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Los Angeles Mayor Explains School Closure Over Terror Threat


Some buses and trains in Los Angeles were free to school kids who would otherwise have been in class. Museums waived entry fees, parks extended their hours, all that at the urging of the mayor. I asked Eric Garcetti what more he knew about today's threat and if he's confirmed if it was definitely a hoax.

ERIC GARCETTI: No, I don't think that we can definitively say it was a hoax. There's other scenarios in which people could be testing our vulnerabilities in more than one city. But it certainly gave us a greater sense of confidence and we saw this in multiple cities, something Los Angeles didn't have the information on when the superintendent here made his decision to close the schools earlier. But this clearly seems to be an act of malice, whether it is somebody who is threatening these schools with no intent to do that, somebody testing our strengths in multiple American cities to possibly engage in action, or the third, to actually engage in action, which thankfully has not borne out today.

CORNISH: We heard you say earlier in our reporter's piece that you think everyone can appreciate an abundance of caution. But in New York City where they received the same threat, the police commissioner there, William Bratton, who used to be LA's police chief, called it an overreaction. What's your response to that?

GARCETTI: Well, I think that the average New Yorker can appreciate, as it was after 9/11 and, you know, Bostonians after the marathon terrorist incident, that here in Southern California in the wake of San Bernardino we are especially cautious and want to be especially careful. And New York, you know, made that decision after they learned there was multiple threats when we shared with them what had happened here and learned about theirs. But when our superintendent had to make that decision, he did not and had not yet been informed from anybody else. So this seemed like a target of Los Angeles and he made that decision...

CORNISH: At what point did LA or the school system consult maybe with federal officials? I know you said there may have been some consultation, but there's also been reports that essentially this was a unilateral move on the city's part.

GARCETTI: Well, the city didn't make the move. The school district did. But immediately the school district, which is a separate government from us, reached out to our Los Angeles Police Department, which, in the area, is obviously the best equipped. And we immediately reached out to federal FBI and other colleagues we worked very closely with. So the feds were involved from the beginning.

CORNISH: Are schools open tomorrow, and if so, how confident are you in the security precautions in place at individual schools in the LA Unified School District?

GARCETTI: I expect schools to be open tomorrow. The Los Angeles Police Department and our sheriff's department out here can supplement what they have. They only have about 800 to a thousand police officers that are school police officers. So, you know, I'm confident that we can help them, that we are here to help. But it will require ongoing vigilance and just keeping people's eyes out.

CORNISH: What message do you have for parents, their kids after all of this?

GARCETTI: Well, I think for parents - all of us who are parents can understand, you know, it's much better to have overreacted to something that resulted in the safe outcome than vice versa, and to continue to be vigilant, that we will continue to assist the school district in any that they need to for our advice and our resources. And that all of us should continue, you know, living our lives. There will be these occasional moments and we don't know when they will come, how they will come or where they will come. They might come to our school districts. They might come to our places of work. And they might come to where we live. But really, you know, the strongest thing that we can do in this country is to speak up and speak out and to continue living with the freedoms that we enjoy.

CORNISH: Eric Garcetti is mayor of Los Angeles. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

GARCETTI: Thank you, Audie. I appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.