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California governor defends progressive values, says they're an 'antidote' to populism on the right

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California governor defends progressive values, says they're an 'antidote' to populism on the right
News

News

California governor defends progressive values, says they're an 'antidote' to populism on the right

2024-06-26 03:37 Last Updated At:03:40

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Gavin Newsom used his State of the State address on Tuesday to boost President Joe Biden ahead of Thursday's pivotal presidential debate, comparing Donald Trump's version of the Republican Party to the rise of fascism prior to World War II and offering Democrats' ideals as “an antidote to the poisonous populism of the right.”

Nowhere in Newsom's speech — which was prerecorded and posted online to his social media channels in a departure from decades of tradition — did he mention Trump or Biden by name. But he used some of Trump's most incendiary statements to offer a dark contrast of the choice facing Americans in November, comparing it to the eve of World War II when “fascism spread its hate and destruction throughout Europe.”

“When they speak of immigrants poisoning American blood, and of mass deportations and detention camps, this is the language of destruction — of 1939,” Newsom said.

Trump made those comments about immigrants “poisoning the blood of our country” during a campaign rally in Iowa last year, later saying he did not know that Adolf Hitler had once said something similar. Still, the comments have become a key talking point for the left as they paint Trump's candidacy as a warning for a dark future.

The political tone of Newsom's speech was not surprising given his role as one of the Biden campaign's top surrogates, which has made him a target of Republicans who have repeatedly held up California as an example of Democrats' mismanagement. They have pointed to the state's $46.8 billion budget deficit, high tax rates, large homeless population and the proliferation of property crimes in its largest cities — acts which have been captured in viral social media clips.

Much of Newsom's speech was devoted to pushing back against that narrative, referring to “delusional California bashers” whose “success depends on our failure.” He noted California's violent crime rate is about half of what it was at its peak in 1992. He said property crime in San Francisco has fallen as has the overall crime rate across the bay in Oakland — where Newsom recently deployed 120 California Highway Patrol officers.

“This is because in California, we take public safety seriously. We take it as a problem to solve, not just to flog on cable news,” he said. “While it’s true that California has among the toughest felony theft thresholds in the nation, we will do more to go after professional theft rings more forcefully.”

On homelessness, Newsom pointed to the more active role the state has taken under his administration, including spending billions of dollars to create programs that provided 15,300 units of housing and provided shelter for more than 71,000 people. But a state audit released earlier this year chided his administration for not tracking how effective the state's homelessness spending — more than $24 billion over five years — has been.

Newsom defended his decision to sign a law raising the minimum wage for fast food workers to $20 an hour, a raise that businesses have blamed for increasing customer costs. And he boasted about California's economy that, were it an independent country, would rank as the fifth largest in the world — saying California has added 63,000 new millionaires since 2019.

“Here is a simple question for Republicans: If California is a failed state, why are four of the seven most valuable companies in the world based here?” he said, referring to Apple, Nvidia, and the parent companies of Google and Facebook. “The best minds in the world call California home because they’re liberated from the constraints of conformity and tradition. This is true freedom — to invent and make the world a better place.”

Newsom's speech comes a few weeks after a statewide survey from the Public Policy Institute of California found 59% of likely voters believed California is headed in the wrong direction while 52% disapprove of the way Newsom is handling his job as governor. The survey was based on responses from 1,098 likely voters with a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

Republicans criticized Newsom for not giving a public speech, holding their own in-person rebuttal on the steps of the state Capitol about an hour after Newsom’s speech started on social media. James Gallagher, the Republican leader of the state Assembly, called Newsom “defensive” and “unhinged.”

“To sit here and talk about venture capitalists when the majority of Californians are struggling, to me, is tone deaf,” Gallagher said. “It was not a real addressing of the problems that Californians are facing.”

Newsom chose to deliver a speech for the smartphone era, opting to upload a prerecorded video across his social media channels instead of delivering a formal speech before a packed house of state lawmakers.

The Democratic governor, now in his second term, has never been a big fan of formal speeches, given the difficulty his dyslexia gives him while reading from a teleprompter in live time. Last year, Newsom skipped the speech entirely, instead embarking on a statewide tour to announce a series of major policy proposals in a more informal setting that allowed for questions from reporters.

California's Constitution requires the governor to update the Legislature every year “on the condition of the state.” Prior to World War II, California governors would do this by sending a letter to the Legislature. That changed with Gov. Earl Warren — the future chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court — who decided to give a formal speech to the Legislature.

Republican state Sen. Brian Dahle speaks with reporters as Republican Assembly member James Gallagher looks on during a news conference outside the California Capitol on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, in Sacramento, Calif. Dahle and Gallagher criticized Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom for delivering a prerecorded State of the State address. (AP Photo/Adam Beam)

Republican state Sen. Brian Dahle speaks with reporters as Republican Assembly member James Gallagher looks on during a news conference outside the California Capitol on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, in Sacramento, Calif. Dahle and Gallagher criticized Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom for delivering a prerecorded State of the State address. (AP Photo/Adam Beam)

FILE - California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a rally, June 7, 2024, in San Francisco. Newsom used his State of the State address on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, to boost President Joe Biden ahead of Thursday's pivotal presidential debate, comparing Donald Trump's version of the Republican Party to the rise of fascism prior to World War II and offering Democrats' ideals as "an antidote to the poisonous populism of the right." (Jessica Christian/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, File)

FILE - California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a rally, June 7, 2024, in San Francisco. Newsom used his State of the State address on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, to boost President Joe Biden ahead of Thursday's pivotal presidential debate, comparing Donald Trump's version of the Republican Party to the rise of fascism prior to World War II and offering Democrats' ideals as "an antidote to the poisonous populism of the right." (Jessica Christian/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, File)

FILE - California Gov. Gavin Newsom answers a reporters question about his revised 2024-25 state budget during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, May 10, 2024. Newsom used his State of the State address on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, to boost President Joe Biden ahead of Thursday's pivotal presidential debate, comparing Donald Trump's version of the Republican Party to the rise of fascism prior to World War II and offering Democrats' ideals as "an antidote to the poisonous populism of the right." (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

FILE - California Gov. Gavin Newsom answers a reporters question about his revised 2024-25 state budget during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, May 10, 2024. Newsom used his State of the State address on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, to boost President Joe Biden ahead of Thursday's pivotal presidential debate, comparing Donald Trump's version of the Republican Party to the rise of fascism prior to World War II and offering Democrats' ideals as "an antidote to the poisonous populism of the right." (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Wednesday marks 10 years since the death of Eric Garner at the hands of New York City police officers made “I can't breathe” a rallying cry.

Bystander video showed Garner gasping the phrase while locked in a police chokehold and spurred Black Lives Matter protests in New York and across the country. More demonstrations followed weeks later when Michael Brown, an 18-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, on Aug. 9, 2014.

Six years later, George Floyd was recorded uttering the exact same words as he begged for air while a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck, killing him and sparking a new wave of mass protests.

On Wednesday, Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, commemorated her son, noting there has since been an increase in the use of video cameras by police and changes to state law. Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who restrained Garner, was fired in 2019.

“We know that the police have a tough job, but when there’s wrongdoing, when we have those bad apples in the police department, we have to get rid of them because we don’t want to see another innocent citizen get hurt, you know, by the police or gun violence,” said Carr at the start of a march on Staten Island, the borough where her son died.

A decade after his death, she remembers his love of Christmas, and said she has days when she can’t find the strength to get out of bed.

Garner died after a July 17, 2014, confrontation with Pantaleo and other officers who suspected that he was selling loose, untaxed cigarettes on the street.

Video showed Pantaleo, who is white, wrapping an arm around the neck of Garner, who was Black, as they struggled and fell to the sidewalk. “I can't breathe,” Garner gasped repeatedly, before losing consciousness. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Authorities in New York determined that Pantaleo had used a chokehold banned by the New York Police Department in the 1990s, and the city medical examiner’s office ruled Garner’s death a homicide, but neither state nor federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against Pantaleo or any of the other officers who were present.

“Even if we could prove that Officer Pantaleo’s hold of Mr. Garner constituted unreasonable force, we would still have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Pantaleo acted willfully in violation of the law,” Richard Donoghue, then the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, said in announcing in 2019 that no federal civil rights charges would be brought.

Garner's family settled a lawsuit against New York City for $5.9 million but continued to seek justice in the form of a judicial inquiry into Garner's death in 2021.

The judicial proceeding, which took place virtually because of the pandemic, was held under a provision of the city's charter that lets citizens petition the court for a public inquiry into “any alleged violation or neglect of duty in relation to the property, government or affairs of the city.” The purpose of the inquiry was to establish a record of the case rather than to find anyone guilty or innocent.

One of the attorneys representing Garner's family was civil rights lawyer Alvin Bragg, who was then campaigning for Manhattan district attorney, a post he won in November of that year.

Bragg, who successfully prosecuted former President Donald Trump for hush money payments to a porn actor this year, praised Carr and other members of Garner's family on Tuesday.

“While I am still deeply pained by the loss of Eric Garner, I am in awe of his family’s strength and moved by their commitment to use his legacy as a force for change,” Bragg said. “Their courage continues to inspire me as district attorney, and I pledge to always honor Mr. Garner’s memory by working towards a safer, fairer and more equal city.”

Mayor Eric Adams, a former police officer, said during a news conference Tuesday that he remembered Garner's death “like yesterday.”

Adams, who was serving as Brooklyn borough president when Garner died, said he prays that there will never be another “Eric Garner situation” again.

FILE - Esaw Garner, center, wife of Eric Garner, breaks down in the arms of Rev. Herbert Daughtry and Rev. Al Sharpton, right, during a rally at the National Action Network headquarters for Eric Garner, July 19, 2014, in New York. Wednesday, July 17, 2024 marks 10 years since the chokehold death of Eric Garner at the hands of New York City police officers who were trying to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

FILE - Esaw Garner, center, wife of Eric Garner, breaks down in the arms of Rev. Herbert Daughtry and Rev. Al Sharpton, right, during a rally at the National Action Network headquarters for Eric Garner, July 19, 2014, in New York. Wednesday, July 17, 2024 marks 10 years since the chokehold death of Eric Garner at the hands of New York City police officers who were trying to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

FILE — Gwen Carr, left, mother of Eric Garner, and his sister Ellisha Garner, hug during a rally at the National Action Network headquarters, July 26, 2014, in New York. Wednesday, July 17, 2024 marks 10 years since the chokehold death of Eric Garner at the hands of New York City police officers who were trying to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

FILE — Gwen Carr, left, mother of Eric Garner, and his sister Ellisha Garner, hug during a rally at the National Action Network headquarters, July 26, 2014, in New York. Wednesday, July 17, 2024 marks 10 years since the chokehold death of Eric Garner at the hands of New York City police officers who were trying to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

FILE - Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, speaks during a news conference after leaving court in New York, May 9, 2019. Wednesday, July 17, 2024 marks 10 years since the chokehold death of Eric Garner at the hands of New York City police officers who were trying to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

FILE - Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, speaks during a news conference after leaving court in New York, May 9, 2019. Wednesday, July 17, 2024 marks 10 years since the chokehold death of Eric Garner at the hands of New York City police officers who were trying to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

FILE — A young boy stops as he passes a makeshift memorial for Eric Garner, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, in the Staten Island borough of New York. Wednesday, July 17, 2024 marks 10 years since the chokehold death of Eric Garner at the hands of New York City police officers who were trying to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

FILE — A young boy stops as he passes a makeshift memorial for Eric Garner, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, in the Staten Island borough of New York. Wednesday, July 17, 2024 marks 10 years since the chokehold death of Eric Garner at the hands of New York City police officers who were trying to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

FILE - A rally of mostly young people protest in Federal Plaza, in New York, against the decision by federal prosecutors not to bring civil rights charges against New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo for the 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner, July 17, 2019.. Wednesday, July 17, 2024 marks 10 years since the chokehold death of Eric Garner at the hands of New York City police officers who were trying to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

FILE - A rally of mostly young people protest in Federal Plaza, in New York, against the decision by federal prosecutors not to bring civil rights charges against New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo for the 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner, July 17, 2019.. Wednesday, July 17, 2024 marks 10 years since the chokehold death of Eric Garner at the hands of New York City police officers who were trying to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

FILE - Activists with Black Lives Matter protest in the Harlem neighborhood of New York, Tuesday, July 16, 2019, in the wake of a decision by federal prosecutors who declined to bring civil rights charges against New York City police Officer Daniel Pantaleo, in the 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner. Wednesday, July 17, 2024 marks 10 years since the chokehold death of Eric Garner at the hands of New York City police officers who were trying to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File)

FILE - Activists with Black Lives Matter protest in the Harlem neighborhood of New York, Tuesday, July 16, 2019, in the wake of a decision by federal prosecutors who declined to bring civil rights charges against New York City police Officer Daniel Pantaleo, in the 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner. Wednesday, July 17, 2024 marks 10 years since the chokehold death of Eric Garner at the hands of New York City police officers who were trying to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File)

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