La Mesa Residents Unite To Help Business Owners Recover From Riot
On Sunday morning, downtown La Mesa was covered in ash, graffiti and broken glass — the aftermath of a Saturday protest that devolved into rioting and looting.
But it didn’t take long for residents and business owners to get to work cleaning up. By Monday, all the broken windows were boarded up and the businesses that had been looted were reopened.
“People immediately started getting to work and pitching in,” said La Mesa City Councilman Colin Parent, who coordinated the city’s clean-up efforts.
“When I came out on Sunday morning and saw a bunch of people carrying brooms and buckets and chipping in, it was certainly very heartening, but not even a little bit surprising,” he said. “That’s just how La Mesans are.”
The East County Chamber of Commerce has set up a GoFundMe page for downtown businesses that reached its goal of $50,000 within 24 hours. As of Monday afternoon it was up to nearly $90,000.
The protest came amid worldwide demonstrations against the killing of George Floyd, an African American man, at the hands of Minneapolis police. Also, tensions had been rising between the La Mesa Police Department and the community after a video surfaced last week on social media showing alleged mistreatment of an African American resident by a white police officer.
While the city is recovering, one city resident who participated in the protest said police were unnecessarily aggressive toward he and other peaceful demonstrators.
“I did get teargassed in my face, like, over five times,” said 18-year-old Omar Benchekroun.
“Instead of hearing our pleas and listening and putting down their weapons, they used those weapons and tried to run us off,” Benchekroun said. “ I don’t know what to do next, I don’t think we can move on because until the situation at hand has been resolved.”
Parent said officials will continue investigating how the protests escalated into violence so quickly. On Monday, the city announced another curfew that will begin at 7 p.m. and last until 5:30 a.m. Tuesday.
“I’ll just have to invite people to exercise some patience as we get those things collected and assure people we’ll be as open and transparent as possible so that people have confidence about what the government’s doing on their behalf,” he said.