COUNTY SHOWS IMPROVEMENT IN COVID-19, BUT NOT YET ENOUGH TO ALLOW REOPENINGS

WILL BILLS TO PROTECT AGAINST FORECLOSURE WIN PASSAGE IN TIME TO SAVE HOMES AND BUSINESSES? WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO PROTECT YOUR PROPERTY

MAN ARRESTED FOR BATTERY OF PROTESTERS IN LA MESA; ECM PHOTOGRAPHER ALSO ATTACKED

OUR 2020 JOURNALISM TEAM

NEW DAWN UNDERGROUND: NEW NOVEL BY LOCAL AUTHOR AMANDA MATTI

CRISIS HOUSE GETS EXTENSION FROM CITY ON RELOCATION AID

6 IN 10 ADULT SAN DIEGANS FACE SEVERE IMPACTS IF THEY CONTRACT COVID-19

LOCAL FIREFIGHTERS DISPATCHED TO BATTLE APPLE FIRE IN RIVERSIDE COUNTY: THOUSANDS EVACUATED

LA MESA POLICE ISSUE WARNING ABOUT PROTEST SATURDAY, CITY BANS OBJECTS THAT CAN BE USED AS WEAPONS IN AREA AROUND PUBLIC BUILDINGS

COUNCILMAN JERRY JONES ANNOUNCES RUN FOR MAYOR IN LEMON GROVE

READER’S EDITORIAL: ARAB AMERICANS ARE AN INVISIBLE ETHNIC GROUP WHEN IT COMES TO HEALTH CARE DISPARITIES

AMAURIE JOHNSON SUES CITY OF LA MESA OVER ALLEGED POLICE MISCONDUCT

News

CITY OF SAN DIEGO ENACTS RENTAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM

East County News Service

 

August 4, 2020 (San Diego) – San Diego’s City Council has enacted a new program with payments of up to $4,000 per qualifying household to help with past-due or upcoming rental payments.  If you need help, the COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program can assist low-income families in the City of San Diego who experience financial hardship due to COVID-19. 


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COUNTY SHOWS IMPROVEMENT IN COVID-19, BUT NOT YET ENOUGH TO ALLOW REOPENINGS

By Miriam Raftery

August 4, 2020 (San Diego) – Since landing on the state’s watch list for three triggers that forced renewed shutdowns of many businesses, San Diego County is finally making progress toward reducing spread of COVID-19. But those improvements are not yet enough to ease restrictions.

Here are the triggers, the progress, and what still needs to happen to enable schools and businesses to reopen in our region.


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WILL BILLS TO PROTECT AGAINST FORECLOSURE WIN PASSAGE IN TIME TO SAVE HOMES AND BUSINESSES? WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO PROTECT YOUR PROPERTY

By Miriam Raftery

August 4, 2020 (San Diego) – Five months into the COVID-19 crisis, many Americans still remain jobless, with millions of businesses shut down or operating at reduced revenues.  Unemployment benefits and stimulus check funds are running out for many who are struggling to pay their mortgages. Bills to provide long-term protection against foreclosure due to the pandemic have thus far stalled in Congress and the California Legislature, though a revised bill in Sacramento still offers hope for some. 

A measure to protect some commercial property holders is also in the works, such as hotels, retail, apartments/condominiums, industrial and commercial offices.

But will these measures win passage in time to prevent mass foreclosures, if they are enacted at all?  The federal CARES ACT in March temporarily halted foreclosures for nonpayment due to COVID-19 on federally backed home loans, an action Congress extended short term until August 31. Many other property owners have had no protections at all. On July 31, the $600 a month extra unemployment benefit also ended, putting more Americans in dire straits.

Advocates say impacted consumers and business owners should let their legislators know of their needs. Among our local legislators, some have been supportive and one is a coauthor of Congressional legislation. But others have been tone deaf, including an East County legislative representative who voted against mortgage relief for homeowners.


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COUNTY CHARGES RAMONA FITNESS CENTER OWNER FOR DEFYING PUBLIC HEALTH ORDERS

By East County News Service

File photo of treadmills via Bing

August 3, 2020 (Ramona) – The owner of the Ramona Fitness Center could face up to 30 months in jail or a $5,000 fine for allegedly staying open in violating of state and county public health orders.

According to a criminal complaint filed Friday by the San Diego County District Attorney, Peter San Nicolas committed the violations on June 2, 4 and 5 as well as on July 15 and 17.  Each violation is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail or a $1,000 fine.

All gyms were ordered closed in mid-March. In mid-June, they were briefly allowed to reopen, then shut down again in mid-July for indoor activities.


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DISEASE OUTBREAK STRIKES CALIFORNIA DEER HERDS

Source:  Calif. Dept of Fish and Wildlife 

Photo by Miriam Raftery

August 3, 2020 (San Diego) - The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has confirmed outbreaks of adenovirus hemorrhagic disease in deer in several northern California counties, and is asking California residents to help curb the spread by not feeding wild animals, and reporting potential cases to the department.


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MAN ARRESTED FOR BATTERY OF PROTESTERS IN LA MESA; ECM PHOTOGRAPHER ALSO ATTACKED

View video of first attack on photographer 

View video of second attack 

 

Help us identify the attackers. If you recognize either of these assailants, please contact editor@eastcountymagazine.org

 

Story and photos by Henri Migala

 

Updated August 4: Scott McMillan of La Mesa Civil Defense group denies a claim from a witness who reported seeing a gun. McMillan indicated he had a taser and that his members are told not to carry guns when wearing the group's yellow vests. "Yellow vests have pepper spray, electric shock devices, but whle in the vest NO GUNS. Hard rule," he posted on Facebook after Kern's claim.

 

August 3, 2020 (La Mesa) -- La Mesa was once again the setting of a demonstration in support of racial justice and against police brutality on Saturday, August 1. Ironically, both protesters and counter-protesters aggressively sought to prevent media coverage by multiple outlets, raising the question of why many on both sides wanted to demonstrate their views without press coverage. 


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OUR 2020 JOURNALISM TEAM

Reflecting the diverse voices in our communities

 

East County Magazine has significantly expanded our reporting and production team in 2020, thanks to our Facebook Journalism Grant. 

Here is our lineup of talent for our award-winning online news coverage, radio show, and new in 2020, virtual productions on issues that matter in San Diego’s East County during the pandemic--when timely and accurate news is more important than ever.


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CRISIS HOUSE GETS EXTENSION FROM CITY ON RELOCATION AID

Relocating will likely force Crisis House to end walk-in day services for the homeless and rely more on outreach to homeless on the streets or in parks to direct them into housing programs

By Miriam Raftery

August 2, 2020 (El Cajon) – By a unanimous vote, El Cajon’s City Council on Tuesday approved giving Crisis House until December 31st to vacate its current location on city-owned property and still qualify for $700,000 under an early lease termination agreement.  Crisis House, which provides services to the homeless and to victims of domestic violence, has been leasing city property for $1 a year for the past 26 years.

In an earlier decision, the Council had given Crisis House only three months, until September 30th, to get out and receive the maximum $700,000 amount, though a diminishing amount of funds would have been offered to aid in relocation through when the lease ends next summer.  Under the new arrangement, Crisis House will no longer receive anything if it stays past Dec. 31.


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6 IN 10 ADULT SAN DIEGANS FACE SEVERE IMPACTS IF THEY CONTRACT COVID-19

That’s because about 57% of San Diego County adults have pre-existing medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart and lung disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity.

San Diegans with underlying chronic conditions are at increased risks of serious outcomes if they contract COVID-19, requiring to be hospitalized, placed in intensive care or worse, dying.

To date, 95% of San Diegans who died from COVID-19 had underlying medical condition(s).

“COVID-19 deaths can be prevented,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “It’s important to remember that our actions matter. We must all do all we can to prevent from contracting and spreading the virus.”

It’s true that younger San Diegans with COVID-19 typically don’t need to be hospitalized. That is not the case for older adults. Of the 2,459 people who were hospitalized due to COVID-19, about 52% were 60 years of age or older.


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LOCAL FIREFIGHTERS DISPATCHED TO BATTLE APPLE FIRE IN RIVERSIDE COUNTY: THOUSANDS EVACUATED

 

Update August 3, 2020:  San Bernadino National Forest reports this morning that the fire is now five percent contained, with acreage and evacuations remaining the same as yesterday.

Update August 2, 2020:  The #AppleFire has scorched over 20,000 acres and remain zero percent contained. Find new evacuation orders here:  https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/2020/7/31/apple-fire/.  The fire is now burning in both Riverside and San Bernadino Counties. New evacuation areas include Banning, Potato Canyon, and some areas north of Morongo Road.

View dramatic video of the Apple Fire burning during the night behind the Morongo Casino:  https://twitter.com/i/status/1290098105291911168

By Miriam Raftery

Photo courtesy of Cleveland National Forest

August 1, 2020 (Riverside County) – San Miguel Firefighters are among crews battling the fast-moving #AppleFire, which has scorched over  12,000 acres in neighboring Riverside County, forcing evacuation of 4,800 people.  Tonight, Cal Fire confirms that at least one home and two outbuildings have been destroyed, with many structures threatened.

At nightfall, the fire remains zero percent contained.


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FREEWAY CLOSURES IN LA MESA TODAY

August 1, 2020 (La Mesa) -- The following freeway off/on ramps and interchange will be closed as of 2:30 p.m. today due to a planned protest, the city of La Mesa announced at 1 p.m. today.:

 

Southbound SR 125 to Westbound Interstate 8 Interchange

El Cajon Boulevard offramp from Interstate 8 Westbound

Jackson Boulevard onramp to Westbound Interstate 8

Spring Street offramp from Eastbound Interstate 8


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LA MESA POLICE ISSUE WARNING ABOUT PROTEST SATURDAY, CITY BANS OBJECTS THAT CAN BE USED AS WEAPONS IN AREA AROUND PUBLIC BUILDINGS

By Miriam Raftery

July 31, 2020 (La Mesa) – The La Mesa Police Department has issued a press release warning of a protest planned Saturday, August 1 starting at 3:30 p.m. by organizers who have not responded to inquiries from LMPD. In addition,  City Manager Greg Humora has issued an emergency order banning many weapons and objects that may be used as riot tools in a restricted area around civic buildings from noon tomorrow through 5:30  a.m. Sunday. Banned items including sticks on protest signs, bats, guns, knives, explosives, glass bottles, spray paint, and many more objects.

A flyer circulated online touting the protest over police use of force issues indicated that “civil disobedience” was planned and urged participants not to bring children, indicating the event is for age 18 and up. The flyer has prompted uneasiness among downtown merchants, some of whom have boarded up storefronts in anticipation of potential civil unrest once again.


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FEDERAL LOANS AVAILABLE TO HELP SMALL BUSINESSES AFFECTED BY CIVIL UNREST

By Miriam Raftery
 
July 31, 2020 (San Diego) -- Low-interest federal disaster loans are available to help small businesses across San Diego County that were affected by civil unrest which began May 26, 2020, if they do not have the financial ability to offset the adverse impact without hardship.

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COUNCILMAN JERRY JONES ANNOUNCES RUN FOR MAYOR IN LEMON GROVE

By Miriam Raftery

 

Photo by Jonathan Goetz

 

July 31, 2020 (Lemon Grove) – Lemon Grove Councilman Jerry Jones has posted an announcement on Facebook, stating, “After much thought and waking up every morning saying no, I have changed my mind and have pulled papers to run for Mayor.”


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BUSINESSES MUST DISCLOSE COVID-19 OUTBREAKS TO WORKERS, BUT NO LONGER HAS TO TEST MOST RETURNING EMPLOYEES

By Miriam Raftery

July 31, 2020 (San Diego) – Employers across San Diego County must now disclose to all employees if an outbreak of COVID 19, defined as three or more cases within 14 days, occurs at the workplace. The mandate was issued by Dr. Wilma Wooten, the County’s public health officer, NBC 7 reports.


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AMAURIE JOHNSON SUES CITY OF LA MESA OVER ALLEGED POLICE MISCONDUCT

By Miriam Raftery

Photo by Kendra Sitton

July 31, 2020 (La Mesa) – Amaurie Johnson, 23, whose controversial arrest near the Grossmont Trolley station sparked protests and accusations of racial profiling, has filed a law suit against the city of La Mesa and arresting officer Matt Dages.

On May 27, La Mesa Police have stated that Johnson, who is Black, was stopped for smoking in public and later arrested for allegedly assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest.  After a May 30-31 protest and civil unrest, police later released footage from multiple body cameras which largely failed to back up the officer’s claims, showing Johnson touch Officer Dages, who is White, for a fleeting moment after Dages had grabbed Johnson by the shirt and Johnson vociferously objected.

LMPD announced that it would not pursue prosecution of Johnson and dropped the charges.

According to the lawsuit filed in federal court, the officer lacked probable cause for the arrest. (A search of Dages failed to find any smoking materials or illegal substances).  The suit also contends that Johnson was the target of police violence due to his race.


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THEATERS IN THE TIME OF COVID

 
By David L. Coddon
 
Photo:  House of Joy, a virtual production of San Diego Repertory Theatre, courtesy of San Diego Repertory Theatre via Zoom productions.
 
July 30, 2020 (San Diego) - Lamplighters Community Theatre in La Mesa has been producing for 82 seasons, but no season presented the artistic and financial challenges of its proposed 83rd.
 
Photo, right:  Beethoven, a Zoom production by San Diego Repertory Theatre, courtesy of San Diego Repertory Theatre via Zoom productions
“We’re just trying to figure out what to do,” said Paul Ericson, president of Lamplighters’ board of directors. “It’s very difficult to plan anything.”

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INNOVATION AND COVID-19: LATEST RESEARCH FINDINGS ON TREATMENTS, VACCINES AND ANTIBODIES TESTING



In this ongoing series about impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic,  ECM explores innovations in research and advances in the innovation community toward finding treatments, vaccines, and a test for antibodies.

 

By Helen Horvath

 

July 30, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- We all probably know of someone who has had COVID-19. This virus hit home earlier this month, when my 30-year-old nephew was diagnosed with COVID-19 after working as a contractor in Bakersfield at an Amazon facility, where employees reportedly had COVID-19.  Contrary to the typical media images of people ill with COVID-19 who are hospitalized and on ventilators, my nephew was one of the approximately 75% of people who have been able to manage their coronavirus symptoms at home through doctor’s guidance and a 14-day quarantine. Everyone in my nephew’s home is now quarantined. 


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SYRIAN FAMILY STRUGGLES TO COPE WITH COVID-19

By Kendra Sitton

Photo by Henri Migala:  Asim Al-Abdullah worries about his family’s future
 
July 30, 2020 (El Cajon) - Everyone faces different struggles during the pandemic, such as health, financial or isolation. For a Syrian family of seven living in El Cajon, their primary struggle is psychological. 

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HOUSE FIRE DISPLACES LA MESA RESIDENT

By Miriam Raftery

July 29, 2020 (La Mesa) – A home in La Mesa was destroyed Tuesday, last night, in a fire that also caused minor damage to a neighboring residence.

Crews from Heartland Fire & Rescue in La Mesa and Lemon Grove responded, along with San Miguel Fire and San Diego Fire departments, to the blaze reported in the 4900 block of Williams Avenue in La Mesa around 8:15 p.m.

Fire crews arrived within six minutes to discover a  one-story single family dwelling with heavy fire and smoke.


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BEWARE OF SCAMMERS POSING AS DEA AGENTS

East County News Service

July 29,2020 (Washington D.C.) – The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is warning the public to be cautious of telephone calls by scammers posing as DEA employees attempting to defraud and extort victims.

The schemers call the victims, spoofing DEA phone numbers in order to appear legitimate, and threaten arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment for supposed violations of federal drug laws or involvement in drug-trafficking activities unless victims pay a “fine” over the phone, via wire transfer, or through a gift card.

The reported scam tactics continually change but often share many of the same characteristics. Callers use fake names and badge numbers or names of well-known DEA officials and may:


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ASSESSING THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON THE SAN DIEGO AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY: PART TWO

 

ECM interviews Dr. Rodney G. Hood, CEO and Managing Partner at Careview Medical Group, Inc. and president of the Multicultural Health Foundation, on health disparities impacting African Americans locally and nationally 

By Angela de Joseph

July 29, 2020 (San Diego) -- California is known for sunshine and earthquakes. Today, in the middle of summer, we are being shaken to our core by a global pandemic that is showing no signs of subsiding. Our state recently recorded the highest number of deaths from the novel Coronavirus in a single day,158, bringing the total number of COVID-19 related deaths in our 58 counties to over 8,000. 


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SEEDS FROM CHINA SHOW UP IN EAST COUNTY MAILBOXES: DO NOT PLANT THESE, REPORT THEM, AGRICULTURAL OFFICIALS URGE

By Miriam Raftery

 

July 28, 2020 (La Mesa) – Across the U.S., residents in at least 31 states have begun receiving mysterious packages of seeds from China.  A La Mesa resident is among those to receive the unsolicited and potentially dangerous seeds, according to a photo and post on a local social media site.


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SDG&E HOLDS DRIVE-THROUGH WILDFIRE SAFETY FAIRS

East County News Service

July 28, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – With fire season around the corner, SDG&E has announced a series of drive-through Wildfire Safety Fairs.  You can get a free emergency preparedness backpack and/or bucket, plus learn how to protect your family and property at upcoming drive-through wildfire safety fairs hosted by SDG&E.  The backpack includes a solar hand-crank radio, solar cell phone charger, 150 watt power inverter for plugging items into your car to charge, flashlight, 2.5 gallon water bag, first aid kit, toilet paper, face mask, insulated lunch box with reusable ice packs, glow stick and more.  

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COUNTY TAKES STEPS TO ADDRESS COVID-19 DISPARITIES IN LOCAL LATINO COMMUNITIES, BUT THE PROBLEM IS NATIONWIDE AND SYSTEMIC

In exclusive interviews, ECM spoke with Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and Chicano Federation leaders on the problems and potential solutions

By Briana Gomez

July 28, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – After ECM’s special report on May 28 on the high rate of COVID-19 among local Latinos, the County of San Diego announced on July 21 that it is launching a new TV, radio, online and signage outreach campaign to the local Latino community aimed at overcoming information barriers on COVID-19. As of July 21, of more than 24,000 COVID-19 cases in our county with known race/ethnicity, about 60% are Hispanics or Latinos, yet Hispanics/Latinos make up only about 34% of the local population.


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MANY SEATS LACK CANDIDATES AS AUG. 7 DEADLINE TO RUN FOR LOCAL OFFICES DRAWS NEAR

By Miriam Raftery

July 27, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – The deadline to file to run for local offices is August 7 including school boards, water boards, fire boards, community planning groups, city councils and mayoral races. In some races, multiple candidates have pulled papers announcing intent to run (though none have yet turned in final paperwork to qualify for the ballot).  Other races have only incumbents running unopposed or in some cases, no candidates announced yet at all.

For example, in the controversy-embroiled Cajon Valley School District, where two seats are on the ballot, so far only incumbent Jim Miller has filed to run. No one at all has registered so far in the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District.

In the Helix Water District, so far incumbents Mark Gracyk, Joel Scalzitti and Dan McMillan are running unopposed.

All community planning groups in East County currently have fewer candidates than seats. If not enough people run, vacancies will be filled through appointment by County Supervisors to these positions that advise Supervisors on key land use projects. There are many other races still lacking a full slate of candidates.

Interest appears strongest in city council and mayoral races. Here’s who has announced intent to run so far:


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PARACHUTE FATALITY VICTIM IDENTIFIED

By Miriam Raftery
 
July 26, 2020 (Jamul) – Joseph James Wingen, 47, of San Diego has been identified as the man who died after skydiving in Jamul on July 19.
 
According to witnesses, Wingen’s parachute did deploy after he jumped out of the play and he appeared to be in full control of the equipment. However for unknown reasons, he drafted away from the landing zone and stopped steering his parachute.

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PASSAGES: GREGORY DENNY, JAMUL GRANDFATHER AND LITTLE LEAGUE COACH, DIES OF COVID-19

By Miriam Raftery

 

July 26, 2020 (Jamul) – Jamul resident Gregory Denny, who worked at Taylor Guitars and was a former Little League coach, died July 24 in a hospital of COVID-19. His wife, Kim Kallege Denny, announced his passing on Facebook, calling him her soulmate and best friend, adding, “He is now my guardian angel.”


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PLANS FOR EMERGENCY SLEEPING CABINS FOR HOMELESS WOMEN AND CHILDREN MOVES FORWARD IN EL CAJON

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left: Amikas demonstration village in City Heights

July 26, 2020 (El Cajon) – A proposal to allow construction of emergency sleeping cabins on property owned by Meridian Baptist Church has been approved by the El Cajon Planning Commission and will next be considered by the El Cajon City Council, potentially as early as August 11.


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CASKET OF REP. JOHN LEWIS CARRIED ACROSS EDMUND PETTUS BRIDGE 55 YEARS AFTER SELMA'S BLOODY SUNDAY

"An incredibly moving and fitting tribute for John Lewis, a man who carried the baton of justice until the very end."

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer, Common Dreams under a share-alike 3.0 Creative Commons license.

Photo:  A horse-drawn carriage carrying the body Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) crosses the Edmund Pettus Bridge on July 26, 2020 in Selma, Alabama. (Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

July 26, 2020 (Selma, Ala.) - The casket of Congressman John Lewis, who died on July 17 following a battle with pancreatic cancer, was carried across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on Sunday 55 years after the Georgia Democrat led a civil rights protest march and was beaten by Alabama state troopers in an event that has since been known as Bloody Sunday.


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