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Garden Grove high school students salute Hitler, sing Nazi marching song

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Southern California’s 47th Congressional District has been reliably Democratic and diverse since 2006, encompassing a large portion of Long Beach and East Los Angeles, represented since Jan. 2013 by Alan Lowenthal. But the district also includes once heavily Republican anti-LGBTQ areas, such Garden Grove where last year a handful of high school students brazenly saluted Hitler and sang a Nazi marching song during an awards ceremony.

According to a video posted to Instagram and reviewed and published by The Daily Beast, the eight second video shows about 10 members of the Pacifica High School boys’ water polo team giving the infamous Sieg Heil salute to Adolf Hitler and singing a Nazi marching song.

This apparently is not unusual. Last March, the OC Weekly reported on Snapchat screenshots of students from Newport Harbor and Costa Mesa High School engaged in a beer pong drinking game, giving the Hitler salute over a red cup display of the Nazi swastika.

Though one student expressed remorse to OC Weekly after the backlash, that student then added: “To us it’s like the “n” word where it doesn’t mean slavery it’s a way to address people and now the holocaust is the new n word and it’s sad but it’s the truth.”

The latest incident suggests there is a more insidious issue at work. The Daily Beast reports that the athlete who posted the video also posted the lyrics to the obscure marching song.

“It’s not something you’d expect somebody to accidentally know about. There’s some means by which they acquired knowledge about the song and associated Nazi issues,” Peter Simi, a professor on extremism studies at Chapman University told The Daily Beast. “Are they on websites or web forums or other social media platforms where they’re engaging with others informed on these issues?”

Apparently school administrators became aware of the video in March, four months after it was posted, according to a spokesperson for the Garden Grove Unified School district.

“While the district cannot comment on student discipline, the school did address this situation with all involved students and families,” the spokesperson told the online site. “The district adheres to strong policies about harassment and cultural sensitivity, and we condemn all acts of anti-Semitism and hate in all forms. We remain focused on educating students about cultural sensitivity and are committed to holding students accountable, educating them on the consequences of their choices, and the impact these actions have on our schools and community at large.”

However, one Pacifica parent told The Daily Beast that the wider community was never apprised of the video, though it was distributed among the students. Nor is there any public indication of punishment or corrective action.

“Generally speaking, especially when something like this involves a group, we would think a more meaningful approach would be to use this as a learning opportunity, as an opportunity community-wide to state what our values are,” Rabbi Peter Levi, director of the Anti Defamation League’s Orange County chapter, told the Daily Beast. “This requires investigation and conversation… We’d like to see a more systematic response.”

As the Los Angeles Blade has previously reported, Samuel Lincoln Woodward of Newport Beach has been charged with the murder of his former high school classmate, Blaze Bernstein, 19, a brilliant gay Jewish University of Pennsylvania student home for the holidays in late December 2017. His body, with 20 stab wounds to the face and neck, was discovered in a shallow Borrego Park grave a week after he disappeared on Jan. 2.

On Nov. 9, 2018, Woodward, 21, entered a plea of not guilty to murder in Orange County Superior Court. Judge Kimberly Menninger denied bail, saying she thought Woodward posed a danger to the community after seeing troves of evidence linking Woodward to anti-gay, anti-Semitic messages and propaganda from the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, which apparently reveled in Bernstein’s brutal murder.

“I love this,” one member wrote of the killing, according to copies of the online chats obtained by ProPublica, which first exposed Woodward’s involvement with Atomwaffen. “Sam did something stupid,” wrote one member. “Not that the faggot kike didn’t deserve to die. Just simply not worth a life in prison for.”

On Nov. 10, 2018, CBS News “48 Hours” also broadcast an investigation into Woodward’s connection to Atomwaffen, including the photo of him in an Atomwaffen mask giving the Nazi salute.

Sam Woodward was … absolutely, definitely … a member of Atomwaffen Division,” British journalist and CBS News consultant Jake Hanrahan told “48 Hours.” “They made T-shirts using Sam Woodward’s mug shot.”

Woodward’s Atomwaffen friends “call him the gay, the one-man gay, Jew wrecking ball. You know, like kind of reveling in this idea that he’s killed this gay, Jewish kid,” Hanrahan said.

Though they wear similar masks, the nationwide Atomwaffen is different from the local white supremacist group Rise Above Movement (RAM), which saw four members arrested Oct. 2 on federal charges for allegedly traveling to Virginia last year with the intent to incite a riot at the deadly far-right rallies in Charlottesville.

“Inspired by the writings of Hitler and the idea of ‘white jihad,’ members of groups like R.A.M. and Proud Boys don’t need much provocation to become violent. Indeed, members of Atomwaffen Division have been charged in five killings over the past two years,” including Woodward, former Nazi Christian Picciolini wrote in an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times.

“It is true that the leaders of such groups draw in disillusioned young men who believe the world has sidelined them. But just because their members look familiar to many Americans does not make them less dangerous. Their violence is part of a growing pattern of domestic terrorism and should not be excused as an adolescent blip.

“Before the Third Reich murdered tens of millions of people,” wrote Picciolini, “it began in small Munich beer halls, just a few loyal street thugs with a social club.”

 

Long Beach

Long Beach Police arrest man in stabbing death at popular gay bar

The suspect got into a physical fight with the two victims, which escalated to him stabbing both victims. He then took off on a bicycle

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Long Beach Police uniformed patrol unit (Screenshot/YouTube KEYNEWS.TV)

LONG BEACH – Long Beach Police investigators on Monday arrested a man wanted for a murder outside a business at around 11:45 p.m. Friday night at the popular Mineshaft gay bar in the 1700 block of East Broadway.

Long Beach Police Department Special Investigations detectives, with assistance from patrol officers, identified 56-year-old Michael Smalls as a suspect in the stabbing death of  28-year-old Christopher Finley of Long Beach. Smalls was charged one count of murder in the death of Finley and one count of attempted murder in the stabbing of another man who was accompanying Finley.

Investigators were looking into the stabbing of the two men outside the popular Mineshaft gay bar in the 1700 block of East Broadway Friday at around 11:45 pm. Police said late Saturday afternoon one of the victims Finley, had died.

According to the LBPD, Detectives believe the murder stemmed from two altercations. During the first altercation, the victim(s) were involved in a fight with a man who was armed with a “taser” in front of a business. Moments later, a second altercation occurred in which Smalls got into a physical fight with the two victims, which escalated to Smalls stabbing both victims. Smalls then took off on a bicycle. The man with the “taser” was detained at the scene and arrested on an unrelated charge.

Smalls was booked into the Long Beach City Jail and is currently being held on $2,000,000 bail. Detectives will present the case to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office for filing consideration this week. The motive is under investigation. Currently, there is no evidence this is a hate or bias motivated incident.

Anyone with information regarding the incident is urged to contact Homicide Detective Michael Hubbard and Jesus Espinoza at (562) 570-7244.

Anonymous tips may be submitted through “LA Crime Stoppers” by calling 800-222-TIPS (8477), downloading the “P3 Tips” app to your smartphone (available at the Apple app store or Google Play), or by visiting www.lacrimestoppers.org.

In a social media post on the bar’s Facebook Page Saturday afternoon, the bar’s owners Jeff and Rhonda Darling expressed their dismay over the incident as the news broke that one of the two injured men had died.

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Long Beach

Long Beach police investigating double stabbing at gay bar

The bar’s owners Jeff and Rhonda Darling expressed their dismay over the incident as the news broke that one of the two injured men had died

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Mineshaft LGBTQ bar in the 1700 block of East Broadway, Long Beach, California (Photo Credit: Mineshaft/Facebook)

LONG BEACH – Investigators are looking into the stabbing of two men at the popular Mineshaft gay bar in the 1700 block of East Broadway in Long Beach. Both victims were hospitalized and the search is underway for the suspect. Long Beach Police said late Saturday afternoon one of the male adult victims has succumbed to their injuries.

Police identified the man who died as 28-year-old Christopher Finley of Long Beach.

According to Long Beach Police Department spokesperson Richard Mejia, an argument at around 11:45 p.m. Friday night escalated from a a verbal argument between the two men and a third when the confrontation became physical. The suspect pulled out a knife and stabbed the two victims then fled before Long Beach officers arrived.

Police have not yet released any information about the suspect’s description, but told media that the investigation is ongoing and ask that anyone with information about the incident to contact the Long Beach Police Department.

In a social media post on the bar’s Facebook Page Saturday afternoon, the bar’s owners Jeff and Rhonda Darling expressed their dismay over the incident as the news broke that one of the two injured men had died.

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Long Beach

Long Beach Police need public’s help locating sexual assault suspect

Suspect described as a male White or Hispanic approximately 18-25 years old, between 5’10” to 5’11” in height, with a thin build, short hair

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Photo Credit: City of Long Beach Police Department/Facebook


LONG BEACH – (Press Release) The Long Beach Police Department is seeking the public’s help locating a male suspect involved in a sexual battery incident involving a minor.

On July 31, 2022, at approximately 1:30 p.m., officers responded to the 1100 block of East 4th Street regarding a sexual battery incident that had just occurred.

Upon arrival, officers learned the suspect initially followed the victim for several blocks. While following the victim, the suspect propositioned him and then grabbed his lower body. An altercation ensued, which resulted in the suspect striking the victim in the upper body before fleeing.

Detectives are releasing a photograph of the suspect from surveillance footage and video from the incident. The Long Beach Police Department requests information about this incident and/or the suspect’s identity.

The suspect is described as a male White or Hispanic (light complexion), approximately 18-25 years old, between 5’10” to 5’11” in height, with a thin build, short medium-length hair in a “comb over” style, and a light-colored mustache. The suspect wore a blue Dodgers T-shirt, light-colored pants, and black sandals. The suspect may have attended a party in the area before the assault.

Courtesy LBPD

To view a video of the suspect, click on the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-BbUCC7Lfk            

Anyone with information regarding the person responsible for these crimes should contact Sex Crimes Detective Monica Moore at (562) 570-5514 or Detective William Neal at (562) 570-5513.

Anonymous tips may be submitted through “LA Crime Stoppers” by calling 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), downloading the “P3 Tips” app to your smartphone (available at the Apple App store and Google Play), or visiting www.lacrimestoppers.org.

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Long Beach

2022 ILGA World Conference taking place this week in Long Beach

Upwards of 600 LGBTQ+ activists in attendance

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Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for global LGBTQ+ rights, speaks at the ILGA World Conference in Long Beach, Calif., on May 2, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Andy Perez/ILGA World)

LONG BEACH — Upwards of 600 LGBTQ+ activists from around the world are attending the 2022 ILGA World Conference that is taking place this week in Long Beach.

Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ+ rights abroad, and Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ+ issues, are among those who spoke at the conference that began on Monday at the Westin Long Beach. Activists from Ukraine, Lebanon and dozens of other countries are also in attendance.

“When you are fighting to decriminalize homosexual status or conduct, secure legal recognition of gender identity, end unnecessary surgeries on intersex persons, or exercise freedoms of peaceful assembly or association, the struggle can be overwhelming,” said Stern on Monday in her remarks. “This is why I marvel at all that you have achieved and all the impact that lies ahead.”

“In case you haven’t heard this often enough, let me say: I believe in you, and I believe in us,” added Stern. “I will do everything in my power to raise the priorities of LGBTQI+ human rights defenders and LGBTQI+ civil society across the Department of State and around the world.”

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia on Monday noted there “is a coordinated act from extreme forces in our country — and across the world — trying to erase the beauty of our community.” 

“Right now, gay rights in this country are being pushed backwards. Trans and non-binary people are being attacked every single day, and there’s an incredible amount of work ahead, especially to protect young people from these destructive laws,” added Garcia. “The work happening here at this conference is a worldwide effort to represent the LGBTQ+ community and advocate for civil rights. We have to stand up — especially at this moment — for our trans and non-binary community, and I’m grateful for this opportunity to recommit ourselves to this task.”

The It Gets Better Project is the conference’s host.

The conference was to have taken place in last November, but the pandemic postponed it. Some of the conference sessions are taking place virtually.

The next ILGA World Conference will take place in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2024.

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Long Beach

The Dream Academy is training refugees to be leaders

“We’ve realized through training leaders is that there’s so much talent in this community that larger culture absolutely needs”

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Solomon Alpha Ahumuza, left, and Safe Place International Founder Justin Hilton. (Photo credit: Justin Hilton)

LONG BEACH – Solomon Alpha Ahumuza, a gay man from Uganda, is only just beginning his journey in the United States. But his journey to get to his new home in Long Beach, California, was long, difficult and transformative. 

Ahumuza left Uganda back in 2015. He told the Blade in an interview just before Thanksgiving that he decided to leave because of the homophobia in his country. 

Uganda has long been a dangerous place for LGBTQ+ individuals to live. Not only are homosexuality and same-sex marriage illegal, but an Afrobarometer survey found only 5% of Ugandans have “tolerance for homosexuals.”

His road wouldn’t get any easier as he fled to neighboring Kenya, another country where homosexuality and same-sex marriage are illegal, and there is a frighteningly low percentage, 14%, of acceptance. 

While in Kenya, he stayed in the Kakuma refugee camp, which has a history of violence and discrimination towards LGBTQ+ people, for two months. It was in Kakuma where Ahumuza would be attacked and beaten, he said.

After the attack, he was transferred to Kenya’s capital of Nairobi. Ahumuza was kidnapped while living here. He said he still has scars from the injuries he suffered. “They kidnapped me for one night,” he said. “Then they dumped me somewhere I didn’t know.”

“Then we were tortured by the police,” he added. 

Now, 6 years later, Ahumuza lives in Long Beach after the U.S finally granted him asylum. 

Before moving to America, he was introduced to The Dream Academy, an educational program for LGBTQ+ refugees and asylum seekers. Ahumuza, who was and still is a very active member of The Dream Academy, considered himself lucky. “I was happy to meet all of them,” he said. 

The Dream Academy is a program of Safe Place International, a group that provides multiple services dedicated to supporting the dignity and self-actualization of the most marginalized members of the refugee community, according to its website. 

Justin Hilton, the founder of Safe Place, told the Blade over Zoom that refugees, like Ahumuza, are at worst “dehumanized – you know, put in cages and in, put in camps in ways that are a sad commentary on humanity at this point. And at best they’ve been commoditized is a problem that we need to collectively deal with.”

He added: “I think the thing that we’ve realized through training leaders is that there’s so much talent, and there is a voice and a perspective in this community that the larger culture absolutely needs. So we’re committed to representation. We think representation in leadership and decision making positions for marginalized people is absolutely essential for the health of the larger culture and world.”

The Dream Academy has enhanced Safe Place’s mission, giving LGBTQ+ refugees a chance to learn invaluable leadership and safety skills. “What we found is that, not only was it kind of healing trauma and stabilizing people, but it was preparing them for leadership in a way that we hadn’t expected before,” Hilton said. 

The program is also rapidly growing. According to Hilton, The Dream Academy is graduating 140 people this year. Next year, the goal is 700 – substantial, considering the pilot program started in only April of this year. 

Though it has only been around for a short time, The Dream Academy has already seen a large group of people arrive in the U.S. – “from West Virginia, to Atlanta, to Denver, to Austin, to Houston, to Long Beach, to the Bay Area,” according to Hilton. 

Among them was Ahumuza, who Hilton called “an amazing, beautiful, brilliant man who I adore.”

“There’s a whole community of LGBT Ugandan refugees there, and he just feels like he’s home,” Hilton said. 

Still, Ahumuza is adjusting to the U.S. “It’s not yet good,” he said of living in Long Beach. “But I think it’s because it’s a new country, new people, new environment.”

But he remains optimistic. “I have received very, very warm support from Safe Place and the Dream Academy,” adding, “I think I will be alright.”

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Long Beach

ILGA World Conference to take place in Long Beach in May

Pandemic prompted organizers to postpone event

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(Photo courtesy of ILGA World)

GENEVA — ILGA World on Wednesday announced its conference that had been scheduled to take place this month in Long Beach will now happen in May.

“Our World Conference will be going ahead, and the health, safety and well-being of all will be at the highest priority,” said ILGA World Co-Secretaries General Luz Elena Aranda and Tuisina Ymania Brown in a press release. “In such a challenging moment in history, it is more important than ever that our communities from around the world have a shared and safe space to come together, reconnect, and move forward.”

The 2022 ILGA World Conference, which the It Gets Better Project will host, will take place at the Westin Long Beach from May 2-6. Organizers last November announced they had postponed it because of the pandemic.

Registration for the conference is now open. ILGA World in its press release said “more details about all safety measures” surrounding COVID-19 “are forthcoming.”

“We are thankful for all those who submitted proposals for thematic pre-conferences, and we will be able to announce them soon”, said ILGA World Executive Director Julia Ehrt. “As the program of our World Conference develops, we will continue to look into ways to ensure the largest possible participation from our members and LGBTI communities from across the world—including in digital ways.”

LGBTQ rights groups in the U.S. and around the world have begun to hold in-person events as COVID-19 vaccination rates continue to increase and more countries begin to lessen travel restrictions.

More than 1,000 activists from around the world attended the WorldPride 2021 Human Rights Conference that took place in Denmark and Sweden in August. The National LGBTQ Task Force’s annual Creating Change conference is scheduled to take place in person in January in New Orleans.

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