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Activists forcibly evicted ahead of LA mayoral debate

Sunday’s mayoral debate began with a leader of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles forcibly removed from the auditorium by several campus police officers just before the cameras started rolling and ended with the candidates sharing their favorite spots. to visit in the city.

Over the next 90 minutes, five of Los Angeles’ leading mayoral candidates traded arguments and accusations about how to tackle crime, homelessness, climate change and other issues. At times, they seemed almost as frustrated as voters in Los Angeles.

Rep. Karen Bass, Councilman Joe Buscaino, Realtor Rick Caruso, City Atty. Mike Feuer and Councilman Kevin de León have all argued at different times that the city is facing a crisis. Caruso sought to shift the blame to the other four.

“The tragedy at City Hall – the lack of humanity, the lack of compassion for the way people live – is literally 10 minutes from the desks of everyone to my left,” he said. he declares. “And for some reason you drive the other way, and you don’t run into this problem.”

The four other candidates on stage strongly opposed this message. Bass also issued a warning to other candidates, saying they should be mindful of their posts about city issues.

“If you’re running a campaign that says the city is going to hell in a hand cart and everything is awful in LA, that’s just building on desperation and fear,” she said.

The debate, held at Cal State LA and broadcast on ABC 7, was organized by the university’s Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs and the League of Women Voters of Greater Los Angeles.

Contrary to a forum held the day before, it passed without live disruption from the militant groups that have harassed the main candidates in recent months. But protests preceded and activists were forcibly removed from the audience minutes before the debate began.

Black Lives Matter Los Angeles leader Melina Abdullah — a professor at Cal State LA and former chair of the school’s Pan-African Studies department — said she was taken out of the room by police officers for attending the the ticketless event. Videos shared on Twitter showed several police officers dragging Abdullah out of the auditorium.

Rick Caruso, left, chats with Joe Buscaino at the start of Sunday’s mayoral debate in Cal State LA

(Ringo Chiu / For The Time)

Proceedings should be public, “especially in a public university,” Abdullah said via text message, noting that students, professors and the public were not allowed into “a nearly empty theater.”

Admission to the campus auditorium had been tightly restricted, and several contestants not invited to participate — including Gina Viola, Alex Gruenenfelder, Craig Greiwe and Ramit Varma — protested outside ahead of the debate.

In many ways, Sunday’s event felt like a retread of the last debate featuring these five candidates, with criticism again directed at Caruso, which in turn allowed him some debate time. additional time to respond and make their point.

Caruso, as he did in March, launched blanket attacks on the other four candidates, all of whom were elected, linking them to homelessness, rising crime and other ills. The candidates, in turn, defended the idea of ​​public service and accused Caruso of trashing their profession.

“I don’t spend time bashing people in power,” said Caruso – known for developing properties such as the Grove and Americana at Brand, as well as his many years on the Department’s board of directors. of water and electricity and as president of the civilian police station. “What I belittle is elected officials who don’t deliver results.”

The other four candidates strongly rebuffed this argument, saying they had in fact produced results. Bass described his work to free up billions of dollars in federal aid during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Feuer, in turn, touted his work to combat gun proliferation and ensure children with pre-existing conditions get health insurance. Caruso, he said, “chose to build glitzy malls. I chose to fight for the elderly, children and families.

Buscaino and De León highlighted their work on air quality and the environment, and described their efforts to move people off sidewalks and under a roof. De León opened “tiny-home” villages and other temporary housing in its Eastside neighborhood, while Buscaino did the same in neighborhoods near the port.

“Rick, you say you support local elected officials who get the job done, who are results-oriented,” Buscaino said. “Well, I’m your candidate.”

A poll taken about a month ago showed Bass and Caruso in a stalemate well ahead of the rest of the pack, with 24% of likely voters backing Caruso and 23% backing Bass.

De León, who had 6% support in the poll, was a distant third. Buscaino and Feuer are even further behind at 1% and 2%, respectively. The debate presented the three men with another opportunity to try to distinguish themselves to voters and possibly jump out of the pack with just over a month until the June 7 primary.

The rhetoric of De León’s debate was particularly cutting: at one point he lashed out at Caruso, calling him an “accomplished insider” who has always been a politician.

In another memorable moment, the councilman – who is the son of a Guatemalan immigrant and was the only Latino on stage – answered a question about the street vending entirely in Spanish.

“I’m running for mayor because I’m sick of seeing people like my mother left behind, an immigrant woman with a third-grade education who took care of us by taking care of the very wealthy,” he said. said De León at another time.

Activists forcibly evicted ahead of LA mayoral debate

Kevin de León, left, chats with Mike Feuer and Karen Bass at the start of Sunday’s mayoral debate.

(Ringo Chiu / For The Time)

Sunday’s debate became particularly heated when the candidates were asked about the “broken windows” theory of policing – the idea that police officers should enforce petty crimes in a neighborhood to prevent more serious crimes from occurring. settle.

De León argued that Caruso, while serving on the Board of Police Commissioners, used this approach to criminalize homelessness.

“They put you in jail because you were poor or drug addicted,” De León said. “They never did housing, they never built housing…and that’s why we have such a big, gigantic epicenter of homelessness in the city of Los Angeles. They criminalized the homeless -shelter using the broken windows theory.”

“It’s a preposterous lie, and you know it, Kevin,” Caruso replied. “And it’s shameful to say things like that about the good work of the men and women of the LAPD –“

De León interrupted: “I don’t defile members of the LAPD -“

“Yeah, you just did,” Caruso said, adding, “You criticize the men and women of the LAPD who have lowered crime by 30 percent.”

Buscaino attempted to break in to offer his perspective, but ABC 7 anchor Marc Brown, the moderator, cut him short.

“Nobody talks out of turn,” he said.

Towards the end of the debate, Feuer said the city was about to have the outcome of its mayoral race decided by money, rather than merit or values.

“Imagine Mr. Caruso as a candidate with no money. Would this be a viable application? Feuer asked.

Campaign finance revelations show Caruso has spent more than $23 million since entering the race in early February — an unprecedented amount that is more than four times what the other candidates have spent combined. Caruso contributed $22.5 million of his own money to his bid for mayor.

Los Angeles Times

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