LOS ANGELES (AP) — Vandals hit shops in Santa Monica at midday Sunday as armed National Guard soldiers patrolled Los Angeles streets and cities across California declared another night of curfew to prevent violence after unruly demonstrators torched police cars, broke into stores and clashed with officers in riot gear.
Nearly 400 people were arrested in Los Angeles on Saturday as protests have become increasingly violent over several nights because of outrage over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, Police Chief Michel Moore said. He said he hoped the National Guard and additional officers deployed would curb that trend.
Across the state, devastated shop owners cleaned up shattered glass, assessed damage and boarded up windows while firefighters mopped up hot spots from lingering fires.
In Emeryville, across the bay from San Francisco, where thieves stormed shopping malls around sunset Saturday, snatched flat screen TVs, shoes and other goods, Keyla Calderon swept up glass outside Uniform Advantage, a shop that sells medical scrubs.
Calderon had just reopened last week after being shuttered for six weeks under California’s stay-at-home order to stem the spread of the coronavirus. She said she had just returned home Saturday when she got a call from a security company that the store’s burglar alarm was triggered.
She turned on the news to see live helicopter shots of people breaking into her shop and others at an outdoor mall. They smashed glass doors, stole clothes and computers and destroyed the cash register.
“To hear the alarm ring and see people destroy the store before my eyes, it was heartbreaking,” Calderon said. “We’re all working hard to feed our family. We have nothing to do with these injustices, yet we’re paying the consequences.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom deployed 1,000 members of the Guard to assist the 20,000 officers of the Los Angeles police and sheriff’s departments, Mayor Eric Garcetti said. The San Francisco police chief said about 200 outside officers were en route.
Curfews were declared Sunday in San Francisco and LA from 8 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. Monday. Beverly Hills declared a 1 p.m. curfew, and Santa Monica moved its curfew up to 4 p.m. after the property thefts.
The unrest in coastal Santa Monica happened not far from a peaceful demonstration near the city’s famous pier and headed for its popular Third Street Promenade shopping area. Looters broke into a Gap store and a Vans sneaker store and were seen in KTTV footage walking out with boxes of shoes with no police in sight.
A woman holding a sign saying “End All Violence” managed to stop a man using a hammer to break the glass on the doors of an REI store. Another joined her, and the would-be burglars moved on.
In Los Angeles, damage from Saturday’s violence included windows shattered at nearly every shop along a stretch of Melrose Avenue, home to trendy boutiques and known widely for its association with the TV show “Melrose Place.”
Alan Kokozian looked up through a hole in the roof of Tony K’s Shoe Store, where fire Saturday had burned and most of his inventory was stolen or damaged. He pleaded unsuccessfully for people to spare his establishment and was struck in the head with a bottle.
“This was not a political protest,” Kokozian said. “This was basically a bunch of thieves getting together taking advantage of a situation.”
Officials acknowledged the anger of protesters 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, and affirmed their right to demonstrate. But they condemned the wave of crime by a small number that had overshadowed the message of thousands who had gathered and marched.
“The us peacefully speaking out sometimes doesn’t have as loud a voice as the images that make the news,” Garcetti said. “It breaks my heart, too, to think about the Angelenos protesting in peace and fighting for justice how this violence and looting clouds that picture.”
Yet it was hard to ignore images of police cars engulfed in flames in the middle of the day in Los Angeles, people running out the broken door of an Alexander McQueen luxury clothing store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills with handfuls of clothes or demonstrators tossing fireworks at officers in Santa Ana, in Orange County.
There was also video of officers in skirmish lines in LA, some swinging clubs at protesters, others firing projectiles at people with their hands up and crowds running from a cloud of tear gas in Beverly Hills.
Garcetti praised the 99.99% of officers he said had shown restraint. Moore, who was on the front lines Saturday and handed his business card to demonstrators, said officers had acted appropriately, though he acknowledged some “individual failures” and said any abuse complaints would be investigated.
Five LAPD officers were injured in the clashes and two hospitalized, including one who required surgery after his skull was fractured by a brick, Moore said.
San Francisco’s popular 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.
Mayor London Breed said the city’s 8 p.m. curfew would be extended indefinitely, and people could be stopped for being outside.
She expressed sadness about the destruction and said she was not going to tolerate the violence. She said the fire department was inundated with calls because of fires and medical emergencies and had fire bombs thrown at them.
“I was extremely upset because unfortunately with some of the vandals, they thought this was a game, they thought this was funny. And this is not funny,” Breed said, adding that she saw many juveniles among the vandals. “So parents, where are your kids? Where are your kids?”
Protests also roiled the east San Diego suburb of La Mesa, where two adjacent banks burned to the ground and people smashed windows at many businesses.
“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. “It’s unfortunate but this has been part of our history and how things get done because they don’t listen any other way.”