625 N. San Vicente Boulevard. It aims to bring further awareness to issues impacting foster youth during May, which is National Foster Care Awareness Month. The panel will bring together diverse perspectives including professionals who work to support the foster youth population in various capacities.  

The discussion will be moderated by Dawn McCoy, a children’s advocate and founder of the Loving Way Foundation. The Loving Way Foundation’s mission is focused on ending child abuse through advocacy, awareness, and visibility while bettering the lives of impacted children.

Panelists will include:

  • Bonnie Sharpe, Director of Programs at Extraordinary Families, whose mission is to help children and youth in foster care to have the childhoods and futures they rightfully deserve.
  • Mario Gonzalez, Academic Services Manager at Foster Love whose mission is to improve the lives of children in foster care by providing essential resources and educational opportunities.
  • Jody Giles, Director of Philanthropy at Catalyst Family Office, an organization that supports philanthropic endeavors to help drive meaningful change. 
  • Nova Bright-Williams, Head of Internal Training, Learning & Development, at The Trevor Project whose mission is to provide lifesaving and life-affirming services to LGBTQ young people.
  • Shiré Wortham, Social Worker at Alliance for Children’s Rights whose mission is to protect the rights of children in poverty and those overcoming abuse and neglect by delivering free legal services, supportive programs, and systemic solutions.

May marks National Foster Care Month, a pivotal time to raise awareness regarding the needs of more than 391,000 children and young individuals within foster care. The month is a time to raise awareness of issues related to foster care and acknowledge the parents, family members, foster parents, child welfare, and related professionals, mentors, policymakers, and other community members of the community who help children and youth in foster care find permanent homes and connections.

National Foster Care Month is also an opportunity to raise awareness about the overrepresentation of LGBTQ youth in child welfare, 30% of whom identify as LGBTQ. LGBTQ youth who face family rejection and maltreatment are often forced out of their homes, or will run away, become homeless, or enter the foster care system.

For more information, please contact Jennifer Del Toro, the City of West Hollywood’s Community and Legislative Affairs Supervisor, at (323) 848-6549 or at [email protected].

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

City of West Hollywood will Kick Off WeHo Pride Season Beginning on May 22, Harvey Milk Day

Each year, the City of West Hollywood celebrates the artistic contributions of the LGBTQ community by kicking off WeHo Pride season with an annual Harvey Milk Day event.

On Wednesday, May 22, 2024 at 6 p.m. Pride Starts Here with the second annual José Sarria Drag Pageant. The event is organized by the City of West Hollywood and West Hollywood Drag Laureate Pickle and is co-sponsored by the Imperial Court and by Los Angeles County Supervisor Lindsey P. Horvath, Third District. It will take place at the West Hollywood Park Aquatic and Recreation Center Respite Deck, located at 8750 El Tovar Place, adjacent to West Hollywood Library. The event is free to attend; advance RSVPs are requested at https://HarveyMilk2024.eventbrite.com.

José Sarria was the first openly gay person to run for office in the United States, helped pave the way for Harvey Milk’s successful run for office, was a well-known drag performer under the name the Window Norton, and founded the International Imperial Court System, which is one of the oldest and largest LGBTQ organizations in the world. The Drag Pageant competition will be hosted by West Hollywood Drag Laureate Pickle, and several drag icons will be honored. Judges will include Queen Mother Karina Samala and Emperor Eugene Maysky of the Imperial Court, Landon Cider, Anil Patel, Nyx, and Kyra Jete. 

In addition to the Drag Pageant, the event will include a voter registration table, a Harvey Milk photo opportunity, and typewriter poetry provided by Pride Poets. Pride Poets is a cohort of LGBTQ poets who create custom poetry for the public on typewriters. Pride Poets was founded by former West Hollywood City Poet Laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace for the City’s LGBTQ Arts Festival in 2019. The participation of Pride Poets in this event is funded by a City of West Hollywood Arts Grant.

For nearly four decades, the City of West Hollywood has been home to one of the largest Pride celebrations in the nation. Hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ people and allies from around the world traditionally make West Hollywood their regular destination during Pride season.

WeHo Pride Weekend will take place from Friday, May 31, 2024 to Sunday, June 2, 2024 and, in addition to the WeHo Pride Parade, will include the free WeHo Pride Street Fair; WeHo Pride Presents Friday Night at OUTLOUD; the OUTLOUD Music Festival; the Women’s Freedom Festival; the Dyke March; and more. The WeHo Pride Arts Festival will take place from Friday, June 14, 2024 to Sunday, June 16, 2024. WeHo Pride celebrations will include a diverse array of LGBTQ community group programming from May 22 to June 30 as part of visibility, expression, and celebration.

The WeHo Pride Arts Festival is organized by the City’s Arts Division. The City of West Hollywood is committed to providing accessible arts programming for residents and visitors and the City’s Arts Division delivers a broad array of arts programs including Art on the Outside (temporary public art), Urban Art Program (permanent public art), Summer Sounds, Winter Sounds, the WeHo Reads literary series, Free Theatre in the Parks, Arts Grants for Nonprofit Arts Organizations, Library Exhibits and Programming, the City Poet Laureate Program, Drag Laureate, Drag Story Hour, Human Rights Speakers Series and the WeHo Pride Arts Festival Weekend. For additional information, please visit www.weho.org/arts

Additional information about WeHo Pride 2024 is posted at www.wehopride.com. OUTLOUD Music Festival information is posted at www.weareoutloud.com. Follow @wehopride on  Instagram and Facebook and follow @officiallyoutloud on Instagram and Facebook. Sign up for WeHo Pride text updates by texting “Pride” to (323) 848-5000.

Since its incorporation in 1984, the City of West Hollywood has become one of the most influential cities in the nation for its outspoken advocacy on LGBTQ issues. No other city of its size has had a greater impact on the national public policy discourse on fairness and inclusiveness for LGBTQ people. Home to the “Rainbow District” along Santa Monica Boulevard, which features a concentration of historic LGBTQ clubs, restaurants, and retail shops, the City consistently tops lists of “most LGBTQ friendly cities” in the nation.

More than 40 percent of residents in West Hollywood identify as LGBTQ and four of the five members of the West Hollywood City Council are openly gay. The City has advocated for nearly 40 years for measures that support LGBTQ individuals and the City is in the vanguard of efforts to gain and protect equality for all people on a state, national, and international level. #WeHoPride @WeHoCity

For more information about the City of West Hollywood’s José Sarria Drag Pageant on Harvey Milk Day or about the WeHo Pride Arts Festival, please contact the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Coordinator, Mike Che, at (323) 848-6377 or at [email protected] or visit www.wehopride.com/artsfestival.

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

‘Willoughby, Vista/Gardner, and Kings Street Design Concept Plan’ Informational Open House at Plummer Park on May 21

The City of West Hollywood invites community members to attend an upcoming Informational Open House to learn more about the Willoughby, Vista/Gardner, and Kings Street Design Concept Plan. The purpose of this in-person open house is to provide community members with detailed information regarding the Street Design Concept Plan and share an overview of the project’s steps taken to-date and next steps, moving forward.

The Informational Open House will take place on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, at 6 p.m. at the Plummer Park Community Center in Rooms 1 and 2, located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard. Drop-in; no advance RSVP is needed. Light refreshments will be served. 

The City of West Hollywood’s mobility projects are guided by the adopted Pedestrian and Bicycle Mobility Plan, which advocates for comfortable, safe, healthy, and convenient places to walk and bicycle in the context of a balanced, multimodal transportation network serving pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and motorists of all ages and abilities. 

The Street Design Concept Plan was identified as a priority project in the Pedestrian and Bicycle Mobility Plan, and it launched in 2019. The project’s primary objective is to enhance the neighborhood and protect the safety of both pedestrians and cyclists through strategic street improvements across the corridor. This comprehensive streetscape initiative aims to create safer, more accessible routes for walking and biking while effectively reducing cut-through traffic. By transforming Kings Road and Vista/Gardner Streets into key connecting corridors, the Street Design Concept Plan facilitates a seamless link between residential and commercial areas and east-west routes like Santa Monica Boulevard and Fountain Avenue. This connectivity not only supports a healthier, more active community but also promotes environmental sustainability and enriches local quality of life.

The Street Design Concept Plan is the first project stage in the development of the Willoughby, Vista/Gardner, and Kings Street Design Capital Improvement Project. With the recent approval of the Street Design Concept Plan by the West Hollywood City Council, the Plan now moves forward to the Design & Engineering Phase, where concepts will be developed in much more detail. This includes the development and incorporation of detailed engineering plans, specifications, and cost estimates that will serve as the blueprint for project construction. The next stage of the project will determine the feasibility of the conceptual project elements from the Street Design Concept Plan and allow for additional insight into any refinements that may need to be incorporated into the project’s final design. 

The Community Engagement and Plan Development Process to date has included: 

  • The Willoughby, Vista/Gardner, and Kings project was identified in the Pedestrian and Bicycle Mobility Plan adopted in 2017, and outreach on the Concept Plan for these streets began with a visioning workshop in Summer 2019. 
  • The project was delayed due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, but in August 2022 the City hosted two community virtual workshops. Feedback and survey responses guided recommendations.
  • In 2022, demonstration projects were installed along Willoughby as an alternative way to share ideas and provide community input.
  • In addition to the community workshops, staff also met with residents to share information about the project. City staff attended multiple update meetings with the City of Los Angeles, including Council District 5 and the Mid-City West Neighborhood Council. 
  • As part of the demonstration project and community workshops in 2022, Here LA and the City’s WeHoTV collaborated to put together an engagement video to help community members envision potential street changes and improvements.
  • In April 2023, based on feedback from the community, City staff finalized the report and recommendations to include protected bike lanes along Vista/Gardner, except for the two blocks between Fountain and Lexington, which were excluded due to the potential loss of parking along this segment.
  • Staff presented these recommendations to the Transportation & Mobility Commission in June 2023, and the Commission expressed its support.
  • In November 2023, the West Hollywood City Council directed staff to develop a policy to include protected bike lanes on all roadway projects. Following this directive, staff developed a protected bike lane option for Gardner between Fountain and Lexington.
  • In March 2024, staff presented the Street Design Concept Plan to the West Hollywood City Council with two options for Gardner between Fountain and Lexington, including one with the addition of protected bike lanes.

The City of West Hollywood will be providing additional community outreach opportunities, moving forward, to refine concepts as part of the upcoming Design & Engineering Phase. In particular, the City will be looking for ways to address issues of concern, including minimizing impacts to on-street parking.

For additional information about the Street Design Concept Plan, please visit the Engage WeHo information and feedback page, which is located at https://engage.weho.org/willoughby

For more information, please contact Bob Cheung, City of West Hollywood Senior Transportation Planner, at (323) 848-6346 or at [email protected].

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

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For up-to-date information about City of West Hollywood news and events, follow @wehocity on social media, sign-up for news updates at www.weho.org/email, and visit the City’s calendar of meetings and events at www.weho.org/calendar.  West Hollywood City Hall is open for walk-in services at public counters or by appointment by visiting www.weho.org/appointments.  City Hall services are accessible by phone at (323) 848-6400 and via website at www.weho.org.  Receive text updates by texting “WeHo” to (323) 848-5000.

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West Hollywood

WeHo will kick off 2024 Pride Season on May 22, Harvey Milk Day

For nearly four decades, the City of West Hollywood has been home to one of the largest Pride celebrations in the nation

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Los Angeles Blade/City of West Hollywood graphic

WEST HOLLYWOOD – Each year, the City of West Hollywood celebrates the artistic contributions of the LGBTQ community by kicking off WeHo Pride season with an annual Harvey Milk Day event.

On Wednesday, May 22, 2024 at 6 p.m. Pride Starts Here with the second annual José Sarria Drag Pageant. The event is organized by the City of West Hollywood and West Hollywood Drag Laureate Pickle and is co-sponsored by the Imperial Court and by Los Angeles County Supervisor Lindsey P. Horvath, Third District.

It will take place at the West Hollywood Park Aquatic and Recreation Center Respite Deck, located at 8750 El Tovar Place, adjacent to West Hollywood Library. The event is free to attend; advance RSVPs are requested at https://HarveyMilk2024.eventbrite.com.

José Sarria was the first openly gay person to run for office in the United States, helped pave the way for Harvey Milk’s successful run for office, was a well-known drag performer under the name the Window Norton, and founded the International Imperial Court System, which is one of the oldest and largest LGBTQ organizations in the world.

The Drag Pageant competition will be hosted by West Hollywood Drag Laureate Pickle, and several drag icons will be honored. Judges will include Queen Mother Karina Samala and Emperor Eugene Maysky of the Imperial Court, Landon Cider, Anil Patel, Nyx, and Kyra Jete. 

In addition to the Drag Pageant, the event will include a voter registration table, a Harvey Milk photo opportunity, and typewriter poetry provided by Pride Poets. Pride Poets is a cohort of LGBTQ poets who create custom poetry for the public on typewriters. Pride Poets was founded by former West Hollywood City Poet Laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace for the City’s LGBTQ Arts Festival in 2019. The participation of Pride Poets in this event is funded by a City of West Hollywood Arts Grant.

For nearly four decades, the City of West Hollywood has been home to one of the largest Pride celebrations in the nation. Hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ people and allies from around the world traditionally make West Hollywood their regular destination during Pride season.

WeHo Pride Weekend will take place from Friday, May 31, 2024 to Sunday, June 2, 2024 and, in addition to the WeHo Pride Parade, will include the free WeHo Pride Street Fair; WeHo Pride Presents Friday Night at OUTLOUD; the OUTLOUD Music Festival; the Women’s Freedom Festival; the Dyke March; and more.

The WeHo Pride Arts Festival will take place from Friday, June 14, 2024 to Sunday, June 16, 2024. WeHo Pride celebrations will include a diverse array of LGBTQ community group programming from May 22 to June 30 as part of visibility, expression, and celebration.

The WeHo Pride Arts Festival is organized by the City’s Arts Division. The City of West Hollywood is committed to providing accessible arts programming for residents and visitors and the City’s Arts Division delivers a broad array of arts programs including Art on the Outside (temporary public art), Urban Art Program (permanent public art), Summer Sounds, Winter Sounds, the WeHo Reads literary series, Free Theatre in the Parks, Arts Grants for Nonprofit Arts Organizations, Library Exhibits and Programming, the City Poet Laureate Program, Drag Laureate, Drag Story Hour, Human Rights Speakers Series and the WeHo Pride Arts Festival Weekend.

For additional information, please visit www.weho.org/arts

Additional information about WeHo Pride 2024 is posted at www.wehopride.com.

OUTLOUD Music Festival information is posted at www.weareoutloud.com. Follow @wehopride on  Instagram and Facebook and follow @officiallyoutloud on Instagram and Facebook.

Sign up for WeHo Pride text updates by texting “Pride” to (323) 848-5000.

Since its incorporation in 1984, the City of West Hollywood has become one of the most influential cities in the nation for its outspoken advocacy on LGBTQ issues. No other city of its size has had a greater impact on the national public policy discourse on fairness and inclusiveness for LGBTQ people. Home to the “Rainbow District” along Santa Monica Boulevard, which features a concentration of historic LGBTQ clubs, restaurants, and retail shops, the City consistently tops lists of “most LGBTQ friendly cities” in the nation.

More than 40 percent of residents in West Hollywood identify as LGBTQ and four of the five members of the West Hollywood City Council are openly gay. The City has advocated for nearly 40 years for measures that support LGBTQ individuals and the City is in the vanguard of efforts to gain and protect equality for all people on a state, national, and international level. #WeHoPride @WeHoCity

For more information about the City of West Hollywood’s José Sarria Drag Pageant on Harvey Milk Day or about the WeHo Pride Arts Festival, please contact the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Coordinator, Mike Che, at (323) 848-6377 or at [email protected] or visit www.wehopride.com/artsfestival.

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

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Los Angeles

RuPaul’s Drag Race Queens hit the Beverly Center

100% of the proceeds from OUTLOUD Presents Pride @ Bev will be donated to OUTWORDS, a LA local nonprofit organization

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OUTLOUD presents Pride @ Bev - Photo by Mike Pingel for WEHO TIMES

By Mike Pingel | LOS ANGELES – The second annual OUTLOUD Presents Pride @ Bev event hit the Beverly Center at 8500 Beverly Boulevard this Saturday for an afternoon of pride experiences with a discussion and special drag performances by Alyssa Edwards, Plane Jane, Laganja Estranja, and Plastique Tiara.

Pride @ Bev offered plenty of freebies, photo ops, and interactive activities like Drag Bingo hosted by Athena Kills, a Beauty Demo hosted by MakeUp Forever, and a Glam Station by Sephora. There were also Photo Moments, a VIP Lounge with bar and bites, and a chance to spin a Beverly Center Wheel for a chance to win VIP passes to the OUTLOUD Music Festival and WeHo Pride. VIP is completely sold out. The only way to get these passes now is to win them.

100% of the proceeds from OUTLOUD Presents Pride @ Bev will be donated to OUTWORDS, a LA local nonprofit organization that captures, preserves, and shares the stories of LGBTQIA2S+ elders to build community and catalyze social change.

OUTLOUD presents Pride @ Bev – Photo by Mike Pingel for WEHO TIMES
OUTLOUD presents Pride @ Bev – Photo by Mike Pingel for WEHO TIMES

OUTLOUD presents Pride @ Bev – Photo by Mike Pingel for WEHO TIMES

OUTLOUD Music Festival, created by Jeff Consoletti, launched in 2020 as a ten-episode series on Facebook in lieu of Pride Celebrations happening in cities across the country due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, quickly becoming one of the first major virtual LGBTQ+ showcases.

Since its debut, OUTLOUD garnered over nearly two billion media impressions and won several industry-topping awards including multiple SHORTY Awards for Best Use of Facebook and Best Use of Twitch, a MARCOM Award & a Cynopsis Digital Award for BEST LGBTQ Series.

Follow @OfficiallyOUTLOUD #WeAreOUTLOUD. http://weareoutloud.com.

The Beverly Center:

Located at the edge of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, Beverly Center features the best in luxury and contemporary retail, along with delectable street level restaurants with everything from modern fresh favorites to fast-casual eateries. Home to over 90 stores, all beneath an impressive skyline, Beverly Center is anchored by Bloomingdale’s & Macy’s and is home to L.A.’s largest collection of luxury brands including Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, Saint Laurent, Ferragamo, and trending fashion brands including Mango, Zara and H&M.

For more information, visit beverlycenter.com.

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Mike Pingel

Mike Pingel has written six books, Channel Surfing: Charlie’s Angels & Angelic Heaven: A Fan’s Guide to Charlie’s Angels, Channel Surfing: Wonder Woman, The Brady Bunch: Super Groovy after all these years; Works of Pingel and most recently, Betty White: Rules the World. Pingel owns and runs CharliesAngels.com website and was Farrah Fawcett personal assistant. He also works as an actor and as a freelance publicist.

His official website is www.mikepingel.com

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The preceding article was previously published by WeHo Times and is republished with permission.


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Northern California

Hate group wins federal lawsuit settlement with Yolo County Library

The anti-LGBTQ+ hate and extremist group Moms for Liberty had sued in federal court alleging their free speech rights had been violated

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Mary L Stephens Davis Branch of the Yolo County Library. (Photo Credit: Yolo County, California)

DAVIS, Calif. – Yolo County Library officials this week announced that they had agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by Moms for Liberty, a group listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBTQ+ hate and extremist group, after library officials had shut down their local chapter’s anti-transgender forum last August.

The lawsuit had been filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California on behalf of Moms For Liberty by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal group listed by the SPLC as a hate group and the Institute for Free Speech.

In addition to $70,000 in damages and attorneys fees, the settlement calls for library policy to mandate that staff “shall not interfere with presentations or other speech by individuals or groups that have reserved meeting rooms based on the content of such speech” and to instruct staff to “curtail any disruptive behavior” during events.

The settlement further stipulates to allow Moms for Liberty – Yolo County, Independent Council on Women’s Sports, California Family Council, and other parental rights and women’s advocates to use the library to hold a discussion on fairness in women’s sports.

Last August 20, during the course of a presentation by Sophia Lorey, a former college soccer player at Vanguard University, Lorey had repeatedly misgendered trans female athletes and then in commencing her remarks, stated “current 10-year-old girls cannot live out the same dream as long as men are allowed to compete in women’s sports.”

Lorey, who has podcast devoted to transphobic misinformation, works as a Outreach Director for the California Family Council. The purpose of her presentation and the forum according to the event’s sponsors was to inform and make parents aware of the California Interscholastic Federation’s participation policies for transgender athletes in high school girls’ sports.

As Lorey continued her presentation she was warned by the Regional Manager for Yolo County’s library system, D. Scott Love, that misgendering trans athletes would not be permitted to continue. In addition supporters of Moms for Liberty and the California Family Council, there were also pro-LGBTQ+ supporters who had loudly interrupted Lorey, making statements such as ‘trans women are women.’

The interruptions coupled with Lorey’s insistence on labeling transwomen “biologically men” caused Love to take further action and he disbanded the event asking the participants and audience to leave.

Anti-trans activist and former NCAA swimmer Riley Gaines shared the video of the altercation via Twitter and applauded Lorey.

This is ridiculous, but not shocking….a female athlete silenced for calling a spade a spade. They won’t even engage in a civil conversation. Props to this gal for sticking her ground,” she wrote.

The outrage by the far-right ballooned after anti-LGBTQ+ social media pundit Chaya Raichik who runs the Libs of Tik Tok X (formerly Twitter account) with over 2.4M followers tweeted:

“UNREAL. California library kicked out a group holding an event after they “misgendered” people by referring to males in female sports as males. The librarian suggests it’s against state law to misgender.”

On August 21, after Libs of TikTok’s posts on X, the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office was notified by a local news station regarding an email from an unknown source that made a threat to the Mary L. Stephens Yolo County Library in Davis. The email made a threat to detonate a bomb and include some form of hate speech.

The Davis Police Department quickly responded to the scene and evacuated approximately 10 county employees. Two adjacent buildings were also evacuated in an abundance of caution.

The Yolo County Regional Bomb Squad and Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department K-9’s responded to the scene. A search of the building resulted in negative findings.

The Sacramento Bee reported: A Sacramento-area library was evacuated Monday morning and a nearby elementary school and high school sheltered in place after law enforcement was notified of a bomb threat containing anti-LGBTQ hate speech, authorities said. It was the third threat against the library in the past week, police and deputies said.

The threats continued for the next week as Yolo County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement on August 29 saying: “The Mary L. Stephens Davis Branch Library has been targeted by bomb threats. These messages share a common thread of hateful content and revolve around a heated meeting there. The Yolo County Sheriff’s Office is investigating these incidents, with the FBI, to identify suspects.”

After the announcement to the settlement of the lawsuit was made public, the Davis Phoenix Coalition, who works with LGBTQ+ youth and its chair, Anoosh Jorjorian, provided ABC10 with the following statement:

“The Davis Phoenix Coalition is dedicated to ending hate crimes, bullying, and identity-based discrimination. We appreciate that our public library has been put in the difficult position of providing a space for free speech while also protecting the safety of their patrons. We hope cases such as these might open the question of when hate speech crosses a line into being threatening or inciting. The humanity and rights of all Americans should never be a subject of a debate.”

Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom and the Institute for Free Speech weighed in saying in a statement:

“Women have the right to speak about their concerns regarding men competing in their sports, and public officials have a constitutional duty to uphold that right regardless of whether they agree with the point of view presented,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “Shutting down discussions about biological differences between men and women is, sadly, a growing trend among activists seeking to erase women and harm children. While they should never have shut down the event, Yolo County library officials are right to change course and enact policies that align with the First Amendment. We are hopeful other public officials—whether at libraries, schools, or anywhere else—see this as an opportunity to take a strong stance for the speech and assembly rights of all Americans.”

“This settlement is a clear victory for free speech and the First Amendment,” said Institute for Free Speech Vice President for Litigation Alan Gura. “Yolo County officials tried to silence speakers and shut down an event because the ideas expressed there didn’t comport with the officials’ preferred ideology. As a result of this lawsuit, Yolo County has now agreed to respect the right of all Americans to freely express their views in public spaces without fear of government censorship.”

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Riverside County

Riverside County school district settles suit with anti-trans teacher

She had requested a religious accommodation, saying the district’s policies went against her beliefs “regarding human sexuality and lying”

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Jurupa Valley High School, Riverside County California. (Photo Credit: Jurupa Valley High School/Facebook)

JURUPA VALLEY, Calif. – The Jurupa Unified School District agreed to settle a federal lawsuit brought by a former teacher terminated over her refusal to follow District policies regarding transgender or gender-nonconforming students, citing her Christian beliefs.

The school district, located in Riverside County, in an agreement reached Tuesday will pay Jessica Tapia, who taught physical education at Jurupa Valley High School, $285,000, as well as $75,000 for her attorneys’ fees. JUSD however did not admit any wrongdoing and both parties agreed to not disparage each other or file future lawsuits. Additionally Tapia agreed to the stipulation to not seek future employment with the district.

The Los Angeles Times reported that as revealed in court documents, Tapia had refused — hypothetically, in statements to district personnel — to use students’ preferred pronouns, to allow them to use the locker room matching their gender identity, or to “withhold information” from parents about their child’s gender identity.

Julianne Fleischer, one of Tapia’s attorneys, called the settlement an “incredible victory,” the Times also reported.

“Her religious beliefs were not accommodated when they could have been,” said Fleischer, legal counsel for Advocates for Faith & Freedom, a Murrieta-based nonprofit religious liberties group. “We think it sends a strong message that there’s a price to pay when you ask a teacher to lie and withhold information.”

Jacquie Paul, a Jurupa Unified spokesperson, told multiple media outlets that the settlement was a “compromise of a disputed claim.”

“The decision to settle this case was made … in the best interest of the students, such that the district can continue to dedicate all of its resources and efforts to educate and support its student population regardless of their protected class,” Paul said in a statement.

Tapia was hired by the district in 2014, first as a substitute and later full time, and taught both middle school and high school physical education. She was fired in January 2023, after she requested a religious accommodation, saying the district’s policies went against her beliefs “regarding human sexuality and lying,” according to the lawsuit.

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