California lawmakers picking up themes from protesters

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Peaceful protests continued Friday throughout California while lawmakers and even police echoed calls for social justice and an end to police abuses.

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Crowds ranging from several hundred to thousands thronged the streets of downtown Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento, San Francisco and smaller communities.

Thousands of flowers were placed on the sidewalk outside the Los Angeles County Hall of Justice after people were asked to bring roses symbolizing people they believe were victims of state violence.

Surfers held a traditional paddle-out in waters off the Los Angeles County shoreline.

Less than two weeks following the death of George Floyd after a police officer in Minneapolis used a knee to pin his neck to the pavement, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the state’s police training program to stop teaching officers how to use the carotid restraint or sleeper hold — a different, arm-based grip that blocks blood flow to the brain and can kill if used too long.

“We train techniques on strangleholds that put people’s lives at risk,” Newsom said Friday. “That has no place any longer in 21st-century practices and policing.”

Newsom said he sent the order to the state Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, which according to its website provides curriculum for training more than 600 agencies and departments throughout California. But the decision on whether to allow officers to use the hold is up to each law enforcement agency.

The San Diego Police Department and San Diego County Sheriff’s Department are among the agencies that announced this week they would stop using the hold.

Newsom also pledged to sign a bill introduced in the Legislature to make carotid holds illegal.

Critics have said such restraints are disproportionately used against people of color.

In Los Angeles, Police Chief Michel Moore told a select group of invited protesters outside LAPD headquarters that Floyd was murdered and said racism and injustice has “been a virus that has stayed with us for generations.”

His remarks were met with respectful applause, although other demonstrators have previously called for his resignation, saying officers used improper force in breaking up protests.

Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles filed a federal lawsuit on Friday against Moore and the LAPD. The suit alleges that the department violated constitutional rights by arresting more than 2,600 peaceful demonstrators and kept some handcuffed on buses without access to water, food or bathrooms.

The department declined comment.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said videos of apparent excessive force use in the city will be reviewed.

“We have to keep the peace without violence whenever we can,” he said.

At a briefing, Garcetti praised the work of officers he said risk their lives to keep the city safe and defended his announcement that officials will identify as much as $150 million to cut from the LAPD’s nearly $2 billion budget to fund community programs.

Los Angeles’ police union Friday labeled Garcetti “unstable” and accused him of political pandering after he referred to “killers” in remarks about the proposed spending change. The mayor said he wasn’t targeting local police but was referring to the collective burden of society for injustices that remain in the black community.

Most of the protests in California have been peaceful, but over the weekend and early in the week some demonstrators set police cars on fire and shattered windows while dozens of stores were ransacked, mostly by people that officials said weren't protesters but may have taken advantage of nearby demonstrations that tied up police resources.

In some cases, police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds. That prompted Newsom to say he wants the Legislature to set standards for crowd control and police use of force in protests.

“Protesters have the right to protest peacefully. Protesters have the right to do so without being arrested, gassed, shot at by projectiles,” Newsom said. “We need to standardize those approaches.”

On Friday, the only apparent use of gas was by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies in Lakewood, a suburb of Long Beach, where a volley was fired to disperse several dozen demonstrators who were told they were illegally assembled. No injuries were reported.

Violence and looting lessened by Wednesday and many communities have eased or rescinded curfews, although National Guard troops brought in to protect buildings still were deployed.

In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti said troops there could begin to go home “in the coming days” if the streets remained calm.

Newsom urged mayors and other local authorities to end reliance on the National Guard, saying “conditions have changed for the positive," and suggested they could be redeployed to provide logistical support for food banks that are helping people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced Friday that his office will review the Vallejo Police Department and recommend reforms to use-of-force policies and measures involving bias and community policing. The announcement came days after officers shot and killed a 22-year-old man suspected of looting amid a night of protests. Police said they mistook his hammer for a gun.

In the San Diego suburb of La Mesa, Police Chief Walt Vasquez announced Friday that the department won’t seek the prosecution of a 23-year-old African American man arrested on suspicion of resisting arrest near a trolley station on May 27. Video showed the white officer shoving an argumentative Amaurie Johnson and his arrest sparked protests.

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Antczak reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press journalist Adam Beam contributed from Sacramento.