By T.A. Hendrickson
In the 10th week of the coronavirus shutdown in Los Angeles, as this June issue of the Boulevard Sentinel was being finalized, the city, still struggling to escape the grip of the pandemic, was seized again – by peaceful protest turned violent in the wake of the shocking killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd, a black man, by a white police officer.
The violence has not reached Northeast Los Angeles directly, but the repercussions and reckoning surely will.
Near-term reverberations from the unrest will include the impact of throngs in the streets on the spread of the novel coronavirus and, by extension, efforts to reopen the economy.
An even deeper challenge will be to confront the racial and ethnic dimensions of the city’s – and nation’s — most pressing issues. Racist policing is a scourge. But homelessness, poor housing and other big problems – including Covid-19 – also disproportionately affect African American and Latinos, an unconscionable circumstance that demands a remedy.
Mayor Eric Garcetti alluded to this on Sunday: “We can lead the movement against racism without fear of violence or vandalism,” he said, vowing to protect the rights of peaceful protesters even as he imposed a second night of curfew to safeguard against rioters.
Meanwhile, the pandemic is still a major threat. As of May 29, there had been 1,124 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Northeast L.A. and, as of May 28, 56 deaths, according to data compiled by the Eastsider from the L.A. County Department of Public Health. The tally covers areas in and near Eagle Rock, El Sereno, Elysian Valley, Glassell Park, Highland Park, Hermon, Lincoln Heights, Montecito Heights and Mount Washington. On Sunday, May 31, the county reported 1,379 new cases and 25 new deaths countywide.
The pandemic also continues to take its toll on local businesses. Several business owners told the Boulevard Sentinel that they received low-interest rate loans in May from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, among them Mathnasium, Dr. Elliott Caine Optometry, Café de Leche, Relentless Brewing and Spirits and Eagle Claw Kung Fu & Tai Chi. But some of the owners said the money would only see them through another month or so.
The expectation of business owners and local officials is that the economy will continue to reopen in stages. But it’s too soon to gauge the extent to which reopening will boost business. How comfortable will people be venturing out? How quickly will unemployment come down from the highs reached in recent months? Government relief efforts – stimulus payments, unemployment benefits, subsidized business loans – are keeping many people afloat for now, but they are time limited. The duration of the pandemic and its economic effects are as yet open ended.
Life does go on, but different. In covering NELA’s high school Class of 2020, the Boulevard Sentinel learned that many graduates have altered their college plans due to pandemic-related concerns. Our latest coverage of high school sports, normally celebratory at this time of year, is instead an honor roll of senior varsity athletes who were deprived by school closures of their final season.
On another front, the Sentinel has reported on how the pandemic has depressed the response rate in NELA to the 2020 Census and on neighborhood business being conducted via Zoom, including an upcoming decision by the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council meeting on whether to support a major new development proposed in Eagle Rock.
Community has been and will continue to be the saving grace during this difficult time with neighbors helping neighbors, while nonprofits, church leaders, and union and elected officials step up and pitch in.
We are being tested.