Cleanup efforts were underway Monday in Santa Monica, Long Beach and other areas following a dramatic weekend that saw brazen looting and vandalism amid multiple protests against police brutality, while law enforcement authorities braced for more demonstrations and cities issued curfews in hopes of quelling violence.
Demonstrations have increased across the country in the past week in response to the death of George Floyd while being arrested by police in Minneapolis.
A coalition of South Los Angeles religious and community leaders plan held a news conference late Monday morning to call for the end of protests that it said jeopardize public safety and human lives. The group included Community Build CEO Robert Sausedo, Project Islamic Hope’s Najee Ali and the Rev. Bill Johnson.
Representatives of labor and community groups and clergy in Watts also issued a call for peace in that community. The group “is calling for peace proactively as leaders who support peaceful protest, but will not allow violence to damage Watts like in 1965 and 1992,” said John Jones III of the East Side Riders Bike Club.
Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore said about 700 arrests were made during Sunday’s demonstrations, on top of 400 who were arrested Saturday and 500 on Friday.
“There will not be a tolerance for this looting, there will not be a tolerance for this lawlessness we’re seeing through the region,” Moore said during an appearance on KTLA.
Moore said he was seeing “attacks on officers the likes of which I haven’t seen in decades,’ noting the projectiles hurled at police.
Various protesters in turn have accused police of using heavy-handed tactics during the protests, including the firing of rubber bullets, tear gas and other projectiles at demonstrators.
In both Santa Monica and Long Beach, volunteers and business owners gathered Monday morning to help clean broken glass from streets, clean graffiti and secure businesses.
“Where are we today in Santa Monica? Today we are rebuilding,” Santa Monica Mayor Pro Tem Terry O’Day told a crowd at the Santa Monica Pier Monday morning. “We are not defeated. … Today we show the nation what a community means and why it matters.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn was among those helping business owners in Long Beach clean and secure their properties. Another community cleanup effort was being held in nearby Lakewood.
But even as those cleanup efforts continued, law enforcement braced for additional protests. There was word Monday morning of additional demonstrations planned in various areas, including the Federal Building in Westwood, West Hollywood near the Sunset Strip and in the heart of Beverly Hills.
A countywide curfew was imposed Sunday in Los Angeles from 6 p.m to 6 a.m. Monday after violence and looting broke out in Santa Monica, Long Beach and other areas.
The county will re-impose the curfew for the same hours Monday night, as will the city of Los Angeles.
Santa Monica will impose another curfew at 1 p.m. Monday for its business districts and at 4 p.m. citywide. Another citywide curfew in Beverly Hills will begin in the business district at 1 p.m. and at 4 p.m. Monday citywide and continue to 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, Mayor Les Friedman announced.
Beverly Hills was hard-hit Saturday along with L.A.’s Fairfax District and Santa Monica was under siege Sunday.
In Santa Monica, a peaceful march down Ocean Avenue that started around noon Sunday was overshadowed by looting reported at several stores in Santa Monica Place shopping center and on nearby Fourth Street. News footage showed many people carrying merchandise and running out of stores that had been broken into.
The National Guard eventually made its way to the city to help restore order, but the damage had been done. The city’s upscale shopping district resembled a war zone Sunday night, with dozens of businesses vandalized or looted.
Santa Monica Police Chief Cynthia Renaud said about 400 people were arrested, and about 95% them did not live in the city.
Throughout the protests, brazen bands of looters could be seen driving into protest areas, leaping out of vehicles, robbing businesses and driving off. Some people attempting to take part in peaceful protests could be seen trying to prevent businesses from being vandalized, but they the looting continued.
National Guard troops also faced off with demonstrators Sunday outside City Hall in downtown Los Angeles. The verbal confrontation became more active around 6:30 p.m. after the countywide curfew went into effect and police began making mass arrests of people who refused to disperse.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said he hoped the deployment of the National Guard to Los Angeles will be a “very short visit,” but there is no fixed timeline.
In Long Beach Sunday, several thousand people took part in a protest that started at 3 p.m. at Long Beach Police Headquarters and marched through the downtown area. Police eventually set up skirmish lines along Pine Avenue, and protests remained largely peaceful, other that some individuals in the crowd who let fireworks aimed at officers.
But looters began their rampage around 5 p.m., hitting several businesses in The Pike Outlets including T-Mobile and Luxury Perfume. They also stole from the Jean Machine in the City Place Shopping Center, Mark Schneider Fine Jewelry in the Promenade, a Ross store and several businesses along Long Beach Boulevard including El Super and a CVS. They could be seen making multiple trips inside stores to carry out armfuls of merchandise, which they loaded into awaiting vehicles, taking selfies and brazenly smiling for television cameras.
The Long Beach police force was supplemented by mutual aid from area cities and the sheriff’s department and was expecting National Guard troops, officials said.
Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said about 75 arrests were made Sunday and he blasted looters who took advantage of the protests to engage in lawlessness.
“What happened last night to our small businesses was unacceptable. We should be angry and saddened by the behavior of these people and these criminals,” Garcia said.
Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna said he supports the cause of protesters and was equally dismayed by Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. He said the vast majority of demonstrators acted peacefully, but there were select agitators in the crowd who threw rocks, bricks and bottles at officers.
“This is not the way to create change,” the chief said. “Not at all.”
He also said police “didn’t allow” looting to occur, but officers struggled to respond to a rapidly unfolding melee and to major increases in calls for help. Luna said Long Beach police typically receive about 1,726 calls for service on an average day, but that number jumped to 4,686 on Sunday.
Roughly 1,000 National Guard personnel were deployed to the area over the weekend after Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency Saturday for all of Los Angeles County.
Board of Supervisors Chair Kathryn Barger announced Sunday that she has proclaimed a state of emergency as well, which will facilitate interagency response coordination and mutual aid, accelerate the procurement of vital supplies and enable future state and federal reimbursement of costs incurred by the county.
“This emergency comes as we are in the midst of battling another emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This taxes our resources, but not our resolve,” Barger said. “We will do everything in our power to keep our communities safe and protect lives and property. I continue to call on our residents to maintain calm and seek solutions productively, not destructively.”