Long Beach City College’s Liberal Arts campus was devoid of students and faculty on Monday afternoon, Sept. 13, and into the evening.
Police barricades circled the school and blocked off a few nearby residential streets.
Yet, in the hours before President Joe Biden and Gov. Gavin Newsom stepped on stage at City College in a final campaign push to oppose recall efforts, the mood was anything but serene.
Rather, it was a chaotic microcosm of the partisan tensions gripping the nation and California in particular — about 10 months after a controversial presidential election and on the eve of a recall election whose proponents are trying to oust Newsom.
Hundreds rallied at the corner of Clark Avenue and Carson Street — two streets surrounding the campus — all but a small pocket of whom were Biden and Newsom critics.
They held signs supporting the recall. They circled the area in vehicles bearing recall flags and other political accoutrement, with drivers blaring their horns in solidarity with the crowd.
“We have a corrupt governor and an even more corrupt president,” said Sheila Wong, a resident who lives a few blocks from the campus. “We’re here to show that our governor needs to go.”
Much of the reasoning behind the effort to kick Newsom out of office is about his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which led to mass business closures and churches being unable to hold services inside for months.
Biden, meanwhile, has been criticized recently on numerous issues, including the mandate that federal workers be vaccinated and the withdrawal from Afghanistan, which ended America’s longest war — but left 13 service members dead during attacks on the airport in Kabul, that nation’s capital.
Indeed, a smatter of posters were emblazoned with the number 13, a reference to those service members.
And, of course, a lot of the chatter during the protest centered around the false idea that former President Donald Trump lost last year’s presidential election because of voter fraud.
Not everyone who gathered outside Long Beach City College was there to protest, however.
Biden’s motorcade arrived at the campus shortly after 6:30 p.m., and near the entrance a line of families waited to welcome the president.
A few blocks away, meanwhile, a small group gathered to back the president and the governor — and oppose the recall.
One of those, Nicholas Maldonado, won’t actually get a say in Tuesday’s recall. He is, after all, from Florida.
But his appearance at Long Beach City College — after flying in from the Sunshine State — underscored the national implications surrounding the recall.
“We need love right now,” Maldonado said. “And while Biden is not perfect he is a president for the people.”
Police officers, meanwhile, maintained a perimeter between the two groups as tensions began escalating closer to the Newsom-Biden rally’s start time.
Not everyone near City College, though, was part of the scene. Rather, they looked upon it askance.
Norma Norris, for example, said the large gathering just a block away from her house posed safety risks.
“They’re standing in the street,” she said, “and parking all over our block.”
But there was nothing she could do about it:
America’s election angst had come to Long Beach.
White House pool reports contributed to this report.