2020 in photos: Political battles, civil unrest, and celebrations hit the streets of a pandemic LA

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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

Emotional Lakers fans gathered at LA Live in downtown LA in an impromptu memorial immediately following Bryant’s death. Photo by Drew Tewksbury/KCRW.

Many fans wore Lakers gear to the memorial, including Bryant’s #8 and #24 jerseys. Photo by Ted Soqui for KCRW.

Staples Center is home to the LA Lakers and where hundreds of Angelenos gathered to pay their respects. Photo by Ted Soqui for KCRW.

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. 

An impeachment rally in front of the Capitol in Washington D.C. Photo by Cary Bland.

Seven members of Congress, including Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), were selected as House of Representatives managers for the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters.


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. 

Bong Joon Ho came to KCRW to talk with The Business host Kim Masters about “Parasite” after it earned six Oscar nominations. It went on to earn four Oscars this year. Photo by Christopher Ho/KCRW.

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. 

Medics transport a patient from an ambulance into Washington's Life Care Center of Kirkland, the long-term care facility linked to confirmed coronavirus cases. Photo by David Ryder/REUTERS.

Community members gathered in support of Chinese Americans, Chinese people, and others fighting COVID-19 in San Francisco's Chinatown. Photo by Yichuan Cao/Sipa USA.


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.

Voters lined up outside of Wilshire Park Elementary in Koreatown. Some people waited at least an hour to vote. Photo by Caleigh Wells/KCRW.

New voting centers opened to all LA County residents, including in Grand Park in Downtown LA, the Santa Monica Pier, and LA Union Station. Photo by Caleigh Wells/KCRW. 

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. 

Typically filled with tourists and residents, Chinatown sat still during the early days of LA’s lockdown. Photo by Ted Soqui for KCRW.

With fewer cars on the road, LA’s skies were clear and free of pollution. This view from the Griffith Observatory shows hiking trails in Griffith Park. Photo by Amy Ta/KCRW.

Los Angeles International Airport was mostly empty of travelers during the stay-at-home order. Photo by Amy Ta/KCRW.

The Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City postponed all events. Photo by Amy Ta/KCRW.

Without its rush hour lunch crowds, the 103-year-old Grand Central Marketfood hall was virtually empty. Photo by Ted Soqui for KCRW.

Two months prior, LA Live in Downtown LA was filled with grieved Lakers fans following Kobe Bryant’s death. In March, it was empty. Photo by Ted Soqui for KCRW.

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. 

Lines of socially distanced customers formed outside of a Ralphs supermarket in Culver City. Photo by Amy Ta/KCRW.

Cautious residents filled shopping carts with food and other necessities in preparation for the unknown posed by COVID-19. Photo by Amy Ta/KCRW.

Wholesale retailers like Costco quickly ran out of items like toilet paper and sanitizing wipes and instituted one item per person policies. Photo by Ted Soqui for KCRW.


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. 

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This testing site at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science was opened specifically to help support LA’s Black community. Photo by Ted Soqui for KCRW.

The Charles R. Drew University test site also collected data on the ethnic and racial breakdown of who is getting sick, being hospitalized, and is dying.
 Photo by Ted Soqui for KCRW.

Thousands of frontline workers would put their lives on the line to help save COVID-19 patients in Southern California. Photo by Ted Soqui for KCRW.


“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 risk of contracting COVID-19 exasperated the need for advocates to find housing for unhoused or housing insecure people. Photo by Ted Soqui for KCRW.

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.

Members of Black Lives Matter-LA protested through Civic Center near LAPD headquarters and LA City Hall. Photo by Brian Feinzimer for KCRW.

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. 

National Guard vehicles were parked in the Farmer’s Market near the Grove shopping center. Photo by Ted Soqui for KCRW.

Stores in Beverly Hills became a target of defacement and were in need of repairs. Photo by Ted Soqui
  for KCRW.

A boarded up shop in Santa Monica was spray painted with “No justice, no peace,” “Black lives can’t be replaced,” and “Say his name!” Photo by Amy Ta/KCRW.


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.

Protesters stood atop a scorched LAPD police cruiser in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles. Photo by Ted Soqui/SIPA.

Boyle Heights and East LA residents marched down Cesar E. Chavez Avenue in solidarity with Black Lives Matter protests. Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.

Danzantes Aztecas in Boyle Heights danced, drummed, and lit incense in honor of people killed by law enforcement in Boyle Heights. Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCRW.


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. 

A restaurant in downtown Culver City set up outdoor seating on the sidewalk for customers. Photo by Amy Ta/KCRW.

Patios and parking lots became welcomed seating arrangements for restaurants in downtown Culver City. Photo by Amy Ta/KCRW.

Hand sanitizer became a common sight at restaurants, including at this Culver City business. Photo by Amy Ta/KCRW.

Johnny Lee of Pearl River Deli joined most restaurants in Chinatown in taking a wait-and-see approach to reopening for the dine-in, until they can ensure customer and staff safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Phoenix Tso for KCRW.


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

Meet-ups in Santa Barbara provided a space to build a diverse community around roller skating. Photo by Kathryn Barnes/KCRW

Cloth face masks symbolized not only safety and respect for others, but creativity and new business. Photo courtesy of Melissa Zafarana.


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. 

Newly built SoFi will sit empty until in-person attendance of sports games are allowed in LA County. Photo by Frances Anderton/KCRW.


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. 

Champagne rained down on LA Lakers fans celebrating on the streets of downtown LA. Photo by Brian Feinzimer for KCRW.

Illegal fireworks lit up the LA sky as Lakers fans filled the streets of downtown LA. Photo by REUTERS/Ringo Chiu.

Less than a year after Kobe Bryant’s death, LA Lakers fans returned to the Staples Center to celebrate the team’s win. Photo by Ringo Chiu/REUTERS.

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. 

Thousands of pro-Armenia demonstrators crowded the streets near the Turkish consulate in Beverly Hills. Photo by Benjamin Gottlieb/KCRW.

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. 

Fans like Ray Lopez celebrated the LA Dodgers win from socially distanced lengths at Dodger Stadium viewing parties. Photo by Angel Carreras/KCRW.

LA Dodgers third baseman Justin Taylor held up the 2020 World Series trophy hours after he was notified of a positive COVID-19 test result. Photo by Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports.


Election Day 

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. 

About 76% of registered voters in LA County voted during this year’s election. Photo by Brian Hardzinski/KCRW.

Ballot boxes sprouted up across Southern California as mail-in voting’s popularity rose due to the threat of COVID-19. Photo by Laura Kondourajian/KCRW.

New vote centers opened up across LA County this election season, in an effort to bring more flexibility for prospective voters. Photo by Samanta Helou for KCRW.

Voting centers like Los Angeles City College in East Hollywood attracted in-person votes. Photo by Samanta Helou for KCRW.

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

Angelenos escaped their homes to celebrate Biden’s win in central points around the city, including Pershing Square in Downtown LA. Photo by Caleigh Wells/KCRW.

“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. 

Demonstrators posted up at Beverly Gardens Park in Beverly Hills to support President Trump. Photo by Ted Soqui for KCRW.

Pro-Trump demonstrators were a regular sight at the Beverly Gardens, often meteting in groups on wekends. Photo by Ted Soqui for KCRW.

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.  

USC law professor Jody Armour told KCRW Black Lives Matter LA’s weekly protests translated into effective action at the ballot box. Photo by Angel Carreras/KCRW.


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. 

Governor Gavin Newsom watched a doctor prepare the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Kaiser Permanente, the site of the first vaccination in Southern California
. Photo by Jae C. Hong/Reuters.

As vaccine hesitancy
 grew in the U.S., medical professionals urged residents to trust scientists. Photo by Adam Monacelli/The Daily Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC.

Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus was the first FDA-approved vaccine for emergency in the U.S. Photo by Anthony Behar/Sipa USA.

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. 

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Outdoor malls like The Grove were open days before Christmas, leading to groups of masked visitors. Photo by REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni.

This year, Santa Claus wore a face mask and shield and kept a safe distance from outdoor mall patrons at Victoria Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga. Photo by Matt Guilhem/KCRW.

Video conferencing allowed for virtual visits with Santa Claus even amid the pandemic. Photo by REUTERS.

A mural in Playa Del Rey reminds Angelenos to “never stop” practicing safety measures against COVID-19. It shows all types of workers wearing masks. Photo by Amy Ta/KCRW.