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O.C. ‘Rape Doctor’ Case Will Advance After a Judge Rejects the DA’s Motion to Dismiss


In yet another stunning reversal in a tabloid-worthy case, a judge has rebuffed the Orange County District Attorney seeking to dismiss the charges against a Newport Beach orthopedic surgeon and reality-TV star and his girlfriend, both of whom are accused of drugging and raping several women.

District attorney Todd Spitzer, had announced in February that he planned to drop all charges against Dr. Grant Robicheaux, 39, and Cerissa Riley, 33, the pair of accused serial rapists who prosecutors had said used their looks—and an array of mind-altering pharmaceuticals—to lure an untold number of victims into their web.

Ordinarily when the prosecution and defense agree to a dismissal, a court ruling is a rubber-stamp formality. Which is why legal observers were surprised when Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregory Jones, rather than dismiss the case immediately, calendared a hearing and asked to hear from all interested parties, including at least two of the alleged victims. 

Coronavirus put everything on hold until Friday, June 5, when Jones ruled that the charges against Robicheaux and Riley should be put before a jury.

Spitzer had already issued a public apology to the defendants, and submitted a court brief that picked apart the alleged victims’ statements and cast doubt on the integrity of investigators.

Jones found no fault with either investigator, and called it “puzzling” that the district attorney sought to have the case dismissed based upon concerns about victim credibility when the alleged victims have never been given the opportunity to testify. 

At the time of the arraignment, in 2018, former District Attorney Tony Rackauckas was locked in a heated campaign for re-election with challenger Todd Spitzer, his former protege. “The political aspirations of District Attorneys, past and present, and their thirst for media attention, have created a minefield of legal hazards in this case,” Jones wrote.

Before the election, Spitzer criticized Rackauckas’s handling of the case, saying his predecessor had deliberately timed the couple’s arraignment to boost his flagging campaign. After the election, he changed tack, saying Rackauckas and a top deputy had “manufactured this case,” which Jones called “ludicrous.” The judge wrote that the way politics mixed with prosecution “created a minefield of legal hazards in this case.”

Spitzer’s office issued a statement outlining how he had assigned two veteran sexual assault prosecutors last year to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the case over three months–this was after the Attorney General declined a request from Spitzer to take over the case due to what Spitzer said was “a conflict of interest.” The statement reiterates Spitzer’s contention that prosecutors “could not legally and ethically proceed with prosecuting the case due to insufficient evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Loyola Law School professor and former federal prosecutor Laurie Levenson said it is “extremely rare” for a judge to decline to grant a district attorney’s request for dismissal. In recent years, courts have grown more sensitive to the victim’s position in cases involving alleged sex crime, Levenson said. 

Matt Murphy, a former senior deputy district attorney in Orange County, represents four of the unidentified female accusers in the case, known as Jane Does. “These women came forward bravely to participate in this process,” Murphy said. “They have rights as survivors of sexual assault and they were treated horribly by the elected District Attorney. Today the court set that right.” 

Robicheaux, who was once featured on a short-lived Bravo reality TV dating show and was chosen as one of Orange County’s most eligible bachelors by Orange Coast magazine, faced sexual assault accusations from seven female victims; Riley, his longtime girlfriend and co-defendant, faced accusations from five women. 

A police search of the couple’s home found drugs in Robicheaux’s home, including GHB, a known date rape drug.

 Last week, in a brief in support of a motion to dismiss for insufficient evidence, Spitzer’s office argued that the defendants were not sexual predators but rather swingers who “openly pursued scores of women for consensual sexual encounters.” And that the drugs seized from Robicheaux’s residence “simply corroborate the defendants’ own drug use–including the user of GHB–and their practice of offering drugs to individuals with whom they partied.” 

By then he had replaced the lead prosecutor in the case and suspended the lead investigator. 

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday, June 12, when the court will discuss whether Spitzer’s office will relinquish the case to the office of Attorney General Xavier Becerra. 

RELATED: As Insurance Claims Are Denied, Classic L.A. Restaurants Are Struggling to Weather the Pandemic

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In-N-Out Is Suing Its Insurance Company for Not Covering a COVID Claim

Irvine-based In-N-Out Burger has filed a lawsuit against its insurance company for not paying out on a business interruption claim due to mandated closures brought on by COVID-19. The iconic fast food chain has more than 350 locations across California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Texas. Their first stores in Colorado were under construction when the whole chain was forced to close their dining rooms in March.

Their insurer, Illinois-based Zurich American Insurance Company, rejected the restaurant’s claim. Unlike most restaurants that thought they were covered in case of shutdown, In-N-Out’s policy was “all risk” according to Nation’s Restaurant News, who reviewed a copy of the suit. In-N-Out claims that their policy covers “not only more commonly known risks like fire, but also entirely unknown and novel risks that may arise which were not previously considered by the company, Zurich or by the public at large.” In-N-Out asserts that the agreement had “no exclusion for viruses or infectious diseases,” according to the lawsuit. The policy would have been capped at $250 million. The burger chain had sales of nearly $1 billion last year.

Musso & Frank Grill in Hollywood and chef Thomas Keller, with restaurants in Yountville, New York, Las Vegas, and Miami, are among the restaurants filing similar lawsuits against their insurers. “We’ve paid about $15 million over 25 years for business interruption insurance,” Keller told Fast Company. But now that we need the payouts, they are denying us.”

RELATED: As Insurance Claims Are Denied, Classic L.A. Restaurants Are Struggling to Weather the Pandemic

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Jackie Lacey Rejects Calls to Keep Police Union Money Out of DA Campaigns

This week, amid protests against police brutality and misconduct, a group of high-level prosecutors publicly called for the California State Bar to prohibit police unions from donating to District Attorney campaigns on the grounds that these financial contributions may create conflicts of interest that bias how DAs investigate, prosecute, or interact with police officers.

In a statement to Los Angeles tonight, sitting Los Angeles DA Jackie Lacey has made clear she opposes any such prohibition.

We need more police accountability measures, but at the same time, I think that any proposal that prevents a union from actively engaging their members in the democratic process is an extremely dangerous path to go down,” the DA said via email. “The same reasoning would open the door for teacher’s unions to be banned from donating to school board campaigns, or nurse’s unions to County Supervisor races.”

Los Angeles Times analysis in February concluded that, at that time, Lacey had benefitted from nearly $2.2 million in contributions made by law enforcement unions to committees and organizations that supported her reelection campaign.

Her opponent, George Gascón, is among the signatories to the letter that was sent to the State Bar. A former LAPD officer himself, he has accepted money from police unions in the past–and received criticism for doing so during his tenure as San Francisco DA At a press conference on Monday, however, he said he would no long accept such donations, The Mercury News reports. 

Lacey stated that “silencing the voices of labor unions sets a bad precedent” and attempted to put the focus on the “billionaires and corporations” from whom Gascón has accepted the majority of his campaign funds. He received $1 million from Patty Quillin, wife of Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, and has pulled in other large donations from monied individual donors.

My opponent’s campaign in the primary was primarily underwritten by millions of dollars from a handful of billionaires from outside of our community,” she said. “I’m proud to be the candidate of organized labor, from law enforcement to truck drivers to steelworkers to firefighters.”

In a statement, Chesa Boudin, San Francisco’s current DA, put the need for prosecutors  to treat police without bias into the context of what has been observed at recent protests. “District attorneys will undoubtedly review use of force incidents involving police officers,” he wrote. “When they do, the financial and political support of these unions should not be allowed to influence that decision making.”

RELATED: DA Jackie Lacey’s Husband Pulled a Gun on Black Lives Matter Protesters

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Responding to Backlash, L.A. Pride Issues Apology for ‘Missteps’ in Planning

UPDATE: JUNE 5, 2020, 7:12 P.M.  – Christopher Street West tonight released a lengthy statement addressing concerns raised about their planned event. In the statement, the group offers “sincerest apologies” for what they characterize as “missteps” in planning and announcing the march, as well as larger concerns about diversity and inclusivity.

“In this, we recognize the organization’s relationship with the marginalized groups within our own community has been problematic,” the statement reads. “We are committed to listening to the Black community more closely and to truly be a better ally and collaborator in the fight to end systemic racism and oppression.”

According to the post, the June 14 even is now being “reevaluated” with additional updates to come.


UPDATE, JUNE 5, 2020, 8:33 A.M. – Concerns have been raised about a plan announced by L.A. Pride this week to recast their annual event as a “solidarity march” in support of Black Lives Matter-led protests. Investigations into the plan appear to indicate that no contact was made by L.A. Pride organizing body Christopher Street West to Black Lives Matter representatives. Contact was, however, made to the Los Angeles Police Department, inviting a robust law enforcement presence at the event.

“While I’m sure this was organized with the best of intentions, myself, Black leadership within Los Angeles, nor the Black Lives Matter movement organized this march, nor were we contacted about it,” said Ashlee Marie Preston, an activist and local politician prominent in both Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+ advocacy in Los Angeles, including previously serving on the board of L.A. Pride, in a video statement.

“It’s important for non-Black allies to understand,” she added, “that, while your intentions may be pure, using a Black organization’s name without it’s permission or consent to collaborate not only undermines the work, but it dilutes the message, and weakens the overall impact.”

In addition to the apparent lack of communication, others on social media seized on a letter sent by Christopher Street West to the Los Angeles Police Department that struck some as inappropriately inviting given the tone of police-protester interactions of recent days.

In an interview with NBC News, Preston noted that, even in previous years, even when she served on the event’s board of directors, L.A. Pride was entreated by some activists not to collaborate with police–and this year, the issue is all the more visible.

“At a time when police brutality is at the center, that guarantee hasn’t been made,” she said.

A statement released on Wednesday night signed by Gerald Garth of Christopher Street West and Brandon Anthony of entertainment group BASH LA appeared to acknowledge the brewing concerns.

“We hear the many voices coming from within the Black community and our support for the community is unwavering,” the statement reads. “Christopher Street West (CSW) is engaging Black community advocacy groups, Black LGBTQ+ organizations, and community leaders to align on our mission and objectives. We are committing to educating ourselves on how to be an ally in the fight against systemic social injustice and police brutality and to work for justice reform.”

The statement indicates that additional information about plans for the event will be released at some point today. A request for direct comment from Christopher Street West made by Los Angeles, but was not responded to by publication.

Preston offered a piece of advice for L.A. Pride leaders seeking education on being strong allies: “Black leadership knows exactly what it needs in order to thrive. So please don’t conflate saviourism with Black solidarity. Ask us what it is that we need and we will tell you.”

JUNE 3, 2020 – In March, L.A. Pride made the call to go online-only due to the looming threat of COVID-19. On Wednesday morning, Christopher Street West, the organizers of the official celebration in West Hollywood, made a surprise announcement: L.A. Pride was back on, in the form of a march against injustice, racism, and all forms of oppression.

The solidarity march will assemble at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue at 10 a.m. on June 14. Protesters will gather near the site where, 50 years ago, the first-ever permitted Pride parade in America began. Protesters will then make their way to San Vicente and Santa Monica Boulevard.

“Fifty years ago Christopher Street West took to the streets of Hollywood Blvd in order to peacefully protest against police brutality and oppression,” said Estevan Montemayor, President of CSW Board of Directors. “It is our moral imperative to honor the legacy of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who bravely led the Stonewall uprising, by standing in solidarity with the Black community against systemic racism and joining the fight for meaningful and long-lasting reform.” 

RELATED: Before Stonewall, the Queer Revolution Started Right Here in Los Angeles

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Movie Theaters Are Still Closed, but These Drive-Ins Are Open for Business


Business has boomed at Mission Tiki Drive-In theater in Montclair over the last several weeks, as outdoor theaters are the only type allowed to operate in California at the moment. This weekend’s presentation of Groundhog Day aside, it seems like déjà vu to see movies like Knives Out and Jumanji: The Next Level still on the marquee, many months after their initial release.

Your al fresco film options have expanded this weekend with the opening of the Roadium Drive-In in Torrance, which is screening the Pixar classic Up. The Paramount Drive-In, which re-opened in 2014 after a 22-year “intermission,” is screening the number one movie in the country since Easter, Trolls World Tour.

Box office numbers were skewed since nearly 90 percent of the country’s theaters are closed due to coronavirus restrictions. Nearly half of the 600 theaters open in the country last week were drive-ins. Indoor theaters are set to reopen in other parts of the country this weekend, but as of today, the Roadium, Paramount, and Mission Tiki are your exclusive movie destinations around Los Angeles. We’re keeping an eye on the Vineland Drive-In in the City of Industry, but they tweeted earlier this week that “Due to recent events the Vineland Drive In will be closed until further notice.” Those willing to venture into Riverside County will find the Rubidoux and Van Buren drive-ins are also open.

We’ll be mellowing out amidst the tropical landscaping and thatched huts of the Mission Tiki this weekend watching Bill Murray try to become a better person. A lesson we could all use.

RELATED: Netflix Has Officially Purchased the Historic Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood

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Woman Photographed Pretending to Put Up Plywood in Santa Monica Has Reportedly Been Canned

Days after a video showing a young white woman pretending to help repair a Santa Monica shop that was damaged last weekend went viral, the clout-seeker has reportedly been canned from her position at conservative news organization Washington Examiner.

First identified as Fiona Moriarty-McLaughlin, or @factswithfiona, by New York Times scribe Taylor Lorenz, Moriarty-McLaughlin is seen borrowing a man’s power drill as he boards up the storefront and posing with the tool as if performing community service while another man snaps her picture before the pair takes off in a black Mercedes.

Moriarty-McLaughlin—who’s listed in the College Fix as a senior at UC Santa Barbara and has worked for The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard—was a summer intern at the Examiner but the College Fix, which helped her land the gig, has now put the kibosh on that deal.

“Moriarty-McLaughlin is no longer an intern with the Washington Examiner,” a spokesperson told Fox News. “The College Fix informed us that it has canceled her summer internship at the Washington Examiner with immediate effect.”

Although Moriarty-McLaughlin deleted her Twitter account and made her Instagram account private soon after the June 1 video was published, it’s gotten more than 24 million views. Among those viewers were several celebs who were none too amused by her antics.

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay tweeted, “You know what? I’m… I think I’m gonna put Twitter away for a few minutes before I throw this phone across the room,” which LeBron James retweeted.

Meanwhile, Pink wondered, “What is wrong with these entitled assholes?! Who the fuck are you and who are your parents you horrible person. How can anyone defend this???!!!”

So far, Moriarty-McLaughlin has made no comment.

RELATED: Idiot Influencers and Racist Social Media Trends Are Making Everything a Little Bit Worse

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Afternoon Update: Trouble at AMC, a Town Hall with Oprah, and More

» It’s a megaplex meltdown. AMC, the largest movie theater chain in the country, said in a June 3 financial filing that it has “significant doubt” in its ability to remain viable once movie theaters are able to reopen, likely at reduced capacity. The company currently operates 1,006 theaters in the U.S. [Vulture]

» California Governor Gavin Newsom announced today that he is supporting legislation to remove the carotid restraint—which was used on George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin—from police training materials. He also said he wants to standardize crowd control techniques being used by agencies across the state. [Politico]

» On June 9 and 10, Oprah Winfrey will host a two-night town hall on race in America called Where Do We Go From Here? It’ll air on all Discovery channels. Two nights is a start, but we probably need more like two dozen. [The Hollywood Reporter]

» Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has endorsed Jackie Lacey’s opponent, George Gascón, for L.A. District Attorney, along with nine other progressives in the running for DA nationwide. “Los Angeles is home to the largest criminal justice jurisdiction and jail in the nation. George is facing a two-term ‘tough on crime’ incumbent who has been criticized by Black Lives Matter and the ACLU for failing to hold officers accountable for excessive use of force,” Sanders said. [Los Angeles Times]

» Amid widespread suspicion of police unions and their political might, state senator Scott Wiener has pledged to stop accepting donations from law enforcement unions and donate the money he’s received so far—but his opponent isn’t impressed. Educator and organizer Jackie Fielder pointed out that he fell short of pledging to “reject contributions from PACs funded by law enforcement associations.” [Fox News]

» Late last year, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer announced he was requesting to dismiss the case against accused sexual predators Grant Robicheaux and his girlfriend Cerissa Riley, but a judge isn’t keen on that plan. The judge’s decision was based on comments Spitzer made about the quality of his predecessor’s investigation. [Los Angeles Times]

» Three mountain lion cubs were born in the Santa Monica Mountains, and they’re psychotically cute. [Desert Sun]

RELATED: One Person Killed, Another Hospitalized, in Shooting After Last Night’s Protests Downtown

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California Will Allow Bars, Gyms, Schools, Summer Camps, and Sports to Resume

Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s Health and Human Services Secretary, announced a big step forward in the state’s reopening process on Friday.

Starting on June 12, schools, bars, gyms, professional sports events, campgrounds, and day camp programs will be allowed to begin to reopen. Guidelines expected later today will also include recommendations for the state’s hotels, casinos, museums, and zoos. The guidelines are also expected to include guidance on the resumption of filming for movies and television.

Schools and day camps can resume in-person sessions on the 12th statewide, CBS Los Angeles reports. But the other sectors will vary based on county-level restrictions. Los Angeles County has been taking a somewhat more conservative approach to reopening than many counties in the state, due to the density of COVID-19 cases confirmed here.

Residents eager for a manicure will still have to wait a bit longer. One category of business that remains specifically excluded from the ability to reopen in this phase is nail salons.

RELATED: Video Appears to Show an LAPD Vehicle Come into Contact with a Protester in DTLA

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One Person Killed, Another Hospitalized, in Shooting After Thursday Night’s Protests Downtown


Around 10 p.m. on Thursday night, two pedestrians were shot near the intersection of Bunker Hill and Cesar Chavez avenues, NBC Los Angeles reports. One was killed, a second was hospitalized with injuries. Witnesses at the scene report that the men were part of their group walking home from nonviolent Black Lives Matter protests held downtown earlier in the evening.

The shooting is described as a drive-by, with a gray van pulling up to the men on the street and someone in the vehicle firing.

“They opened the door, they had a big black gun… and they shot two shots,” a witness told NBC. “I ran immediately, I turn around, [one victim was] on the ground and [the other] guy [sat down on the sidewalk].”

Earlier in the day, a Newport Beach man, Travis Patrick White, was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon and making criminal threats after he brandished a gun at protesters in that city, and then posted a video online in which he calls for others to “get together, get our weapons, and kick these [protesters] out of our cities.”

Armed groups, some of them linked to white supremacist organizations, have made appearances at other protests around the county.

On Sunday night, another man was fatally shot just blocks away, on Olympic Boulevard. While the Los Angeles Times reports that it was not immediately clear if the victim in that case was a protester or not, it did take place in the vicinity of the demonstrations.

RELATED: Video Appears to Show an LAPD Vehicle Come into Contact with a Protester in DTLA

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Could This Bill Be a First Step Toward Taking the Police Out of Policing?

If you’ve been to a protest march in practically any city in the U.S. over the past few days, and it’s likely you’ve seen or heard the slogan “Abolish the Police.” Though mainstream news sources are treating it like a sudden cause du jour, the police abolition movement (and the prison abolition movement, which is closely linked) dates back many years.

Despite a decade’s worth of police reforms across the country, law enforcement agencies have grown even more militarized and have continued to cause harm in communities of color. In fact, in many cities this past week, the police response to largely peaceful protests in response to the killing of George Floyd has itself helped promote the idea that cities are overinvesting in their police forces. Now, a bill that might start the work of making police abolition a reality is steadily moving through the California Legislature. In fact, it passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, June 3.

To be fair, the word “abolish” doesn’t appear anywhere in AB 2054, which is popularly known as the Community Response Initiative to Strengthen Emergency Systems (CRISES) Act. In fact, Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles), who introduced the bill in January, doesn’t see the bill as seeking to “abolish the police,” an aide said. Instead, Kamlager sees the bill as “a positive means to empower community groups that have shown that they can protect their communities.”

Of course, “abolish the police” doesn’t have to mean getting rid of all law enforcement officers everywhere. It could mean exactly what AB 2054 lays out: help people, especially people who’ve been harmed by law enforcement, find other help and assistance in times of crisis besides uniformed law enforcement officers.

“We must work to support the health and safety of our most vulnerable Californians,” Kamlager said, according to a May 12 Assembly Committee on Governmental Organization staff report. “And we must rely on the knowledge, skills, credibility, and trusted relationships that community organizations have and can deploy to keep people safe in these critical situations.”

To do this, the CRISES Act directs the California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) to administer $16 million in grants to community organizations in at least ten counties over the next three years. “The complexities of emergency issues surrounding crises in mental health, intimate partner violence, community violence, substance abuse, and natural disasters can, at times, be addressed more safely, with greater impact, and more cost-effectively and efficiently with community organizations, which often have deeper knowledge and understanding of the issues, trusted relationships with the people and communities involved, and specific knowledge and relationships surrounding the emergency,” the bill states.

According to Kamlager, this will “de-escalate crises, reduce reactive violence, and send vital services to people who have a tougher time accessing critically needed emergency services.” She sees the act as a way “to fill the void that exists in emergency response services for vulnerable populations so that young people of color, people with disabilities, people who are gender nonconforming, people who are likely to face disproportionate police contact, people who are formerly incarcerated, people with immigration status issues, and people who are unhoused or homeless can have ready access to quality emergency services from trained professionals that ensure safety, are culturally appropriate and relationship-centered.”

A number of statistics suggest that limiting interactions between people of color and police would be a very good thing. Latinx people make up 13.3 percent of the U.S. population, but were 16 percent of killings by law enforcement in 2016, according to PBS Newshour. They also made up 23 percent of police searches and 30 percent of arrests. Black people, who are also about 13 percent of the U.S. population, were 24 percent of those killed by law enforcement in 2019, according to the group Mapping Police Violence.

Additionally, at least 139 people with mental illness were killed by police in the U.S. in 2018. That comes out to about one in four people shot by law enforcement, according to Assemblymember Kamlager’s office. And according to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 58 percent of respondents said they’d “experienced some from of mistreatment” when they interacted with law enforcement officers the previous year.

Nearly 60 advocacy groups and organizations support the CRISES Act (no one has yet filed any official opposition to the bill). A key supporter is the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color (ABMoC), which co-sponsored the bill.

“Every day, community-based organizations across California are successfully responding to many types of emergency situations,” states a page on the CRISES Act on the ABMoC website. “And during this current COVID-19 public health crisis, community-based organizations (CBOs) are stepping up to ensure vulnerable people are safe and healthy and meeting their emerging needs. Too often, the only response available for people in need of support is to call the police, which can escalate a crisis and increase risk for everyone. The lack of community-based support is particularly dangerous for Black and Brown folks in crisis.”

Another is the Los Angeles-based Initiate Justice, which seeks to end mass incarceration by organizing people who are incarcerated and their loved ones.

“AB 2054 empowers communities to respond to instances of harm on their own,” Greg Fidell of Initiate Justice wrote in a June 4 email. “At a time when LAPD is responding to peaceful demonstrations with force and escalation tactics, we know that communities can meet their own needs in a more holistic way than law enforcement ever could.”

AB 2054 next heads to a vote of the full Assembly, which Kamlager’s office said could come in the next week or two.

RELATED: Protesters on Why They March: ‘Black People Need to Get Our Voices Heard Today. Not Tomorrow. Today.’

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