National Guard Patrols Los Angeles After Night Of Violence
Sunday, May 31, 2020
Photo by Ringo H.W. Chiu AP
Armed National Guard soldiers patrolled the streets of Los Angeles on Sunday as the city began cleaning up after a night of violence that saw demonstrators clash repeatedly with officers, torch police vehicles and pillage businesses.
A rare citywide curfew expired as dawn revealed broken shop windows, demolished security gates and graffiti along entire blocks. Firefighters mopped up hot spots from lingering fires while store owners swept up glass and boarded up broken windows to protect what's left of their inventories.
Mayor Eric Garcetti said Saturday he asked Gov. Gavin Newsom for 500 to 700 members of the Guard to assist the 10,000 Los Angeles Police Department officers.
Garcetti said the Guard members who arrived early Sunday were summoned “to support our local response to maintain peace and safety on the streets of our city.”
Fire crews responded to dozens of blazes, and scores of businesses were damaged. One of the hardest-hit areas was around the Grove, a popular high-end outdoor mall west of downtown where hundreds of protesters swarmed the neighborhood, showering police with rocks and other objects and vandalizing shops. One officer suffered a fractured skull, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said.
Community leaders denounced the violence that has accompanied protests over the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck. His death has prompted protests across the U.S. and Europe.
In Los Angeles, windows were shattered at nearly every shop along a stretch of Melrose Avenue. At Tony K's Shoe Store, owner Alan Kokozian said his entire product stock was either stolen or damaged.
Kokozian said he was hit in the head with a flying bottle as he pleaded with looters to spare his establishment Saturday evening.
“This was not a political protest. This was basically a bunch of thieves getting together taking advantage of a situation,” Kokozian said Sunday as he surveyed the hole in his roof caused by fire.
When the curfew took effect at 8 p.m., police moved aggressively to get people off the streets and there was no repeat of the late-night rampage that occurred downtown Friday night and led to more than 500 arrests.
Protests also roiled the east San Diego suburb of La Mesa, where two banks next door to each other burned to the ground and people smashed windows at many businesses including a real estate office and a popular bar.
San Diego police officers, aided by other law enforcement agencies, walked shoulder to shoulder through the streets after 2 a.m. Sunday, telling hundreds of protesters and observers that they would be arrested for unlawful assembly if they didn’t disperse.
The suburb of 60,000 people borders El Cajon, where the fatal shooting of a black man by a police officer triggered days of major unrest in 2016.
“I think people are hurting and they’re angry and they’re trying to be heard because there’s no other way to get anyone’s attention,” Ally Kaiahua said of the property damage in La Mesa, near San Diego. “It’s unfortunate but this has been part of our history and how things get done because they don’t listen any other way.”
Kaiahua, who is white, said she was exposed to tear gas in a police attempt to disperse crowds.
San Francisco’s iconic Union Square saw people stealing leather bags from the Coach store and shoes from the Salvatore Ferragamo location, The Mercury News reported. Streets were littered with bras from Victoria’s Secret and cushioned jewelry boxes from Swarovski. Police fired tear gas to disperse protesters.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed said a citywide curfew would go into effect from 8 p.m. Sunday to 5 a.m. Monday. She also asked the governor to put the National Guard on standby.
“People are hurting right now. They’re angry. I’m angry,” Breed tweeted. “We can’t tolerate violence and vandalism.”
In nearby Oakland, which was wracked by violence Friday night that left 13 officers injured, authorities declared an unlawful demonstration near City Hall late Saturday. Protesters lit a dumpster on fire in the middle of an intersection and police launched tear gas into a crowd.
In Emeryville, just east of San Francisco, Mayor Christian Patz said Target, Best Buy and other box stores were burglarized. Stores in the city closed early Saturday as part of a shelter-in-place order.
In Santa Ana, south of Los Angeles, hundreds of demonstrators converged on the police station, throwing objects and setting off firecrackers as police used tear gas to push them back.
The scale of the destruction in Los Angeles was being compared to the 1992 riots, when there was more than $1 billion in property damage. There was no estimate of how many businesses suffered damage since protests began Wednesday, but it was extensive.
Security camera footage showed a swarm of people shattering the front window of DTLA Smoke Shop in downtown Los Angeles early Saturday. Within a minute they had emptied the store's shelves and fled.
“I’m so angry. I’m so angry. You know, it’s my life, I put everything into it,” owner Natali Mishali told KCAL-TV. “I’m for speaking for human rights. I believe in that. I’m very passionate about that. This is just an excuse to steal."
The governor said earlier that authorities were closely monitoring organizing by violent extremist groups who may be trying to use the protests for their own agendas.
“To those who seek to exploit Californians’ pain to sow chaos and destruction, you are not welcome,” he said. “Our state and nation must build from this moment united and more resolved than ever to address racism and its root causes.”
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