Commentary: Meet Long Beach’s New United Left

Nov. 20, 2018 / By

Left counter protestors oppose planned talks by the conservative, some say extreme, Turning Point USA organization on October 24 at Cal State Long Beach. Photos by Ceferino Martirez.

The muffled sound of protest was heard from afar as the marching of students’ feet clashed with the escalating volume of hecklers, both sides looked upon by the squadrons of riot police and the towering blue pyramid at Cal State Long Beach.

Left counter protestors mobilized there late October to fend off right-wing groups, who had assembled to attend talks by conservative pundits of Turning Point USA (TPUSA) Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens at the campus’ auditorium.

From ANTIFA to the Long Beach chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA-LB), many of the far left united in an eclectic fight against what they see as far right elements scourging on American life. Elements that now were fringing on Long Beach’s queer and diverse grounds.

The “newer left” here in greater Long Beach and beyond are shaking up the old guard Democrats with radical policies that are seeing growing traction. Changing the political landscape of the United States of America are left up-and-comers like representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, the youngest female to be elected in Congress, and the first openly gay governor-elect Jared Polis of Colorado.

While these new left candidates run and win offices nationwide, local Long Beach leftists, too, seem on the rise. Many of them were once Long Beach’s immigrant children, raised under fear and isolation but are today grown and now take that experience as keen community organizers to lead intersecting battles on housing, healthcare, and immigration. Having to learn to defend their rights has proven to be the driving force behind their expert activism in Long Beach, marking it as part of their weekly schedule.

One policy they support is Medicare For All, which creates universal access to health care and medical services. Their Sanctuary For All campaign supports the protection of undocumented immigrants. These many policies have roots in massive city-wide organizing on a united front of progressives, leftists and moderates that wish to push for socio-economic reforms.

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Seemingly more organized than in recent years, many of them said their groups had about two weeks to mobilize and plan for the TPUSA counterprotest with around 20 to 30 core members. Security was provided by John Brown’s Gun Club, a multi-leftist organization that trains people of color on firearm defense and gun education. The group did not appear to be armed that day.

“We mobilize and protest and command so that [community] voices must be heard,” said Davis Moss, a Long Beach resident with the Party of Socialism and Liberation (PSL). A woman from the Democratic Socialist of America Long Beach rallied alongside her group to protest TPUSA’s bringing in of “people who are Trump’s supporters, pro-racist… white supremacist, and anti-immigration.”

TPUSA is a self-described libertarian organization that supports states’ rights and the free market. However, Winston De Laurier, another Long Beach resident with PSL, said “TPUSA is a gateway drug… people would be exposed to more fascist or white supremacist news topics.” TPUSA has also been accused by conservatives of “boosting numbers with racists & Nazi sympathizers.”

This is a hostile climate to be doing this work in,” says James Suazo of DSA-Long Beach. “We must stand up to these fascist groups and people who are really there to [cause harm].”

Recruitment into local left activism has become a natural process, Moss said, springing by a simple conversation. “People talking in class, on campus, someone posts something online and people just show up,” said Moss.

It’s the kind of unity missing from much of the American landscape as levels of political partisanship and division elevate in the U.S.

Nevertheless, the left unity on display didn’t come easy. Many of these groups have different goals and disagreements.

“It can [be] difficult to reach a consensus, as [to] how we want to move forward since we all have different tactics,” said Moss. But having one common goal is key. For them, fending off TPUSA was one. “We organized a protest with solidarity with other organizations.”

During the midterm election, many statewide propositions either passed or failed. One of the biggest, Suazo claimed, was the failure of Proposition 10. “Prop. 10 did fail [and it would] have abolished Costa Hawkins and allowed cities to better regulate rent control,” he said.

However, he was happy to see local measures passed in Long Beach, specifically Measure WW, by providing working women panic buttons in hotel services throughout the city and stronger workplace regulations.

However, he was not discouraged over the results of Prop. 10. “It was unfortunate,” he said, “but we’re going to be back doing our on-the-ground work, doing tenant organizing and building relationships, building to building.”

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Ceferino Martirez

Ceferino Martirez is a photojournalist with VoiceWaves. He is a history and history education major at CSULB who joined VoiceWaves in 2018. Martirez’s work focuses on street photography and protest coverage. His work with VoiceWaves has focused on using his photography to capture community voices on issues like housing, labor, and youth rights.