As cleanup efforts continued in areas devastated by weekend looting and vandalism amid police-brutality protests, Southland law enforcement agencies braced Monday for renewed protests as communities issued sweeping curfews in hopes of quelling violence.
Police agencies in Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Long Beach combined to report nearly 1,200 arrests during protests that occurred Sunday, many of them misdemeanors for violating curfews.
But even as authorities assessed the damage from Sunday, more demonstrations began Monday afternoon, including a so-far peaceful gathering outside Los Angeles police headquarters downtown and an increasingly aggressive group in Van Nuys, where an initially peaceful gathering quickly devolved into reports of looting.
City and county authorities hailed the generally peaceful posture of the vast majority of people protesting the death of George Floyd during his arrest in Minneapolis, and attributed the waves of destruction that occurred to “opportunists” taking advantage of demonstrations to loot and vandalize.
“For those that are doing peaceful protest … we hear you, we support you and we know that you are not part of this element that is going out and doing this looting,” County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said. “And we appreciate you helping to protect those businesses, which I saw time and time again over the weekend. But please stay safe.”
Barger said legitimate protesters were not out to cause problems.
“You’ve got a small group that infiltrated and, in fact, I believe used these peaceful demonstrators as a way to divert attention so they could go in and do illegal activity,” she said.
Barger called the looters “criminals who quite frankly are not here for George Floyd, because if you listened to George Floyd’s family this morning, you heard loud and clear it’s not about violence. It’s about protest and change, and in this county we are committed to working with every single sector to ensure that happens, including law enforcement.”
That sentiment was echoed by elected officials and law enforcement authorities across the Southland — all vowing to support peaceful protest while condemning instigators who infiltrate crowds to sow violence, and also decrying looters who arrived in vehicles to smash their way into businesses while police were tending to protests.
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.
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. That curfew was imposed again on Monday for the entire county and city of Los Angeles. Several cities issued modified curfews of their own, with citywide curfews taking effect early afternoon in places such as Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and West Hollywood.
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.
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