California is still in trouble over the unrelenting coronavirus, Gov. Gavin Newsom said at a June 24 news conference in Sacramento. On Monday, June 21, new statewide reported coronavirus cases were 4,230; on Tuesday, they jumped to 5,019 new cases that day; on Wednesday, the highest single day positive case numbers yet, 7,149.
Los Angeles County, with its population of 10 million souls, accounts for more than 40% of all statewide cases. There were 2,364 new daily cases on Tuesday, June 23, bringing the total to 88,262, with 3,171 deaths.
It is “highly likely” that the surge is connected to mass protests over the death of George Floyd, said, Barbara Ferrer, L.A. County Director of Public Health.
But for Black Lives Matter demonstrators and allies, protesting Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer and the need for institutional police reform is worth the risk — especially for members of the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter who demand accountability from LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, who apparent refuses to prosecute law enforcement officers involved in fatalities under color of authority.
Every Wednesday for nearly three years, Black Lives Matter/LA has protested outside the Hall of Justice demanding Lacey prosecute the officers or resign. “Jackie Lacey must go!” they regularly chant. But their ranks swelled to thousands on June 3.
“She’s a woman, a black woman. She’s a marginalized population any way you slice it,” one protester told CBSLocal2. “The fact that she’s allowing this to happen to her own people, her own community is disgusting and I want her out of office immediately.
Today would be great.”
Lacey responded with a familiar refrain. “As an African American woman, I’m always seeking justice,” Lacey told KCBS2. “But oftentimes, I look at the facts of the case and they are not prosecutable because maybe the person has a weapon or a gun or they shot someone or they knifed someone.”
That’s essentially the same reason Lacey gave at an Oct. 28, 2019 meeting of Stonewall Democratic Club in West Hollywood. What was different as she trembled before an audience unexpectedly filled with Black Lives Matter and scores of family and friends of victims of police assaults was an apology.
“I want to say something I should have said a long time ago. I’m sorry, to the Moore family and the Dean family for the loss of their loved ones,” Lacey said, interrupted by cat calls of “too late.”
The aerial shots of the massive protest in front of Lacey’s office belies the pain of those who’ve lost loves ones — more than 340 people have been killed by LA County law enforcement officers during Lacey’s eight years in office.
In every case but one, Lacey found the shooting justified or decided not to bring charges because she concluded the officer could win an acquittal at trial.
“Everybody is utterly shocked when they think about the number of people who have been killed by police or while in custody since Lacey took office,” Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter-LA She told the Associated Press June 21. Abdullah also criticized Lacey’s substantial financial support from law enforcement organizations for appearing to be “a quid pro quo.”
Lacey is the first Black person and woman to serve as Los Angeles district attorney. She is seeking a third term in November and has taken note of the recent crowds, saying “the weight of them and the number of people is substantial, to say the least.”
But she is less concerned about the impact of demonstrations than about being misunderstood.
“I don’t want people thinking I’m biased or racist or afraid, or any of these very unflattering things that are said,” Lacey told The Associated Press. “We shouldn’t assume that everyone who says ‘Black lives matter’ isn’t concerned also about public safety. That’s a false choice that those are mutually exclusive.”
But with the increase in anti-Lacey demonstrators and the national push for substantive police reform comes even closer scrutiny.
For instance, on June 8, LAist reported how Black Lives Matter activist Jasmine Richards was convicted of felony “lynching” for attempting to stop what she perceived as an unjustified police arrest. She could have received up to four years in prison but a judge finally sentenced her to 90 days in jail.
Black Lives Matter and Lacey’s rival in the DA race, former San Francisco DA George Gascón, have called for greater transparency, accountability and are also pushing away from the focus on incarceration.
And the persistent challenge by justice reform activists to incumbent lawmakers who automatically endorse other incumbents may be having an effect. On June 20, Rep. Adam Schiff and LA-based Assemblymember Laura Friedman both rescinded their endorsements of Lacey.
“This is a rare time in our nation’s history,” Schiff tweeted after calling Lacey. “We have a responsibility to make profound changes to end systemic racism & reform criminal justice. @LauraFriedman43 and I no longer feel our endorsement of Jackie Lacey a year ago has the same meaning. We have decided to withdraw it.”
“As the first African American woman to hold the LA County D.A.’s office, I am proud of my record of taking on systemic racism and reforming criminal justice — from bail reform, to reducing juvenile cases by nearly 50%, to increasing our office’s focus on mental health treatment instead of incarceration,” she said. “I am singularly focused on doing the work of the people of L.A. County during this time of crisis,” Lacey said in response.
But with demonstrators willing to risk contracting COVID-19 because it is “worth it” to call out the sitting LA DA, and with well-respected Democratic leaders grasping the need for change, Lacey may see more domino-endorsements fall before November.