KCRW looks back at the year’s biggest events — from President Trump’s impeachment trial to the protests against racial injustice, and the celebrations around victories by the LA Lakers, Dodgers, and presidential contender Joe Biden.
The death of Kobe Bryant
The sudden death of LA Laker Kobe Bryant brought the city together in a moment of collective mourning. He and seven others died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas. Hours afterward, thousands of Angelenos flocked to the Staples Center in downtown LA and grieved together.
Donald Trump’s impeachment trial
Following the impeachment of President Donald Trump in the U.S. House of Representatives, the trial shifted to the U.S. Senate. The Senate acquitted Trump of the charges pertaining to the abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. California Congressman Adam Schiff emerged as a visible House Democrat at the forefront of the trial as impeachment manager.
Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” wins big at the 92nd Academy Awards
Beating out films including “Once Upon a Time,” “Marriage Story,” and “The Irishman,” “Parasite” came out of the basement to win Best Picture. It also won the Oscars for Directing, International Feature Film and Writing (Original Screenplay). It was the first South Korean film to receive any Oscar nominations — and the first non-English feature to win Best Picture.
The first COVID-19 deaths are reported in the U.S.
After months of watching the mysterious virus from Wuhan, China, the U.S. reported its first deaths of the novel coronavirus. Kirkland, Washington is considered one of the first clusters of COVID-19 cases in the United States during 2020. Over the next few months, an estimated 37 deaths were connected to the Life Care Center, a nursing home in the area.
California’s Super Tuesday debut
California moved its primary from June to March, making the state take part in Super Tuesday, the biggest primary day in the U.S., for the first time. This set up the state’s role in helping pick a Democratic candidate on the still-crowded presidential ballot. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders won the state with 36% of the vote. Due to record-setting voter turnout and vote center technical difficulties, long lines formed.
LA issues its first stay-at-home order
As COVID-19 began to spread across Southern California, local public health officials and politicians instituted the region’s first stay-at-home order. The shutdown rendered the second largest city in the U.S. a ghost town. Residents noticed upshots: no traffic, less air pollution and clearer skies.
Grocery stores see long lines and empty shelves
As the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic set-in, so did panic. It resulted in thousands of Angelenos flocking to grocery stores and bulk buying items like toilet paper, milk, and flour. To prevent COVID-19 transmission, stores limited the number of shoppers inside.
COVID-19 testing expands to LA’s most vulnerable communities
As coronavirus cases rose, Black and Latino communities across the city were hit disproportionately hard. As a result, new testing sites opened across the region, in areas such as South LA. Bigger locations, such as Dodger Stadium, would open as the pandemic continued.
“Reclaimers” occupy vacant homes owned by Caltrans
Groups of unhoused and housing-insecure people took over homes in the East LA neighborhood of El Sereno. Owned by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the homes were bought nearly three decades ago in preparation for the expansion of the 710 freeway.
The killing of George Floyd spurs nationwide protests
On May 25, Minneapolis police officers arrested 46-year-old George Floyd outside of Cup Foods for allegedly using a counterfeit $20. Minutes later, cameras caught four officers holding down Floyd. Officer Derek Chauvin pinned Floyd under his knee for at least eight minutes. Floyd was pronounced dead hours later. Within days, protests erupted in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, New York City, and other cities around the world.
A demonstrator holds a placard during a protest against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Los Angeles, May 30, 2020. Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/Reuters.
Some Southern California protesters clashed with police
As mostly peaceful protests happened in LA, some used the opportunity to destroy and deface public property. Following days of protest, Mayor Eric Garcetti instituted a city-wide curfew. National Guard troops and extra law enforcement were mobilized as a precaution.
Protests against racial injustice and the police killing of George Floyd continue
Mass protests persisted throughout June, decrying white supremacy, police brutality, and the deaths of Black Americans, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. Protestors poured into the streets of West Hollywood, Boyle Heights and other LA neighborhoods.
Restaurants reopen for outdoor dining only
After months of shutting down indoor dining and transitioning to only delivery and to-go, restaurants felt some economic relief as they were allowed to serve sit-down customers again. Service had to be outdoors, where researchers learned COVID-19 transmission was far less likely. As a result, restaurants got creative with using sidewalks and parking lots to set up tables. However, some restaurant workers still felt fear and anxiety over catching COVID-19.
New pastimes take up our socially distanced lives
After gaining popularity on apps like TikTok, roller skating emerged as the hottest four-wheeled quarantine pastime. The trend skated down a path laid down by generations of Black Americans. Others turned to baking bread, which prompted shortages of flour and yeast. And due to the ever-growing risk of catching COVID-19, some began sewing face masks at home.
The SoFi Stadium opens without a live audience
After breaking ground in November 2016, Inglewood’s SoFi stadium opened its doors. But due to the pandemic, the stadium’s stands sit empty, awaiting the day fans can root on the LA Rams and Chargers. It’s part of a larger development that will include shops, offices, and housing.
LA Lakers win their 17th NBA Championship
After a year painted by heartbreak and loss, the LA Lakers beat the Miami Heat in a 106-93 victory. Following the abrupt pause to the season in March, the rest of the NBA season was played inside a “bubble” at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. After the win, fans took to the streets to celebrate the team’s victory.
Protesters show solidarity with Armenia
For two decades, the Nagorno-Karabakh region of the Caucasus Mountains was home to a violent conflict. On one side: Armenia and the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh. On the other: the government of Azerbaijan. In 2020, tensions rose to new heights, pushing Armenian Americans and their allies into the streets of LA, calling for an end to the conflict.
LA Dodgers win their first World Series title since 1988
Just 16 days after the LA Lakers won the NBA Championship, the boys in blue beat the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 7 of the World Series. Locally, fans gathered at Dodger Stadium and stayed in their own cars to watch the game on 60-foot tall screens. At least until Julio Urias threw the final strike and sealed the 4-3 win over the Rays. Fans jumped out of their vehicles to celebrate. Cheers also took place elsewhere in LA.
Due to the pandemic, much of the country opted to vote by mail this year, setting up for relatively smooth wait times nationwide on Election Day. With the exception of a few rush hour crunches, Election Day in Southern California went without a hitch.
Joe Biden wins presidential election
This presidential election season included more than a dozen Democratic candidates vying for the top spot on the ticket. In the end, former Vice President Joe Biden and California Senator Kamala Harris emerged victorious. Hours after major news outlets declared Biden as the projected winner, LA erupted in excitement.
“Stop the Steal” protests follow Biden’s win
Others were less excited for the outcome of the 2020 election. That included the Trump supporters of Southern California. Car caravans drove through LA to Beverly Hills, where a “Stop the Steal” rally took place. It referenced efforts purported by some Republicans that voter fraud took place during the counting of mail-in ballots. Some Angelenos taunted pro-Trump demonstrators.
Jackie Lacey loses LA District Attorney race
Following a bid for a third term in office, LA District Attorney Jackie Lacey conceded to former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón. Lacey’s loss followed years of Black Lives Matter’s “Jackie Lacey Must Go” weekly protests. Gascón’s win also indicated a shift to elect progressive prosecutors.
FDA approves the first COVID-19 vaccine
Less than a year after the U.S. saw its first COVID-19 cases, the Food and Drug Administration approved Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for emergency use. Nearly 3 million vaccine doses were distributed to states across the country.
SoCal celebrates the holidays COVID-19 style
The pandemic sidelined nearly every holiday during 2020. But like Halloween and the Fourth of July, innovative ways to celebrate Christmas were imagined. That included socially distanced and Zoom visits with Santa.