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A National Guardsman Sent To LA Protests Is Under Investigation For Ties To Proud Boys

The California National Guard is investigating a member’s possible ties to the Proud Boys, a neo-fascist group, after he posted a photo of himself standing next to a military vehicle inscribed with one of the group’s slogans while patrolling anti-racist protests in Los Angeles last month. 

Anonymous anti-fascist activists shared the photo with HuffPost, which Sgt. Brian Jackson posted on Facebook last month. After HuffPost inquired about the image, a spokesperson for the California National Guard confirmed on Wednesday that Jackson, a motor transport operator from Bakersfield, California, is now under investigation for ties to the extremist group. 

“We have initiated an investigation and will take appropriate action in accordance with regulations,” Lt. Col. Jonathan Shiroma said in a statement. “Any form of hate speech and extremist behavior is not tolerated, and has no place in the California National Guard.” 

Jackson has not, however, been suspended during the investigation, Shiroma said. It’s unclear how long the investigation will last. 

Jackson was among the roughly 1,000 armed California National Guard troops sent to Los Angeles County in early June to quell the uprising against police brutality, one of many such demonstrations that have swept the country in response to a series of high-profile killings of Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement. 

“Hopefully a quiet night in Canoga Park,” read the caption Jackson posted with the photo on June 2, referring to the Los Angeles neighborhood. 

The message inscribed on the vehicle, “POYB 2020,” is an acronym for “Proud Of Your Boy,” a Proud Boys slogan derived from a song in Disney’s ”Aladdin.”

Some of Jackson’s Facebook friends wrote “POYB” and “Uhuru” — a common Proud Boys chant — in the comments below his photo. 

The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the Proud Boys as a hate group. Its members are explicitly anti-feminist, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant. While the group publicly claims to reject the so-called alt-right and says it allows Black and brown members, its ranks have included many white nationalists and its founder, Gavin McInnes, is deeply racist.

Proud Boys are perhaps best known for violently attacking leftist protesters in the streets, attacks that they discuss and plot in private chat rooms. McInnes once said members could become a high-ranking, or “fourth degree,” Proud Boy if they “kick the crap out of an antifa.”

Jackson did not respond to a request for comment sent via Facebook on Wednesday, and soon after HuffPost sent the message, he deleted multiple racist posts and other evidence related to the Proud Boys from his Facebook page.

“Serious question: what is ‘Black culture?’” Jackson wrote in one post that has since been deleted.

“As far as culture is concerned,” he wrote in a subsequent comment on that post, “why is America so obsessed with endorsing something that seems contrary to polite society and our American values (drugs, weak family structures, criminality, glorification of violence, subjugation of their own people to low expectations and political slavery)?” 

Another since-deleted post featured an advertisement for an April 25 Proud Boys rally against coronavirus lockdown measures. 

Jackson appeared to have attended that April 25 rally, and posted a Facebook Live video from the event. The footage includes a man in the Proud Boy uniform — a black-and-yellow Fred Perry polo shirt — near Jackson.

After HuffPost contacted Jackson this week, he replaced his Facebook profile photo — a graphic with the words “ZERO WHITE GUILT” — with an image of the comedian Will Ferrell. (Proud Boys often describe themselves as “anti-white guilt.”)

Jackson’s current Facebook banner image shows him and other national guardsmen posing with members of the Los Angeles Police Department during the protests last month. 

The Jackson incident comes amid heightened concern about white supremacists and other extremists within law enforcement and the military, especially as those institutions have been deployed to suppress anti-racist protests. In many cities, law enforcement has used violent tactics against protests, including tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray. 

Last month, Right Wing Watch reported that a member of the Ohio National Guard, who had been sent to Washington, D.C., to police protests there, was a white supremacist YouTuber. “They activated my unit and we’re getting real ammunition to shoot and kill,” the Ohio guardsman, Shandon Simpson, allegedly wrote on the social media platform Telegram ahead of his deployment. 

“Rahowa,” Simpson added, using the popular fascist shorthand for “racial holy war.” The FBI later said Simpson had been removed from the protests in D.C. and sent home. Simpson has since said he was discharged from the Ohio National Guard. 

Vice News also reported that at least one member of a private chat group for so-called Boogaloo Bois — a far-right movement hoping to hasten a violent civil war in the U.S. — claimed to be a Pennsylvania National Guardsman getting ready to deploy to protests in Philadelphia. 

And in Wilmington, North Carolina, last month, three white police officers — who haven’t been connected to any extremist groups — were fired after they were caught on a patrol car camera using racial slurs while discussing murdering Black protesters. 

“We are just going to go out and start slaughtering them fucking niggers,” one officer said. 

“Wipe ’em off the fucking map,” the same officer said of Black Americans. “That’ll put ’em back about four or five generations.”

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Business

Los Angeles Coronavirus Update: County Health Officials Warn Of Looming Hospital Bed Shortage

COVID-19 continued to put pressure on the Los Angeles County hospital system today, with the number of patients continuing its upward march as the county confirmed a near-record 2,779 new cases. That lifted the countywide total to 103,850.

Public health officials warned Monday that the spiking numbers of coronavirus cases could cause the county to run out of hospital beds in the next two to three weeks, and out of intensive care unit beds potentially sooner.

Asked if this is a make-or-break week, L.A. County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said, “We can’t sustain this rate of increase in positive cases. This train can be a runaway train if we don’t put the breaks on it. We have to get our heads back into this new normal.”

As of Tuesday, the county reported 1,783 people in hospitals due to the virus, continuing an upward trend that has seen the number jump by more than 400 over the past month.

The county also announced another 45 deaths, which was one of its highest numbers in the past week. The new deaths gave the county an overall total of 3,371.

As of Tuesday, about 9 percent of the more than 1.1 million people tested in the county have been positive for the virus. The short-term positivity rate has been increasing, raising further concerns in the county about spiking numbers and the possibility of an overwhelmed health system. The seven-day average of the daily positivity rate has increased from 5.8 percent two weeks ago to 8.4 percent as of Monday. For reference, state guidelines will not allow a county to reopen with a 14-day positivity rate over 8 percent.

The rate of positive tests in California-at-large over the last 14 days is 5.6 percent. California’s hospitalizations due to COVID-19 increased by 301 patients on Tuesday, a 6.3 percent jump. Thirty percent of all ICU beds in the state were occupied by coronavirus patients.

“In [sic] particular concern is the number of hospitalizations and the number of ICU beds,” said Governor Gavin Newsom after announcing those numbers.

The number COVID patients in ICU beds grew 4.3 percent overnight and saw a 37 percent increase over a two-week period.

The governor said the positivity rate of new tests was 4.4 percent two weeks ago. Now, over the past 7 days, it’s 5.9 percent.

L.A. County health officials on Monday said new statistics indicate that on average, one in every 140 people in Los Angeles County is infected with COVID- 19 and capable of spreading it to others, likely without having any symptoms or even knowing they are carrying the virus. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said that figure may actually be closer to one in 70. That’s a dramatic change from last week, when the estimate was one in every 400 people.

“What this means is that Angelenos in the activities of daily living when they go out are very likely to be in the locations or near persons who are currently infectious, and in fact a large typical store is likely to have multiple infectious persons enter the shop every day,” Dr. Roger Lewis, who leads the county’s statistical modeling efforts, said Monday.

Some pundits have attributed the rise in overall cases to increases in testing, but county officials have said repeatedly in recent days that the metrics clearly demonstrate an increase in community spread of COVID-19.

Health officials said Friday that cases affecting younger people between 18 and 40 have jumped by 42 percent over the past two weeks, making that age group the driving factor in the increases. Interestingly, due to overall better health, that cohort is less likely to be hospitalized that people over 40, the age group that had previously made up the largest portion of cases.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday ordered all bars closed in Los Angeles County, and he hinted Tuesday that more statewide restrictions could be on tap in an effort to prevent an explosion of virus cases over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. He also said he may announce stepped-up enforcement of the state’s requirement that people wear masks while in public.

Los Angeles County announced Monday that all of its beaches will be closed over the holiday weekend in hopes of preventing large gatherings. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who is embroiled in a continuing budget battle with the County Board of Supervisors, suggested Monday his agency might not enforce the beach closure order.

On Tuesday, Villanueva wrote on Twitter, “Enforcement efforts will be focused on vehicle & penal code violations, beach parking lot closures & street parking restrictions. (Sheriff’s) beach patrol will be patrolling the county beaches to ensure public safety.”

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Business

California Shuts Bars in L.A., Other Counties, as Virus Cases Climb

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Some California residents hoping to celebrate Independence Day in a bar will now have to change their plans.

Bars are required to shut in seven counties — including Los Angeles — and they’re recommended to close in eight others, including Sacramento and Santa Barbara, following a surge in coronavirus cases, according to an order by Governor Gavin Newsom on Sunday.

The number of new cases climbed by 4,810 yesterday in the Golden State, almost eight times the additions reported by New York, which has the highest number of infections in the country. While the latest data from California is down from a few record-breaking days in the past week, they’re still significantly higher than in May, when the daily case count was barely exceeding 3,000.

“COVID-19 is still circulating in California, and in some parts of the state, growing stronger,” Newsom said in a statement. “That’s why it is critical we take this step.”

Los Angeles County remains the epicenter of the outbreak in California, reporting an additional 2,542 cases, more than half of the new infections statewide.

“While it’s disappointing to take a step back on our economic recovery journey, it’s critical that we protect the health of our residents and protect the capacity in our health-care system,” Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director public health, said in a statement.

Earlier this week, saloons in Texas were also ordered to close, and Florida suspended alcohol consumption at bars. The two states have become new hot spots as cases there continue to surge. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said the surge was in part due to young people socializing in indoor environment with air-conditioning as the weather gets warmer.

Alcohol consumption reduces inhibition and impairs judgment, leading to reduced compliance with mask-wearing and social distancing measures. Bars are also generally louder environments where people raise their voice, with greater projection of droplets, the guidance by California warned.

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