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Statue of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. vandalized in Long Beach

This is the second time within the past two years the statue has been vandalized with graffiti often associated with white supremacist groups.



Picture of desecrated statue via Twitter

LONG BEACH – A statue of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was spray painted with what appeared to be emblems from the Nazi German era including a swastika and the Schutzstaffel (SS) dual lightening bolt runes.

According to the Long Beach Police Department, officers were dispatched to a call about the statue being vandalized at approximately 3:30 PM on Friday. It is located within the Martin Luther King Jr. Park at 1950 Lemon Avenue.

A LBPD spokesperson told the Blade Monday that the vandalism is being investigated as a hate crime or hate bias criminal act and acknowledged that this is the second time within the past two years the statue has been vandalized with graffiti often associated with white supremacist groups.

In a tweet, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia called the graffiti “horrific,” assuring residents that police are working to find whoever’s responsible.

“Our MLK statue is a symbol of hope and justice for the community,” the mayor said. “This hate and desecration has no place in our city.”


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



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

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



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



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:            

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

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Long Beach

2022 ILGA World Conference taking place this week in Long Beach

Upwards of 600 LGBTQ+ activists in attendance



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”



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



(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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Long Beach

Pilot program for homeless student overnight parking launched

Students participating in the Safe Parking Pilot Program would also be case-managed by LBCC staff in order to find long-term stable housing



Long Beach City College's Pacific Coast Campus Parking Structure (Photo Credit: LBCC)

LONG BEACH – A first of its kind program in the greater Los Angeles region, designed to assist homeless community college students by allowing them to stay in their personal vehicles overnight in a parking structure owned by Long Beach City College (LBCC), launched this week.

“Our goal for this program is that it will serve as a pathway to housing stability for our students,” said LBCCD Board of Trustees President Uduak-Joe Ntuk. “These students would otherwise have to be worrying nightly about their vehicles being broken into, trying not to be seen or bothered, and not having the police called on them, all while keeping up with their coursework. It could be an exhausting situation that makes it more difficult to get ahead.”

All currently enrolled students who are experiencing homelessness are eligible to stay in the secured Pacific Coast Campus Parking Structure, seven nights a week, between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. The students will have access to restrooms and Wi-Fi throughout the night. They will also have access to showers at the Pacific Coast Campus between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. daily.

For this pilot program, LBCC students must be independent with no spouses, partners, or children sleeping in the vehicle with them. Service and Emotional Support Animals are allowed to stay with the students if proper documentation is provided.

“The unfortunate truth is that LBCC has close to 70 students sleeping in their cars each night —quite possibly more,” said Long Beach Community College District (LBCCD) Interim Superintendent-President Dr. Mike Muñoz. “If we can help to keep our students safe so they can better focus on their student responsibilities, this program is absolutely worth pursuing. Our goal at LBCC is always to remove barriers that get in the way of our student’s success.”

Students participating in the Safe Parking Pilot Program would also be case-managed by LBCC staff in order to find more long-term and stable housing.

LBCC has contracted with a security firm to keep watch throughout the duration of the pilot program from Oct. 25, 2021 to June 30, 2022. Safe Parking LA (SPLA) will serve as a consultant to the College’s Basic Needs Program, which is overseeing the effort, providing technical assistance and training for the first three months.

“LBCC demonstrates incredible leadership in positively impacting their students who are unhoused by understanding that access to stable housing touches all aspects of their life,” said Silvia Gutierrez, Safe Parking LA executive director. “Everyone deserves a safe place to sleep and safe parking programs build pathways to housing and stability. SPLA is excited to be part of this endeavor and share our best practices.” 

The pilot program is the latest in LBCC’s efforts to assist unhoused students. The LBCC Foundation has a fundraising group that focuses on finding housing solutions and the LBCC Basic Needs Office was formed in recent years to provide food and other assistance for students.

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Public Health warning of “Real Water” Brand possible link to acute Non-viral Hepatitis

Public Health has not received any reports of persons in L.A. County with acute non-viral hepatitis illness linked to this recall at this time



Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) is alerting everyone that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is recommending that consumers, restaurants, and retailers discontinue drinking, cooking with, selling, or serving “Real Water” alkaline water.

The FDA along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Southern Nevada Health District and partners are investigating reports of acute non-viral hepatitis in Nevada. To date, the consumption of “Real Water” brand alkaline water was found to be the only common link identified between all the cases. The FDA is conducting a further investigation into the “Real Water” facility. The Southern Nevada Health District is continuing to monitor for cases of acute non-viral hepatitis.

Public Health has not received any reports of persons in L.A. County with acute non-viral hepatitis illness linked to this recall at this time.

Since “Real Water” may be sold in Los Angeles County and surrounding jurisdictions, Public Health is advising consumers who have purchased the product not to consume the water.  Consumers should either discard the product or return it to the place of purchase for a refund.

Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health

Acute non-viral hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver and symptoms often include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, light-colored stools, joint pain, and yellow skin or eyes. Anyone who is experiencing these symptoms should contact their health care provider.

For more information regarding the recall, visit:

Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health
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Newsom orders limited stay at home order as COVID surges

The virus is spreading at a pace we haven’t seen since the start of this pandemic



California Governor Gavin Newsom (Blade file photograph)

SACRAMENTO – In light of an unprecedented, rapid rise in COVID-19 cases across California, Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced Thursday afternoon that a limited Stay at Home Order generally requiring that non-essential work, movement and gatherings stop between 10 PM and 5 AM in counties in the purple tier.

This includes Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

The order will take effect at 10 PM Saturday, November 21 and remain in effect until 5 AM December 21. This is the same as the March Stay at Home Order, but applied only between 10 PM and 5 AM and only in purple tier counties that are seeing the highest rates of positive cases and hospitalizations.

“The virus is spreading at a pace we haven’t seen since the start of this pandemic and the next several days and weeks will be critical to stop the surge. We are sounding the alarm,” the Governor said. “It is crucial that we act to decrease transmission and slow hospitalizations before the death count surges. We’ve done it before and we must do it again.”

Non-essential businesses and personal gatherings are prohibited between 10 PM and 5 AM beginning Saturday, November 21 at 10 PM

This limited Stay at Home Order is designed to reduce opportunities for disease transmission. Activities conducted during 10 PM to 5 AM are often non-essential and more likely related to social activities and gatherings that have a higher likelihood of leading to reduced inhibition and reduced likelihood for adherence to safety measures like wearing a face covering and maintaining physical distance.

“We know from our stay at home order this spring, which flattened the curve in California, that reducing the movement and mixing of individuals dramatically decreases COVID-19 spread, hospitalizations, and deaths,” said California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly. “We may need to take more stringent actions if we are unable to flatten the curve quickly. Taking these hard, temporary actions now could help prevent future shutdowns.”

“We are asking Californians to change their personal behaviors to stop the surge. We must be strong together and make tough decisions to stay socially connected but physically distanced during this critical time. Letting our guard down could put thousands of lives in danger and cripple our health care system,” said Dr. Erica Pan, the state’s acting Public Health Officer.

“It is especially important that we band together to protect those most vulnerable around us as well as essential workers who are continuing their critical work amidst this next wave of widespread community transmission across the state. Together we prevented a public health crisis in the spring and together we can do it again.”

COVID-19 case rates increased by approximately 50 percent in California during the first week of November. As a result, Governor Newsom and California’s public health officials have announced a list of measures to protect Californians and the state’s health care system, which could experience an unprecedented surge if cases continue their steep climb.

During his regularly scheduled press briefing Monday, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that effective Tuesday, November 17, he would be pulling the “emergency brake” on the state’s efforts to reopen its economy and lifting societal restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are sounding the alarm,” Newsom told reporters. “California is experiencing the fastest increase in cases we have seen yet –faster than what we experienced at the outset of the pandemic or even this summer.”

“The spread of COVID-19, if left unchecked, could quickly overwhelm our health care system and lead to catastrophic outcomes,” he added.

Late last week, Newsom issued a travel advisory for California joining Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, urging people entering their states or returning home from travel outside of the state(s) to self-quarantine to slow the spread of the virus. The travel advisory urges against non-essential out-of-state travel, asks people to self-quarantine for 14 days after arriving from another state or country, and encourages residents to stay local.

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CDC warns Americans- Don’t travel for Thanksgiving

“The best way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is to stay home and celebrate with people who live in your household.”



Centers for Disease Control Atlanta Headquarters (Photograph via CDC)

ATLANTA – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that Americans do not travel this Thanksgiving. Speaking to reporters in a press briefing Thursday, Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC’s COVID-19 incident manager, said that his agency is “recommending against travel during the Thanksgiving period.”

“The tragedy that could happen is that one of your family members from coming to this family gathering and they could end up severely ill, hospitalized or dying. And we don’t want that to happen,” Walke said. “These times are tough, it’s been a long outbreak, almost 11 months or and we understand people are tired.”

“We understand that people want to see their family and relatives and do it as they’ve always done it. But this year we’re asking them to limit their travel,” he added.

In a media statement released Wednesday, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the Los Angeles County Director of Public Health said, “The best way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is to stay home and celebrate with people who live in your household.  Connect with friends and family you don’t live with using all of the technology that allows us to see and hear each other from afar.”

“If you do choose to gather, closely follow the guidance for private gatherings.  Gather outdoors with no more than two other households, and no more than 15 people; wear face coverings unless eating or drinking and stay at least 6 feet apart. Limit the gathering to no more than two hours and do not share food or utensils,” she added.

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