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California Turns To Curfews After A Weekend Of Violence

National Guardsmen and Los Angeles police officers stand guard as protests ov...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: National Guardsmen and Los Angeles police officers stand guard as protests over the death of George Floyd continue Sunday, May 31, 2020, in Los Angeles.

Police throughout California arrested hundreds of protesters who refused to heed curfews and chased down people who smashed their way into stores in a crackdown following a weekend of violence that accompanied rage over George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Monday's violence and theft wasn’t on the scale of the weekend, when blocks of stores were devastated, police cars torched and many officers injured.

Most protests also were smaller, although an estimated 15,000 people gathered in Oakland and about 5,000 in Riverside, east of Los Angeles.

In Sacramento, where two-thirds of downtown businesses were damaged over the weekend, 500 National Guards were deployed and the city declared an 8 p.m. curfew on Monday.

Most Monday demonstrations were peaceful and there was some sympathy expressed by law enforcement. Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco took a knee at the invitation of demonstrators.

“The outrage and meaningful protests resulting from the death of George Floyd are completely understandable. We support and will protect those who wish to demonstrate peacefully,” United States Attorney Nick Hanna in Los Angeles said in a statement, while announcing that the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force would help identify those who commit serious crimes.

San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit said Floyd’s death prompted him to revisit department policy and stop using a controversial neck restraint. Floyd was handcuffed and on the ground pleading for air as a white police officer pressed a knee on his neck for several minutes.

Most demonstrations ended when curfews took effect. But after dark, smaller, rowdier groups tossed fireworks and bottles at massed police and sheriff’s deputies in several cities. Tear gas and rubber bullets were used to disperse people in Oakland and elsewhere.

Earlier, police used similar tactics to clear demonstrators who blocked a freeway in the wealthy San Francisco suburb of Walnut Creek, the East Bay Times reported.

Several teens were hit, including 14-year-old Isaiah Sandoval of Walnut Creek, who was crying and red faced after being tear-gassed. He held a sign that read: “Silence is violence. Black lives matter.”

“Listen to us. We’re the people. You’re supposed to protect us,” he screamed. “I hope you hear this in your hearts.”

From Sacramento to San Diego, hundreds of people were handcuffed.

Police who had been overwhelmed during the weekend violence were reinforced by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s callup of 4,500 National Guard troops, their desert uniforms and military rifles conspicuous against the dark blue of police in riot gear.

In Los Angeles, police aggressively went after crowds of thieves who shattered store windows and ran off with armloads of goods. Some suspects were chased and tackled by officers, others were taken into custody after car chases.

“Don’t be dumb,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti warned thieves before the 6 p.m. city curfew. “Don’t make a mistake that lasts much more than today but that can stay with you for months and years in your life. Don’t do it. We will not stand for violence, for looting, for arson, not today, not ever, no exceptions.”

Even so, scattered attacks on stores threatened to overshadow the message of protesters. Televised images lingered on swarms of young people, many wearing masks like those recommended because of the coronavirus, as they attacked stores in Van Nuys and Hollywood. Police said some carried large hammers and backpacks.

At one point, a crowd began breaking windows and trying to enter a Walgreens store on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood but left after a handful of protesters walked up and stood in front of the entrance, hands raised.

Over the weekend, thieves ran roughshod in more than 20 cities — emerging with stolen sneakers, clothes and electronics. Some stopped to change into their newly acquired attire before running away.

Many of the trashed businesses had recently been allowed to reopen following about two months of closures because of the coronavirus outbreak.

More cities imposed curfews Monday as merchants and volunteers cleaned up broken glass, boarded up shattered storefronts, and scrubbed spray-painted slurs off buildings.

Attorney Alex Rose clutched a garbage-picker as he joined hundreds of other volunteers sweeping and mopping up downtown Sacramento, where there were hundreds of broken windows and graffiti from a night of mayhem.

“There’s a very clear distinction between protesters and the looters,” said Rose, who protested during the day Sunday. “I went home last night, and that’s when the criminals came out.”

Some leaders blamed outsiders for the violence.

Oakland’s acting police chief said organized thieves had traveled more than 100 miles from cities in the agricultural Central Valley.

“Fifteen, 20, 30 cars at a time, hitting as you’ve seen different shopping malls, different areas,” Chief Susan Manheimer said.

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said some people “came to this city with crowbars, bolt cutter, tools that were designed specifically to get into businesses, to take property and loot.”

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