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San Diego Protests Persist

 June 2, 2020 at 2:00 AM PDT

Police use of force is at the center of the debate and the protests rocking this city. Many police departments still allow a type of choke hold that is controversial. it’s not the same restraint technique used by the officer in Minneapolis who put his knee on the back of George Floyd’s neck to pin him to the ground… But as of yesterday, the San Diego Police Department will no longer allow its officers to use these choke holds. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced that that neck hold -- known as the carotid restraint - will no longer be used. It was used about 70 times last year, and our community. Has expressed repeated concerns and frustrations about its use. And I want to say that we hear you. We don't want one technique to be a symbol of injustice. The decision comes as demonstrators have taken to the streets from San Diego across the world over the death of George Floyd, the black man who died in Minneapolis on Memorial Day, after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a white police officer. *** Local protests against police brutality continued yesterday. A young woman read out the names of people who’ve been killed by police as a large protest march, made up mostly of students - decried police violence against black Americans, The protest march wove through Balboa Park Monday afternoon. Protest leaders could be heard urging marchers not to commit vandalism, and only use temporary means like chalk to leave graffiti messages. Many of the demonstrators did write chalk messages like "Black Lives Matter" on city sidewalks. A second protest began around 6 p.m. demonstrating near San Diego police headquarters. The San Diego Police Department shut down Broadway to vehicle traffic between 13th and 15th streets as a result. Yesterday’s protests came after a weekend of San Diego and La Mesa protests that, after most of the peaceful protesters left, devolved into looting and vandalism after dark. Curfews remained in place in several cities across the county last night and into this morning. For the latest on local curfews, check out our live blog at kpbs dot org. *** On Sunday morning, La Mesa was covered in ash, graffiti and broken glass. 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. City Councilman Colin Parent said the effort showed the city's character. 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. That's just how La Mesans are. The East County Chamber of Commerce has set up a GoFundMe page for downtown businesses. As of Monday afternoon it had raised more than 90,000 dollars. *** From KPBS, I’m Kinsee Morlan and you’re listening to San Diego News Matters. It’s Tuesday, June 2. Stay with me for more of the local news you need. San Diego County officials on Monday held an update on the pandemic but instead they were mostly peppered with media questions about weekend protests. KPBS Health Reporter Tarryn Mento says the latest COVID figures took a backseat to allegations about excessive police force against demonstrators. Officials announced 73 more COVID cases for a total of more than 7500 but no additional deaths, leaving that tally at 269. NBC and KPBS reporters then asked about excessive use of force against protesters which included rubber bullets. Both Supervisors Nathan Fletcher and Greg Cox said they support the right to protest but condemned violence by rioters that occurred in La Mesa and San Diego. Cox referred questions about the police response to the county sheriff. (:15) "It's really more of an issue to let the sheriff deal with those other law enforcement agencies and trying to make sure people can protest in an appropriate manner but at the same time that we maintain order in the community" Protests were sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and an encounter between a young black man and white officer in La Mesa. Members of San Diego's black community and allies called out the police response to protests this weekend. KPBS reporter Shalina Chatlani says leaders demand changes -- specifically a policing community review board. Leaders say law enforcement's response to the weekend protests was more forceful and violent than necessary. San Diego County Democratic Party Chair Will Rodriguez-Kennedy said police used non lethal weapons but in ways that were dangerous and targeted toward people of color. L3: Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, SD DEM PARTY KENNEDY: It was peaceful up until the middle of the day. What changed? The change is when they ended their march at the hall of justice. The san diego police department marched 50 armed troops basically.. Into a contained space. The protests this weekend were largely peaceful until tension grew toward the evening. Protestors threw water bottles at the police, and the police responded with tear gas and pepper bullets. Community leaders are asking for policing changes including a community review board and a ban to the chokehold. Shalina Chatlani, KPBS news. So, how exactly did the peaceful protests over police brutality and racial injustice erupt into rioting and vandalism over the weekend? We may never know exactly who was behind the bad behavior or why it happened. KPBS reporter Shalina Chatlani says many of the people protesting hope the violence doesn’t undermine the message behind the Black Lives Matter movement. Part 1: GOOD INTENTIONS The problem SCENE 1: Peaceful chants TAPE: La Mesa AMBIENT/ CHANTING MATT1516_01.MOV/AMBI: “Black Lives matter” ” /FADE Protestors chant in a circle on a Saturday afternoon in La Mesa outside the city’s police department. AMBI: “We are human. We are all human.” The cries are loud and emotional, but the crowd is contained. People hold up signs, some were there to be allies. MATT1526_01.MOV :20 I have been seeing this all my life. I’m 70 years old. And it’s never stopped. Because of social media we’re getting some attention. /CUT/ Protester Roberta Tatum spoke out against racial injustice. Tatum: :46 We need to understand, if the law do not start protecting black people, I don’t know what’s going to happen. Tatum and others came to La Mesa to peacefully protest the most recent incident of police brutality against people of color: The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. And reports last week of a police officer repeatedly shoving a young black man while making an arrest near the Grossmont Trolley Station. But at 6:00 pm, Saturday, when police and protesters confronted each other outside of the La Mesa Police Department, the protest took a turn. Protester: “They started firing at us, they started shooting, we were peaceful at first. It comes down to that sometimes you have to fight back fire with fire, if you really want change to happen. If it has to come to this, then it is what it is. We’re demanding change.” AMBI: LA MESA FIRE/ LOOTING SOUND Protestors throw water bottles at the police. Police respond back with tear gas, nonlethal bullets, batons and flash bangs. Soon businesses were broken into. Two banks set on fire. A small city engulfed in smoke. And a curfew imposed. AMBI/ Shooting, COMMERCIAL MUSIC STARTS… Part Two: Tensions Escalate Many protestors say this event was meant to be a peaceful march to address police brutality and racial injustice. But, tensions escalated and violence followed. It’s unclear who started it. And that’s fueling a divide. A divide that many allies of the Black Lives Matter movement say is undermining the whole point of these protests in the first place. MIKE1234_01 in DOWNTOWN PROTEST DAY “We’re not fighting violence with violence. Some people may think that but that’s not what the Black Lives movement is built on… Latoya Sanchez protested in downtown San Diego on Sunday, alongside hundreds of other people. After reaching the police headquarters downtown, she paused to catch a breath. The violence in La Mesa had left her feeling… hurt and exhausted. “All we keep hearing is oh they’re looting and rioting. That has nothing to do with us.” But the rumors of who started the looting and rioting had started. Some pointed to the far left. Other to white supremacists. And others blamed the protestors. On Monday afternoon the San Diego Chief of Police David Nisleit said the vast majority of protestors had peaceful intentions. 94 people were arrested over the weekend. NISLEIT: About a quarter of those folks are outside the San Diego areas. We do know historically nationally we do have people who come in to this. Violence he said… is in some ways expected in these situations. NISLEIT: “There’s people that will come to this town with the sole goal of anarchy.” Part Three: Cleaning Up or The Aftermath? SCENE 3 TOUR OF DAMAGE… AMBIENT… Take a look. We're in Lamesa village. This was Randall lamb, an architectural firm, and it was very sad. Resident Scott Koenig and his son surveyed the damage in downtown La Mesa around noon on Sunday. He posted the video on Facebook for family and friends to see. But for some residents, like Koenig, right now, the details of who started the destruction doesn’t matter. While he looks on at the damage caused to the city he loves, he feels sad, but understands why the violence broke out. KOENIG: I think the root cause is the inequality of the way that African Americans are treated by the police. Unfortunately, sometimes that results in what we saw happening this week, and there's a lot of anger. And then I think their anger carried over into that next wave of opportunist who came in and just started smashing and destroying. Koenig says what he’s focused… not on the destruction.. But the desire to see progress as a result from the movement. And between La Mesa to a peaceful AMBIMUSIC VIGIL vigil Downtown San Diego Sunday night.. That’s what the majority of protestors say they want too. Protesters held up candles and shined lights from their cell phones, as people read the names of the dead, and still held out hope for a world where black people can raise their voices without fear. SOUND FROM THE VIGIL FADES OUT That’s all for today. Thanks for listening to San Diego News Matters. And for those of you who are already KPBS members, thanks for your support.

Local protests against police brutality continued yesterday. Also on KPBS’ San Diego News Podcast: The San Diego Police Department will cease choke holds as a method of restraint, members of San Diego's black community and allies called out the police response to protests this weekend, a group raises nearly $100,000 for vandalized businesses in La Mesa and more local news you need.