Police were out in force across Los Angeles Saturday, trying to hold the peace amid multiple protests tied to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, as Mayor Eric Garcetti announced an overnight curfew for an area downtown Los Angeles.
In the Fairfax District, several hundred demonstrators converged, with many taking over the intersection of Third Street and Fairfax Avenue, shutting down traffic. At the nearby intersection of Third and Edinburgh Avenue, several police cars were vandalized and rubber bullets were fired to try to control the crowd.
Police tried to hold the line against further advancement, and could be seen engaging in scuffles with some protesters, with some officers using their clubs.
Police later brought in large, military-style vehicles to clear the streets, and some sign-carrying protesters chanting “Eat the rich” came to Beverly Hills’ famed shopping street Rodeo Drive.
The Fairfax District gathering followed a noon demonstration at Pan Pacific Park, at 7600 Beverly Blvd. A handful of similar demonstrations were planned for other areas of the city Saturday, including a 3 p.m. event in Boyle Heights.
At a hastily scheduled news conference to address what the city is doing to keep the public safe, Garcetti announced a curfew for the areas bounded by “the four freeways.”
The curfew is in effect from 5 p.m. Saturday to 5:30 a.m. Sunday, and Garcetti said it was issued at the request of Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore so officials could clean up Friday’s mess.
The mayor joined many other city officials Saturday in sympathizing with demonstrators while also appealing for calm. “With liberty comes responsibility to be able to peacefully protest,” Garcetti said.
“For that one or two percent of the protesters who think that (violence) is the way to make a statement, do not do a disservice to the memory of George Floyd (and) the folks who have died at the hands of the brutality that we all stand against,” Garcetti said.
Garcetti told reporters he had no plan to call for National Guard troops to assist police. “This is not 1992. We are not going to evoke what happened then and call in the National Guard. But that’s on all of us. Let’s all of us de-escalate,” he said.
Reverend Najuma Smith Pollard, program manager for the USC Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement added, “It is the right thing to stand up and speak out. We don’t need more mayhem. It doesn’t work.”
Earlier Saturday, Moore said that all restrictions had been lifted in the downtown area, as he also appealed for calm.
“While more protests are slated for various locations throughout the city today, we remain hopeful those demonstrations will be peaceful,” Moore said in a series of tweets sent shortly before noon Saturday.
“I am asking for all of Los Angeles to come together and find the ability to peacefully express individual and collective grievances while also maintaining the safety of all of Angelenos,” he said, adding that the LAPD will be deploying additional resources to maintain order.
Moore said 533 people were arrested overnight on charges that include burglary, looting, probation violation, battery on a police officer, attempt murder and failure to disperse. All but 18 have been released.
“Six Los Angeles Police Officers were injured during the protests on Friday night and early Saturday morning,” Moore tweeted. “They sustained non- life-threatening injuries ranging from lacerations to impact wounds.”
Saturday’s events began at noon, as Black Lives Matter Los Angeles held a rally at Pan Pacific Park. Another protest, hosted by the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police, happened at 1 p.m. outside LAPD’s Southeast Station, 145 W 108th St. and included a march to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s office at 1310 W. Imperial Highway.
At 3 p.m., a demonstration was scheduled at Mariachi Plaza, 1831 E. First St. to demand the release of all prisoners, as well as an end to police terror and “crime against Latinos and blacks.”
People took to the streets Friday for the third consecutive night to demand justice for Floyd, who died Monday after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a white Minneapolis Police Department officer, Derek Chauvin, who pressed his knee on the 46-year-old man’s neck for several minutes while three other officers looked on.
Video footage of the arrest, in which Floyd is heard saying “I can’t breathe,” spread widely online, and all four officers were fired.
Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter on Friday.
The LAPD was placed on tactical alert at 2:20 p.m. as a precaution ahead of the protests, according to Officer Tony Im.
After night fell, several businesses downtown were looted, including the Target store at Seventh and Figueroa streets, a Rite Aid store at Seventh and Hope streets, along with the Sixth Street Market and the Starbucks on Sixth Street between Broadway and Main Street and jewelry stores near Sixth Street and Broadway.
A trash can was set on fire near Olympic Boulevard and Hill Street and quickly extinguished by officers. Three fires were set near the intersection of Hill and Seventh streets, one in the intersection, another south of the intersection on Hill Street and a third on a sidewalk near a building.
As Los Angeles firefighters arrived to extinguish the flames, someone in the crowd grabbed a department fire hose and tossed it into the fire burning in the intersection.
At least one LAPD cruiser was tagged with graffiti.
Police set up skirmish lines throughout the downtown area and, in at least one instance, fired non-lethal ammunition as they pushed a crowd out of the area, some in the crowd stopping to hide behind vehicles to throw objects at officers.
A person answering the phone at the Metropolitan Detention Center could not give an exact number of arrests, but stated it was a “busload.”
The looting came about four hours after several people were detained shortly before 7 p.m. near Fifth and Olive streets for allegedly throwing objects at officers and damaging police cars that were parked near the intersection.
A protestor was seen on video spraying a fire extinguisher at officers, then running through the crowd spraying fire retardant.
“I’m sorry that L.A. failed tonight,” Moore told reporters Friday night. “Our ability to have a demonstration, express our views, our anger, our disgust unfortunately turned into an unruly situation with officers being injured, property damage occurring.”
An officer was put in a chokehold and kicked by some protesters in the Pershing Square area. It was not clear if this was the same officer who was sent to a hospital with injuries from a confrontation with demonstrators.
LAPD Capt. Gisselle Espinoza told reporters it was disappointing to see protestors attack the officer.
“This was not what we wanted,” Espinoza said. “We wanted it to be peaceful. We want people to exercise their First Amendment right to assemble, for speech and we wanted this to be peaceful. We want peoples’ voices heard and that’s not what’s happening.”
Shortly before 7:30 p.m., a group of about 100 blocked traffic on the Harbor (110) Freeway, near the James M. Wood Boulevard exit. They were cleared from the freeway, but re-entered near Fifth Street at 8:20 p.m.
KNX Newsradio reporter Pete Demetriou was attacked during the protests, he said on Twitter. About five people punched him before others came to his aid, and a woman grabbed his microphone and yelled obscenities into it, but he was able to push her away.
Photos posted by Demetriou showed items confiscated by officers, including brass knuckles, knives, bottles of urine, spray paint cans and a gun that fires pepper balls.
A photo also circulated on Twitter of an KABC7 van tagged with illegible graffiti.
Demonstrators initially gathered at 5 p.m. outside City Hall and marched south on Spring Street, then north on Figueroa Street.
The protest was declared an unlawful assembly shortly before 9:30 p.m. due to “repeated acts of violence and property damage,” according to the LAPD.
People were advised to get off the streets and businesses were told to close in the downtown area from the Santa Monica (10) to the Santa Ana (101) freeways and the Harbor (110) Freeway to Alameda Street.