Dozens of Long Beach residents gathered at Temple Baptist Church in East Long Beach Tuesday evening in search of answers regarding whether or not online rumors of threats of violence against certain women were true.
According to the Long Beach Police Department's (LBPD) Gangs and Violent Crimes Division Commander Bob Luman, posts alluding to "Long Beach Mexicans" putting a "green light" on black and Asian women, as well as threats related to shooting as many as 150 people emerged as a red flag to police.
Luman said, however, that Hispanic gangs do not target women or children.
“We know in the past there have been other gangs that have used public hysteria—that could be used in this case—to promote themselves or to draw heat away from themselves and place heat on another gang,” Luman said.
Police are continuing to look into the online threats but are not seeing anything that gives validity to the rumors, Luman added.
Religious leaders with the Long Beach Ministers Alliance—who hosted the event—advised that residents instead focus on being proactive and interactive in their neighborhoods.
“When people are working together in a constructive way, negative people cannot contend," said Leon Wood, a local pastor. "When positive things are happening, negativity doesn’t fit in.”
At the end of the meeting, residents voiced concerns and offered their thoughts on how to improve the community.
Former Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga suggested more investment in nonprofits that cater to after-school activities.
“We have all of these great organizations that work with the community, that really do the work that will prevent violence and help the community,” said Reyes Uranga. “The city needs a plan to help support these nonprofits,” she said.
Yevette Sherlee, a Long Beach resident with an 18-year-old son, spoke of her hesitation to trust police when the neighborhood feels threatened by them as well.
“I’m concerned for my life. How can we trust police when they’re killing us too?” Sherlee said. “We aren’t just going to lay down and die.”
Jessica Quintana, another resident of Long Beach, said she has seen these rumors in the past, but because of social media they have gone to a different level and urged the community to dismiss them.
“We can go back all day on shootings on Mexicans by blacks, shootings on blacks by Mexicans, but the day until we stand together are things going to change,” Quintana said. “It’s us going to city hall and saying there has to be an investment into our communities,” she said.
LBMA President Gregory Sanders previously said he approached Luman about the threats, to describe rising anxieties in the community, especially after the June 24 death of 21-year-old Signal Hill resident Alicia Faith Todd. The two decided it would be healthy to host a community meeting that would allow the gang intelligence unit to present their findings, that the threats are most likely false and unfounded, and be on hand to answer questions.
Photos by Stephanie Rivera.