During heated protest, a white LAPD officer offered peace, took a knee and protesters cheered

Commander Cory Palka marches through hundreds of protestors on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, as they form around him in a circle. On his uniform, there's a sticker with a peace sign drawn in black marker. As he begins to speak, the leader of the protest hands him a megaphone. The crowd falls silent and he addresses them: "We do not want enemies. We do not want to go against you. I will acknowledge the tragedies that have occurred throughout this country regarding racism and the police. I'm trying to express my heartfelt pain that you feel. Please listen to my heart. We do not want to come in here and be aggressive and firm," he says. "We want you to peacefully protest."

Photo by Danielle Bacher

As he looks into a crowd united by anger, Officer Palka explains that he doesn't want to invoke fear, throw tear gas or shoot rubber bullets. He claims he reads all the protest signs and feels the pain that everyone is feeling right now. Many protesters have been peaceful, but there have been tense confrontations with police over the past six days, and according to the LA Times, resulting in 700 arrests.

"We want to allow you to engage in your first amendment rights. We owe that to you. I want to give that to you. At the same time, I don't want a rock thrown at my head. I don't want to put a baton to any of you. I do not want any of you hurt. I want you to be upset, frustrated, voice your frustrations and express your heart and express the pain you feel for George Floyd."

He begs the protestors to collaborate with him. "Let's do it together. Let us protect you. I see beautiful children in front of me. We need to show these kids we can go through our pain together. As a team, we can do it together. I want you to continue doing what you are doing. I want you to express your freedom. I've been doing this for 34 years and I have great relationships with all races and all sexes. Let's celebrate your frustration, let's be angry and upset. It's not our intent to shoot and it's not our intent to harm you."

Officer Palka's eyes dart from building to building. He pauses, reflecting on the beautiful city around him, begging others not to destroy it. He encourages people not to loot, but rather come together and protest in peace. He holds up his helmet. "If I take a knee with you guys, will you give me your verbal acknowledgement that this is a peaceful rally?" he asks the protestors.

Everyone cheered "Take a knee, take a knee."


assets.rebelmouse.io


He put one knee to the ground, bowing his head. Some protestors reached out to shake his hand. The first one was black. "We stand in this together," Officer Cory says, holding up the megaphone with his right hand as the crowd cheers louder.

Photo by Danielle Bacher

Veteran Nathaniel Johnson, a protester in full military armor, a gas mask wrapped around his neck and bullet proof vest, stands with a sign that reads: "I swore to protect Americans + Freedom. Not harm them. Vets 4 #BLM." He's been protesting for a few days but this was the first time he went out with his uniform. He wanted to send a loud message. "Before I came out as just a person in normal clothes. I tried to talk to the police, human being to human being and they looked through me. They didn't see me. Now that I'm in uniform, they have no choice but to look at me," he says. "I'm a solider. I'm not part of the looting, I don't condone that. But I'm on the opposing side. I'm here to speak for you guys, for all of us."

Veteran Johnson claims that on Friday night in Downtown Los Angeles, he was peacefully protesting with his girlfriend and a few friends. While their hands were in the air, he claims the police officers tear gassed and shot rubber rounds at them, severely injuring his girlfriend, who is now having surgery in the hospital. A swat team even tried to run them over with an armored vehicle. He heard one officer say, "Get him," as he started shooting Johnson with a shotgun. Quickly, Johnson retaliated, throwing a smoke grenade to get out of harm's way.

"It's disgusting what happened," Johnson continued. "I'm very skeptical of the message [Cory's] sending. Listen, the last messages they have been sending me is they don't care. My dad is black and my mom is white. I'm a bi-product of America. I've been discriminated against as an African American. I know what the police do. I get it. I'm not going to agitate the police, but when they start shooting people, I'm out here saving lives with my trauma kits. I'm exhausted. I haven't slept in three days. But I'm here."

As the protests continued, Devion Coleman, a young black man, found inspiration in Officer Palka taking a knee. "There are going to be people who dislike it, but you can't please everybody. He made an effort," he says. "As long as there is police violence and as long as there is injustice, inequality and racism, you can protest it peacefully. I think it's absolutely necessary. This was a very peaceful and very good day. I think it showed solidarity. They are listening and giving us some time of peace and I think it's really good. Now it's about reform and real justice."

Photo by Danielle Bacher

Around curfew time, protestors chanted three words that George Floyd said before he died: "I can't breathe." They marched away, their posters clenched in their hands, as the sun set. Actor and writer Brahmanleen Collins holds the sign "We Matter" while thanking another black police officer for his service. "I captured the moment. I was thanking him for his service and feeling in my heart that we would never see him in a video like the one we are protesting. That goes for all the officers out here. They matter too."

Robert Hayes, who filmed Collins thanking the officer, says that he's always been a person of action and thinks there's more to be done. "I'm grateful for people who are standing up for the black people, the people of color, standing up for me," he says. He's also glad people are using their platform and voice to speak out against racism and bigotry.

"As for the looting and riots going on, I've never been a promotor of violence but I am a promotor of justice," he says. "I want equality for my people and I want equality for all. We aren't out here seeking revenge. The nation should be thankful we aren't seeking revenge for the past 400 years of hate toward my people, toward black people. We are seeking equality."

Photo by Danielle Bacher

He believes, right now, all emotions are valid, but channeling them in a positive way would likely ignite change. "I have never been a promoter of wreaking havoc, that's what's been going on, but I will not invalidate the way people choose to express their emotion. It's been going on far too long," he continued.

"But being more positive will allow us to reap benefits short and long term. We are hurt and we are in pain. I think we need to strategize and mobilize accordingly, so that we won't tear down the communities we love and live in and that we are building for our children and our grandchildren."

Hayes pauses a moment, slowly pulling down his mask, sharing the times he felt fearful or discriminated against. He looks up, a smile on his face and continues, "But, you know, I think that officer taking a knee is exactly what we need."


Photo by Danielle Bacher

The airline industry was one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, as global and domestic travel came to a screeching halt last spring. When the pandemic was officially declared in March of 2020, no one knew what to expect or how long the timeline of lockdowns and life changes would last.

Two weeks after the declaration, Delta pilot Chris Dennis flew one of the airline's planes to Victorville, CA for storage. He shared photos on Facebook that day of empty planes neatly lined up, saying it was a day he would remember for the rest of his life.

"Chilling, apocalyptic, surreal...all words that still don't fit what is happening in the world," he wrote. "Each one of these aircraft represents hundreds of jobs, if not more."

He added:

Keep Reading Show less

The airline industry was one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, as global and domestic travel came to a screeching halt last spring. When the pandemic was officially declared in March of 2020, no one knew what to expect or how long the timeline of lockdowns and life changes would last.

Two weeks after the declaration, Delta pilot Chris Dennis flew one of the airline's planes to Victorville, CA for storage. He shared photos on Facebook that day of empty planes neatly lined up, saying it was a day he would remember for the rest of his life.

"Chilling, apocalyptic, surreal...all words that still don't fit what is happening in the world," he wrote. "Each one of these aircraft represents hundreds of jobs, if not more."

He added:

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."