Lead Story Local News

Cleanup efforts begin after weekend of protests, vandalism

LOS ANGELES — Cleanup efforts were underway June 1 in the Fairfax District, Santa Monica, Long Beach and other areas following a dramatic weekend that saw brazen looting and vandalism amid multiple protests against police brutality.

Law enforcement authorities braced for more demonstrations and cities issued curfews in hopes of quelling violence.

Demonstrations have increased across the country in the past week in response to the death of George Floyd while being arrested by police in Minneapolis May 25.

A coalition of South Los Angeles religious and community leaders held a news conference June 1 calling for the end of protests that it said jeopardize public safety and human lives. The group included Community Build CEO Robert Sausedo, Project Islamic Hope’s Najee Ali and the Rev. Bill Johnson.

Representatives of labor and community groups and clergy in Watts also issued a call for peace in that community. The group “is calling for peace proactively as leaders who support peaceful protest, but will not allow violence to damage Watts like in 1965 and 1992,” said John Jones III of the East Side Riders Bike Club.

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said about 700 arrests were made during demonstrations May 31, on top of 900 who were arrested the two previous days.

“There will not be a tolerance for this looting, there will not be a tolerance for this lawlessness we’re seeing through the region,” Moore said during an appearance on KTLA.

Moore said he was seeing “attacks on officers the likes of which I haven’t seen in decades,” noting the projectiles hurled at police.

Various protesters in turn have accused police of using heavy-handed tactics during the protests, including the firing of rubber bullets, tear gas and other projectiles at demonstrators.

In both Santa Monica and Long Beach, volunteers and business owners gathered June 1 to help clean broken glass from streets, remove graffiti and secure businesses.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn was among those helping business owners in Long Beach clean and secure their properties. Another community cleanup effort was being held in nearby Lakewood.

But even as those cleanup efforts continued, law enforcement braced for additional protests. There was word of additional demonstrations planned in various areas, including the Federal Building in Westwood, West Hollywood near the Sunset Strip and in the heart of Beverly Hills.

A countywide curfew was imposed May 31 in Los Angeles from 6 p.m to 6 a.m. after violence and looting broke out in Santa Monica, Long Beach and other areas.

The county re-imposed the curfew for the same hours June 1, as did the city of Los Angeles.

Santa Monica imposed another curfew at 1 p.m. for its business districts and at 4 p.m. citywide. Another citywide curfew in Beverly Hills was ordered to begin in the business district at 1 p.m. and at 4 p.m. citywide continuing to 5:30 a.m. June 2, Mayor Les Friedman announced.

Beverly Hills was hard-hit May 30 along with L.A.’s Fairfax District and Santa Monica was under siege May 31.

In Santa Monica, a peaceful march down Ocean Avenue that started around noon but it was overshadowed by looting reported at several stores in Santa Monica Place shopping center and on nearby Fourth Street. News footage showed many people carrying merchandise and running out of stores that had been broken into.

The National Guard eventually made its way to the city to help restore order, but the damage had been done. The city’s upscale shopping district resembled a war zone at night, with dozens of businesses vandalized or looted.

Santa Monica Police Chief Cynthia Renaud said about 400 people were arrested, and about 95% them did not live in the city.

Throughout the protests, brazen bands of looters could be seen driving into protest areas, leaping out of vehicles, robbing businesses and driving off. Some people attempting to take part in peaceful protests could be seen trying to prevent businesses from being vandalized, but the looting continued.

National Guard troops also faced off with demonstrators May 31 outside City Hall in downtown Los Angeles. The verbal confrontation became more active around 6:30 p.m. after the countywide curfew went into effect and police began making mass arrests of people who refused to disperse.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said he hoped the deployment of the National Guard to Los Angeles will be a “very short visit,” but there is no fixed timeline.

In Long Beach, several thousand people took part in a protest that started at 3 p.m. May 31 at Long Beach Police Headquarters and marched through the downtown area. Police eventually set up skirmish lines along Pine Avenue, and protests remained largely peaceful, other than some individuals in the crowd who set off fireworks aimed at officers.

But looters began their rampage around 5 p.m., hitting several  businesses in The Pike Outlets including T-Mobile and Luxury Perfume. They also stole from the Jean Machine in the City Place Shopping Center, Mark Schneider Fine Jewelry in the Promenade, a Ross store and several businesses along Long Beach Boulevard including El Super and a CVS.

They could be seen making multiple trips inside stores to carry out armfuls of merchandise, which they loaded into awaiting vehicles, taking selfies and brazenly smiling for television cameras.

The Long Beach police force was supplemented by mutual aid from area cities and the sheriff’s department and was expecting National Guard troops, officials said.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said about 75 arrests were made Sunday and he blasted looters who took advantage of the protests to engage in lawlessness.

“What happened last night to our small businesses was unacceptable. We should be angry and saddened by the behavior of these people and these criminals,” Garcia said.

Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna said he supports the cause of protesters and was equally dismayed by Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. He said the vast majority of demonstrators acted peacefully, but there were select agitators in the crowd who threw rocks, bricks and bottles at officers.

“This is not the way to create change,” the chief said. “Not at all.”

He also said police “didn’t allow” looting to occur, but officers struggled to respond to a rapidly unfolding melee and to major increases in calls for help. Luna said Long Beach police typically receive about 1,726 calls for service on an average day, but that number jumped to 4,686 May 31.

Roughly 1,000 National Guard personnel were deployed to the area over the weekend after Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency May 30 for all of Los Angeles County.

County Board of Supervisors Chair Kathryn Barger announced May 31 that she has proclaimed a state of emergency as well, which will facilitate interagency response coordination and mutual aid, accelerate the procurement of vital supplies and enable future state and federal reimbursement of costs incurred by the county.

“This emergency comes as we are in the midst of battling another emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This taxes our resources, but not our resolve,” Barger said. “We will do everything in our power to keep our communities safe and protect lives and property. I continue to call on our residents to maintain calm and seek solutions productively, not destructively.”

Newsom expressed solidarity with protesters and their call for change in a system that has failed communities for generations.

“The black community is not responsible for what’s happening in this country right now. We are,” he said. “Our institutions are responsible. We are accountable to this moment.”

But he said he had no patience for those who are taking advantage of the protests to engage in lawlessness.

“When you’re out there to exploit conditions, not advance the cause of justice — that is not serving the greater good,” he said. “And we need to also call that out. The looting, the violence, the threats against fellow human beings — that has no place in this state and in this nation. We as a society need to call that out.”

He said another 1,100 members of the National Guard have been called up to assist cities across the state cope with the protests and violence, bringing the total to about 4,500. But he said the state and nation as a whole need to do more than just respond to the protests on the streets.

“We are committed and resolved to bringing peace back to the streets, not only in the state but supporting efforts all across this nation,” he said. “But it’s not just a situational moment. we have to focus on the medium and long-term and we have to prove our commitment and our resolve in that space.”