JVP-LA to Sen. Harris: Condemn the Killing by Israel

20 May

 

 

Fifty people gathered, outside the Los Angeles office of California Sen. Kamala Harris at 11845 W. Olympic Blvd., on Friday, May 18, to mourn the deaths of more than 100 Palestinians the Israeli Defense Forces killed during the weeks of what Palestinians called the Great Return March and to request the senator to end her silence regarding the Israeli violence against the Gazan protesters.

Jewish Voice for Peace – Los Angeles organized the event.

The crowd assembled a short distance from the senator’s office.  Toward the office, they walked on the sidewalk slowly and sung, in Hebrew, solemnly “Ahava V’rachamim Chesed V’shalom,” which means “We are sending love and compassion, kindness and liberating peace.”  The signs they carried read—Stop Killing Protesters in Gaza; Jews say: Let Gaza Live; Senator Harris, End your silence! Condemn the killing of Gaza Protesters.

On arrival outside the office, Dennis Korteuer, who is a member of JVP-LA and a Professor Emeritus from Cal State University Long Beach, read a prepared statement.  It said, “We stand together this evening in mourning for the over 100 Palestinians murdered in Gaza while protesting in the Great March of Return.  Invoking Jewish tradition and ritual, we offer our respect for those killed and love to their grieving families.  In addition, we affirm the right of Palestinians to protest and honor their struggle for the right to return home.  We call on Sen. Harris to end her silence on this week’s horrific events in Gaza and use her leadership to condemn indiscriminate killings and injuries of grassroots protesters and journalists.”

Some of those killed had their names called with their age.  As the names were called, either stones or flowers were placed near the burning Yahrzeit candles.

Barry Saks is a member of JVP.

 

Long Beach: Activists Celebrate May Day 2018 with March and Rallies

4 May
May Day 2018

Photo by Barry Saks

About 150 people, many being youth of color, on Tuesday, May 1, marched from the north end of Caesar E. Chavez Park to Long Beach City Hall, to celebrate May Day and to highlight a range of issues from protecting the local wetlands from oil drilling to protecting the rights of workers, immigrants and tenants.

The May Day Long Beach Coalition, which characterizes itself, according to its website, as “a coalition of “organizations united for workers’ rights, immigrant rights, tenant rights, and black & (sic) brown unity,” organized the march and the rallies at each end of the march.

George Funmaker, May Day 2018, Long Beach

George Funmaker, co-founder of Red Earth Defense, speaks, on Tuesday, May 1, 2018, in Caesar Chavez Park for Long Beach May Day 2018; photo by Barry Saks

One of the first speakers at the park was George Funmaker, who characterizes himself as a co-founder Red Earth Defense.  Funmaker, who was introduced as an indigenous activist, began his remarks by acknowledging those present were on land, which the Tongva people once inhabited.  He said as indigenous activist, his focus is on the land.  He added, “When we talk about justice and equality we first have to tell the true story, the true history of this country, what it was built on, on genocide and oppression and greed.”

Another speaker at the park was Jonaya Chadwick, who spoke for the need for renter’s rights.  Chadwick, who was identified as being with Housing Long Beach, said she has lived in the same Long Beach location for 19 years with her disabled mother who lives on a fixed income of about $900 each month.  Chadwick said, “(D)ue to no rent control or just-cause eviction in Long Beach, me and my mom will be displaced sooner or later.”

Local trade union activist, Nerexda Soto spoke for UNITE HERE Local 11 and the Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community, as she did last year.  However, this year she also emceed.  Soto reminded the audience the Long Beach City Council voted down in September 2017 a proposal for panic buttons for hotel workers.  In response, she said the union and its supporters have launched a ballot-initiative campaign and are collecting signatures.  Soto said, “If anybody knows UNITE HERE and our coalition, we don’t give up…We can’t trust the city council and the mayor, so we’re doing it ourselves.”

Xenia Arriola, representing Gabriela Los Angeles, followed Soto. Arriola divided her time, between reading aloud a statement and then performing her poem.  Arriola, in part, said, “I am a member of Gabriela Los Angeles.  We are grassroots Filipino women’s organization and we have members here in Long Beach…Los Angeles….We also have 200 chapters all over the world.  We fight for the rights and liberation of the Filipino people here in the United States and in the Philippines.  As Gabriela, we want to share about the conditions that migrant-working woman face here and abroad.  Many Filipino migrant workers are sent to places where they are overworked, underpaid and abused.”

After reading her statement, Arriola performed her spoken-word poem.

 

 

According to the Gabriela-USA website, the term, Gabriela, has two origins: first, the initials stand for “General Assembly Binding Women for Reforms, Integrity, Education, Leadership, and Action” and second, Gabriela is “named in honor of Gabriela Silang, the first Filipino woman to lead a revolt against the Spanish colonization of the Philippines.”

 

After Arriola spoke and performed, the crowd marched to Long Beach City Hall and chanted.  They chanted: No justice, no peace, no racist police; No Trump, No KKK, No racist USA; Get up, get down, there’s a people’s movement in this town; From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go; Black lives, they matter here; Education, not deportation; Move ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement), get out the way, get out the way; If we don’t get no justice, you don’t get no peace; The people united, will never be divided; No wall, no fear, immigrants are welcome here; One struggle, one fight, housing is a human right.

 

On arrival, a second rally was held outside city hall,

Near the beginning at the rally at the park, the member organizations of the coalition were read aloud.  They were Anakbayan Long Beach, Act Now to Stop War and Racism (Los Angeles), Black Lives Matter Long Beach, California Faculty Association, Clergy Laity United for Economic Justice, Coalition for Latino Advancement at LBCC (Long Beach City College), DAYS, Filipino Migrant Center, Gabriela Los Angeles, Greater Long Beach Interfaith Community Organization, Housing Long Beach, Long Beach Tenants Union, Justice for Port Truck Drivers Campaign, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, Little Brown Church, Long Beach Area Peace Network, Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community, Long Beach G.R.R.R.L. Collective, Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition, Palestinian  Youth Movement, Semillas de Esperanza (Seeds of Hope), Stop Fracking Long Beach, UNITE HERE (Local 11, in the hotel industry) and Democratic Socialists of America (Long Beach).

 

 

Protest Outside Los Angeles Jewish Federation Results in 4 Arrests

13 Apr

 

 

 

About 40 people, mostly young Jews and their supporters, stood outside the Los Angeles office of the Jewish Federation of North America, on Wednesday, April 11, resulting in four arrests, to protest the deaths of 31 Palestinians and more than 1,000 Palestinians injured by the Israeli Defense Forces, and to demand JFNA issue a statement condemning the occupation and the Israeli violence during Palestinian border protests, dubbed the Great Return March.

The protest was organized by IfNotNowLA, which according to its website, is “(o)rganizing in Los Angeles to end the American Jewish community’s support for the occupation and to gain freedom and dignity for all Israelis and Palestinians.”

David Pocarfly, 27, a Los Angeles resident and a local IfNotNow leader, said nationally the organization has trained almost 1,700 people in organizing in about 15 cities. Pocarfly, who is a University of Southern California graduate student, estimated locally about 120 people have been trained with about 20 to 30 activists, who come regularly to events and meetings. He added the organization’s intent is to try to recruit people who are troubled by the occupation and therefore it welcomes people regardless of their other positions, such as support BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) or opposition to BDS, or for a one or two-state solution.

David Pocarfly

David Pocarfly is a IfNotNowLA leader. He is now a graduate student at the University of Southern California; photo by Barry Saks

 

Before the protest, a contingent of about 15 people marched from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to the JFNA office, which is about .7 miles. The marchers did not chant and among the marchers, only one or two had protest signs.

At the office, five members of IfNotNowLA held a banner and blocked the entrance to the office. Soon after the protest began at the office, at the same time the Mourner’s Kaddish, which is a Jewish prayer of mourning, was recited, the names of the 31 killed Palestinians were read.

 

 

 

 

Later, volunteers taped each name of the 31 Palestinians killed on both sides of the entrance to the office.

 

 

Near the end of the protest, the emcee asked if anyone from the audience wished to speak. Rick Chertoff spoke about his journey toward opposing the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

 

 

 

At the end of the program, four of five protesters were arrested and taken to the Wilshire Community Police Station. The fifth chose not to be arrested by removing herself from the office entrance and walking to the public sidewalk, a few feet away.

 

The Jewish Federation did not respond to a request for comment. The website of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles says, the mission is “(b)ased on Jewish values, The (sic) Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles convenes and leads the community and leverages its resources to assure the continuity of the Jewish people, support a secure State of Israel, care for Jews in need here and abroad, and mobilize on issues of concern to the local community, all with our local, national, and international partners.”

The Facebook page of the Great Return March says, “The Palestinian refugees issue is at the core of The Palestinian refugees issue is the core of the Palestinian cause. It is the issue of the expulsion of a nation from its original land 70 years ago using terrorism, to be replaced by a nation who denies the existence of the expelled indigenous nation….Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their homes and forced to leave their properties to become refugees in various surrounding Arab countries and around the world. A new foreign entity was established on the ruins of their societies and homeland known as ‘Israel’ (sic).”

According to the New York Times the Great Return March was “mostly peaceful.”

Barry Saks is an Ashkenazi Jew, an atheist and a member of Jewish Voice for Peace.

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Photo by Barry Saks

 

Long Beach Students March for Their Lives

26 Mar

More than a 1,000 students, parents and their supporters, in solidarity with the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, March 24, rallied twice at Bixby Park, with a march in between, to end gun violence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Student leader Kelly Chinchilla, who is a student in the Long Beach Unified School District, emceed the rally, which included speeches by student leaders and local elected officials.  Among the elected local officials who spoke were Mayor Robert Garcia, 3rd District Councilwoman Suzie Price, Long Beach Unified District President Megan Kerr and Los Angeles County 4th District Los Angeles Supervisor Janice Hahn.

Hahn told the crowd that tougher gun-control ordinances for Los Angeles County will be forthcoming, without being specific, which will limit where and what kind of gun  may be purchased and how old someone must be to purchase a gun.

Besides the speeches, there was poetry and music.

The rally’s program began with Isaiah Walker, who teaches at Wilson High School and the director of the school’s gospel choir.  Walker said he is passionate about social justice. He then sang Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change is Gonna Come.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chinchilla, who is also a member of Californians for Justice, at the end of the first rally and just before the march admonished the audience to not walk in the street, to not obstruct traffic and to not engage with any counter protesters.

The marchers headed on Ocean Blvd. toward downtown.  Once downtown, they turned north toward Broadway.  On Broadway, the marchers headed back to Bixby Park.

Jennifer Allyn carrying her sign at Long Beach March for Our Lives

Jennifer Allyn, with her sign, said, “I’m marching so my kids will never text me under a desk.” Photo by Barry Saks

The audience for the second rally at the park had shrunk to about three hundred.  Again, like the first rally, student leaders from the different schools spoke or performed their poetry.  Not all the speakers at the second rally were student leaders.

Alan Lowenthal, the representative from the 47th Congressional District spoke.  Lowenthal told the audience, “This is an historic moment that we are living through…I’m just honored to be part of something that was created by students, organized by students, carried out by students and will lead the nation to change.  The last time we had a student movement like this is we stopped the Vietnam War, we changed the major civil rights of this nation to protect all.”

At the end of the second rally, Chinchilla reiterated the students’ demands: ban the sale of assault-style weapons; prohibit the sale of high-capacity magazines; and, close the gun-show loophole.

Ben Rockwell at Long Beach March for Our Lives

Long Beach resident and longtime civic activist Ben Rockwell in his wheelchair with sign, on Saturday, March 24, before the first rally; photo by Barry Saks.

Before the protest, while the student leaders were setting up, Josie Hahn, a 17-year-old student at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, said, “We are here, of course, to march for our lives because recently there has been the Parkland shooting and we want our voices to be heard that guns in schools and kids dying with gun violence is no longer OK.”  She added, “As a student at Long Beach Poly, there is always gun violence around the neighborhood.”  More particularly, she said that a couple of weeks ago, as she and others were driving to Poly, she saw on the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Martin Luther King Blvd., five police cars.  She later found out that there were three shootings around the school that time.  Hahn, who said she joined the Women’s March, later as part of the first rally’s program, read one of her poems.

One supporter, who was present with her son for the first rally was Candyce Simpson, 50.  Simpson, who has been a LBUSD high school counselor for 22 years and lives in the city of Signal Hill, said, “I’m here to support students…They shouldn’t be scared to go to school…I think they’re going to make the biggest change.  It always comes from them…We don’t support them with social and emotional counseling.  We just test them more.”

 

 

 

 

 

Long Beach LGBTQ Community and Allies Hold Transgender Day of Remembrance

24 Nov

About 200 people gathered on Monday, Nov. 20, at Harvey Milk Promenade Park in Long Beach, at 185 E. Third St, to remember those killed in the last year due to anti-transgender hatred, by publicly reading their names aloud.

The LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning) Center of Long Beach, the Human Rights Campaign, the Long Beach Imperial Court and Long Beach 1st District Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez hosted the remembrance, according to the Facebook page that announced the remembrance.

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Long Beach 1st District Councilwoman speaking, Monday, Nov. 20, at the Transgender Day of Remembrance; Photo by Barry Saks

According to the Center’s website, under its mission, “(t)he Center engages, empowers and advocates to achieve a more equitable society and fosters an ever-improving quality of life for the LGBTQ community.”

The HRC represents 1.5 million members and supporters nationwide, it’s the largest national LGBTQ civil rights organization and it “envisions a world where LGBTQ people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community,” according to its website.

According to the About Facebook page of the Long Beach Imperial Court, its mission is “(t)o sponsor, support and promote charitable and educational programs and efforts; to raise funds for organizations within the Long Beach Empire in particular organizations within the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning community; to promote and recognize community leaders and to shine a light on those social service organizations that offer support and overall enrichment to those in need.”

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Porter Gilberg, the Executive Director of the LGBTQ Center of Long Beach, emceeing, on Monday, Nov. 20, at the Transgender Day of Remembrance; Photo by  Barry Saks 

Before the names were read, Porter Gilberg, who’s the executive director of the Center, emceed. Gilberg opened the program by introducing Councilwoman Gonzalez and characterizing her as “one of the LGBTQ community’s strongest allies.”

Gonzalez said, “As we commence, you know, this beautiful night and event, it’s always so very difficult because I’ve been given a paper that show names and how people have past…It always shocks me and it is so difficult to read many of these.”

Gonzalez wasn’t the only elected official to speak.  City of Signal Hill Councilman Larry Forester followed her.  He said, “This is a very, very solemn evening.”  He added he is the president of GLBT caucus for the League of California Cities and that it published to educate people a municipal guide, “Transgender in the Workplace.”  The guide may be accessed by clicking here.

 

After Forester spoke, Gilberg said, “On a night where we are remembering lives lost from one of our most marginalized communities, I think it is incredibly important to acknowledge the leadership that is here tonight.”  Besides acknowledging the presence of Long Beach Councilwoman Gonzalez and Signal Hill Councilman Larry Forester, Gilberg also acknowledged the presence of Tim Patton representing Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, Megan Kerr, the president of the Long Beach Unified School District, Larry Blunden, the Signal Hill City Treasurer, and Maricela Renteria de Rivera, the chair of the Long Beach Transit Board.

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Anna Gerringer speaking on Monday, Nov.20, at the Transgender Day of Remembrance; Pnoto by Barry Saks

Gilberg then introduced Anna Gerringer, as a “local community member” and said that Gerringer was going “to share her story of resiliency.”  She said, “I’ve been female for all of my existence…I knew I wasn’t strong enough to be openly trans (transgender) the first 48 years of my life. To be absolutely honest, I’m still not sure that I am….I’ve been assaulted several times….Violence against trans-women is rampant because they don’t want to call law enforcement, they feel that law enforcement often feels they (trans-women) have no value.”

The names were read solemnly with the audience holding candles.

The same Facebook announcing the event also said the Transgender Day of Remembrance is held yearly in November to honor Rita Hester, who was murdered on Nov. 28, 1998.

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Deadly Exchange to ADL: Stop Police Programs between Israel and the US

15 Nov

 

 

About 50 people protested the police exchange programs that the Anti-Defamation League organizes, between the United States and Israel, on Wednesday, Nov. 8, at 10495 Santa Monica Blvd., outside the Los Angeles office of the ADL.

According to the Facebook page, which announced the protest, Jewish Voice for Peace – Los Angeles, USC (University of Southern California) Students for Justice in Palestine, and Palestinian and Jews Decolonize hosted the protest, which they dubbed “Deadly Exchange,” that JVP organized nationally.

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Protesters, Wednesday, Nov. 8 march toward the LA local ADL office; photo by Barry Saks

The protesters started at corner of Westholme Ave. and Santa Monica Blvd. in Los Angeles and marched about .3 miles to 10495 Santa Monica Blvd., a local ADL office.

On the short march, through the noise of the rush-hour traffic, the protesters chanted: From Palestine to Mexico, all walls have got to go; From LA to Palestine, cop surveillance is a crime.

When a delegation of the protesters attempted to enter the front door, it was locked.  The delegation tried to engage with the person at the reception desk.  The person told the delegation she or he not was authorized to accept whatever the delegation had and that it should be sent to the ADL national office.

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Outside the office, the protesters heard speakers and chanted more.  One speaker was Rawan Tayuoon, the chairwoman of USC SJP, Palestinian and co-founder of PJD.  Tayuoon, who according to the Electronic Intifada is a member of the Young Democratic Socialists, told the protesters ADL views what she and others call “intersectionality” (sic) as threat and blames it for the growth of Palestinian solidarity.

The protesters again chanted: From LA to Palestine, jailing children is a crime; We are unstoppable, another world is possible; ADL, Stop the exchange.

JVP Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson, in an email, on Thursday, Nov. 9, said the protests were in 15 cities.  She also reported in New York City seven JVP members were arrested when ADL refused to meet with a delegation and seven of the delegates refused to leave.

While the ADL website says it supports social and racial justice movements, the website also says, “ADL is the nation’s top non-governmental law enforcement training organization” and yearly it “train(s) more than 14,000 law enforcement professionals on extremism, terrorism (and) crimes….Since 1999, more than 130,000 law enforcement professionals have received Law Enforcement and Society training, with programs established in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Seattle, Tampa, St. Louis and Houston.”  The same website added, “ADL takes a small number of law enforcement executives to Israel to study its counter-terrorism approaches. More than 200 high-ranking American officials have participated in ADL’s week-long National Counter-Terrorism Seminar in Israel since it began in 2004.”

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Rawan Tayoon, USC SJP chairwoman, Wednesday, Nov. 8, speaking outside LA ADL office; Photo by Barry Saks

Regarding JVP, the ADL website says, “Jewish Voice for Peace’s hardline (sic) stance is demonstrated by its positions on BDS, willingness to partner with anti-Israel organizations that deny Israel’s right to exist and legitimize terror, and its refusal to support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

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The protesters, on Wednesday, Nov. 8, listening to a speaker, outside the ADL office; photo by Barry Saks

HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual and B’Tselem jointly in October 2017 produced the report, “Unprotected: The Detention of Palestinian Teenagers in East Jerusalem.”  The website of HaMoked characterizes itself as an Israeli human rights organization with the main aim of assisting Palestinians of the occupied territories whose rights are violated due to Israel’s policies.  The website of B’Tselem, characterizes itself as defending human rights in  “the (Israeli) Occupied Territories.”

A summary of the report, said, “Palestinian teenagers from East Jerusalem are pulled out of bed in the middle of the night, unnecessarily handcuffed and then made to spend a long time waiting for their interrogation to begin. Only then, when they are tired and broken, are they taken in for lengthy interrogation sessions, without being given the opportunity to speak to a lawyer or their parents before the questioning begins and without understanding that they have the right to remain silent. They are then held in the detention facility under harsh conditions, for days and weeks, even once the interrogation has, in fact, ended. In some cases, all this is attended by threats, verbal and physical abuse – before or during the interrogation.”

A little later, the summary adds, “These practices leave law enforcement agencies free to use pressure to force them to confess. And indeed, many of the detained minors sign involuntary confessions (sometimes the confessions are false and sometimes written in a language they do not understand), which are then used as the basis for the indictments against them.”

The Los Angeles Police Department and the ADL were unavailable for comment.

Barry Saks is a socialist and a member of JVP.

 

 

Long Beach Rent Control Advocates File to Launch Initiative for November 2018 Ballot

10 Nov

Local rent control advocates—Josh Butler, executive director of Housing Long Beach, and Karen Reside, secretary of the Grey Panthers—on Wednesday, Nov. 8, filed paperwork to launch a November 2018 ballot measure to bring rent control to the city of Long Beach.

Martha Cota, executive director of Latinos in Action, whose name and signature were on the paperwork, was not present when the paperwork was submitted.

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Karen Reside and Josh Butler on Wednesday, Nov. 8, after filing paper work at Long Beach City Hall to launch a rent control initiative for November 2018 ballot, turn around to face supporters; photo by Barry Saks

According to the first page of the paperwork, the rent control measure, if passed, will be based on the consumer price index, rent increases will be allowed to rise no more than 100 percent of the rise in the index, a just cause for eviction will be required and a five-member rent board, appointed by the City Council, would be established.  Short-term rentals would be exempt.  Also a maximum of two board members would be allowed to own or manage rentals or be realtors.  The index measures the changes in the retail prices of a constant basket of goods and services.  It’s computed by comparing the cost of the basket at a fixed time with its cost at subsequent or prior intervals.

When Butler and Reside submitted the paperwork, about 20 supporters accompanied them.

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Mary Sedillo, on Wednesday, Nov. 8, waits in Long Beach Hall lobby with other supporters while initial paperwork is approved; photo by Barry Saks.

Mary Sedillo, 73, who was among the supporters and chair of the Senior Advisory Commission, said, “Our (the city’s) seniors are living just on Social Security and with the rent increases and them having to pay rent, buy medication plus food….The seniors don’t have enough money to cover everything.  Sedillo, who is a 20-year resident of Long Beach and the treasurer of the Long Beach Gray Panthers, added with the rent increases seniors are being pushed out of affordable housing, the fear is many will become homeless.

Meanwhile, statewide rent control advocates—Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) Healthcare Foundation; Elena Popp, attorney, founder and executive director of the Eviction Defense Network; and Christina Livingston, executive director of ACCE (Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment—filed, on Oct. 23, the paperwork with the Office of the California Attorney General to launch a November 2018 ballot initiative to allow cities and counties in the state to strengthen local rent control laws by repealing California law regarding rental housing, known as the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which excludes rental housing built after 1995 from local rent control.

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About 20 rent control supporters, on Wednesday, Nov. 8, outside Long Beach Hall, rally before the submission of the paperwork to launch initiative for November 2018 ballot; photo by Barry Saks