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Newsom Welcomes Protest Rage; Decries Violence And Looting

A vehicle on fire in La Mesa, May 30, 2020.

Photo by Donald Bloodworth/KPBS

Above: A vehicle on fire in La Mesa, May 30, 2020.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday he welcomed the rage of protesters as long as they are peaceful, but he denounced unnamed groups of anarchists and others who used the demonstrations to tag graffiti on buildings, burn banks, shatter store windows and run off with armloads of goods.

"The looting, the violence, the threats against fellow human beings: That has no place in this state and in this nation,” Newsom said. “Those that want to express themselves and have: Thank you. God bless you. Keep doing it. Your rage is real, express it so that we can hear it, let’s not let others drown out that rage.”

Newsom said he had called up 4,500 National Guard troops to supplement overwhelmed police in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Long Beach and Santa Monica after waves of violence followed passionate protests over the killing of a handcuffed black man held down by a white Minneapolis police officers.

Some protesters skirmished with police in riot gear, officers fired nonlethal rounds into crowds, military vehicles rolled through normally sedate beachfront cities and black smoke rose from torched police cars and smoldering shops.

RELATED: San Diego Leaders React To Weekend Protests

More cities imposed curfews Monday as merchants and volunteers cleaned up broken glass, boarded up shattered storefronts, and scrubbed spray-painted slurs off buildings. Many of the trashed businesses had recently been allowed to reopen following about two months of closures because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Looters smashed their way into stores in more than 20 cities — emerging with stolen sneakers, clothes and electronics. Some stopped to change into their newly acquired attire before running away.

In some cities, police were nowhere to be seen as scores of people jumped through broken windows in broad daylight. In Long Beach, officers stood by as a group of thieves broke out of a boarded up storefront and ran away with fistfuls of clothes.

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said it was almost unprecedented to have a second night of curfew Monday, but said it helped keep order Sunday. About 5,000 people had marched peacefully chanting “George Floyd,” the name of the Minneapolis man, before the 8 p.m. curfew.

But a relatively small number of “defiant individuals” who had gathered in the Civic Center area refused to disperse, threw bottles at officers, and started trash fires, Scott said. With help from more than 200 officers sent in from across the state, officers seized a loaded handgun and a backpack with fireworks and explosives and arrested 87 people.

“There were individuals who came to this city with crowbars, bolt cutter, tools that were designed specifically to get into businesses, to take property and loot,” Scott said. He didn’t say where they came from.

He said on Saturday night officers saw people in a van passing out bricks to throw at officers and that they were attacked with Molotov cocktails at least two times. “If that’s anybody’s idea of a peaceful protest, we need to talk about that,” he said.

Other law enforcement officials and the governor also echoed the notion that trouble came from outsiders, though few provided specific details.

Santa Monica Police Chief Cynthia Renaud said about 95% of the more than 400 arrested were not residents of the coastal city that borders Los Angeles. The city declared a curfew at 1:30 p.m. to last until 5:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Neighboring San Bernardino County said it would impose a curfew Monday evening.

In Sacramento, where no curfew was imposed, Sunday night brought more violence and destruction at businesses in the midtown area and near the Capitol after a largely peaceful daytime protest.

Other violence statewide included a woman shot in the arm in Walnut Creek, east of San Francisco.

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