California Vows To Take Steps To Protect Protesters From Police Abuse

“If you want to go back to normalcy, I’m not going there with you,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

In an address disavowing law enforcement’s use of tear gas and other forceful techniques on protesters, California Gov. Gavin Newsom pledged Friday that the state will standardize how local police handle crowds.

His emotional speech about the violence and racism facing the Black community, especially at the hands of law enforcement, comes amid nationwide protests following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Police have repeatedly used violent force against peaceful demonstrators and that kind of response should have no place in California, the Democratic governor said.

“Protesters have the right not to be harassed, protesters have the right to protest peacefully, protesters have the right to do so without being arrested, gassed, shot up by projectiles,” Newsom said. “That’s a simple value statement. I want to make that crystal clear. They have the right not to be harassed, not to be denied, not to be arrested for peaceful protesting ― period, full stop.”

Newsom has tapped two people to co-chair a commission on police reform, which will advise the state on developing crowd control standards. They are Lateefah Simon, a civil rights activist and Bay Area Rapid Transit director, and Ron Davis, a former Oakland Police Department captain who chaired President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

Simon said she’s doing this work in the name of George Floyd’s 6-year-old daughter, Gianna. 

“This call that the governor is asking us all now to accept is to rapidly bend the arc towards justice,” she said. “It is our duty. And we must move forward expeditiously.”

Newsom vowed that the new standards on crowd control would go into effect in the “very, very near term.” He noted the case of Leslie Furcron, a Black 59-year-old grandmother protesting in San Diego County last weekend, who had to be put into a medically induced coma after police shot her with a rubber bullet.

“This has been an extraordinary week in our nation’s history, in the history of the state of California, and we have a unique and special responsibility here in California to meet it and to meet it head-on,” Newsom said, promising that the state can and will address problems in its police forces. 

The governor also announced that he will sign legislation banning law enforcement use of the carotid chokehold, which can block the flow of blood to the brain, and that he is immediately directing California’s Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission to stop training officers on its use. 

“No one wants to go back to normalcy,” Newsom said of making changes in police practices. “If you want to go back to normalcy, I’m not going there with you.”

Newsom’s pledges come as President Donald Trump vows to do the opposite. On Monday, the president said he would crack down on anti-racism protests with “thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults and the wanton destruction of property” unless state and local leaders did so first.