National Guard soldiers deployed in Los Angeles and two other California cities to back up police forces trying to stop waves of violence, vandalism and arson amid passionate protests against the death of a handcuffed black man in Minneapolis police custody.
Armed members of the Guard protected Los Angeles City Hall on Sunday after upheaval in the nation’s second-largest city and then rolled into suburban Santa Monica and Long Beach as throngs savaged businesses there.
In more than 20 cities, thieves smashed their way into stores and carried off armloads of sneakers, clothes and electronics.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti denounced the stealing and violence as having nothing to do with protests by those outraged by the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man seen in a video pleading for air as a white Minneapolis officer pressed a knee on his neck.
“Criminals are wrong to think that they can hijack this message, undermine this movement and divide us — they will not,” Garcetti said in a video address. “So, to those who are hurting, we hear you. And to those who are acting criminally by smashing windows and looting, we see what you are doing and we will arrest you.”
Exact tallies have been unavailable but hundreds of people have been arrested over several days of disturbances that have forced some cities and counties to place millions of people under overnight curfews. In Los Angeles County, the tactic appeared to help quell trouble.
In Sacramento, where no curfew was imposed, Sunday night brought more violence and destruction at businesses in the midtown area and near the Capitol after a largely peaceful daytime protest. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at those who ignored orders to leave.
Other violence statewide included an arm wound suffered by a gunshot victim in Walnut Creek.
Across the state, devastated shop owners cleaned up.
In Emeryville, across the bay from San Francisco, where thieves stormed malls late Saturday, Keyla Calderon swept up glass outside the medical scrubs shop Uniform Advantage.
Calderon’s store had just reopened after being shuttered for six weeks under California’s orders to stem spread of the coronavirus. She said she had just returned home Saturday when she learned the burglar alarm was triggered.
She turned on the news to see scenes of people breaking into her shop and others.
“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, Garcetti said. The San Francisco police chief said about 200 outside officers were en route.
Humvees lined up outside Los Angeles City Hall, and troops stood behind police on the steps of the building as protesters gathered.
Unrest in Santa Monica happened not far from a peaceful demonstration near the city’s famous pier as thieves targeted shops near the popular Third Street Promenade.
As protesters gathered in Long Beach, thieves swarmed nearby stores at The Pike Outlets. A Forever 21 store was a favored target, and a steady stream emerged carrying armloads of clothing. Some stopped to change into stolen items.
About 1,000 people marched through the streets of San Francisco, carrying signs and chanting “George Floyd,” and “Black lives matter.”
“We’re here because George Floyd was murdered in cold blood,” Aliasiah Allah said.
In San Diego, police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd they said pelted them with rocks and bottles.
In Los Angeles, damage from Saturday’s violence included windows shattered at nearly every shop along a stretch of trendy Melrose Avenue.
Alan Kokozian looked up through a hole in the roof of Tony K’s Shoe Store, where fire had burned and most of his inventory was stolen or damaged. He had pleaded for people to spare his establishment and was struck in the head with a bottle.
“This was not a political protest,” Kokozian said.
Garcetti praised the majority of officers he said had shown restraint. Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore, who was on the front lines Saturday, said officers had acted appropriately, though he acknowledged some “individual failures.”
Moore said he would look into an incident caught on video in which a police car struck a person at a downtown protest on Sunday.
A police statement said the officers were responding to a robbery report when they encountered numerous protesters and stopped. Protesters surrounded them, threw objects into the car and shattered its rear window and damaged a side mirror, it said.
“Officers attempted to drive away, when people ran out in front of the cruiser. One of them was struck but got up and ran away before they could be identified,” the statement said. It added that firefighters responded but were unable to find anyone who was involved.
Five LAPD officers have been injured in clashes and two hospitalized, including one who required surgery after his skull was fractured by a brick, Moore said.
In San Francisco’s popular Union Square, people stole leather bags from a 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.
Mayor London Breed said the city’s 8 p.m. curfew would be extended indefinitely.
Breed expressed sadness about the destruction and said she was not going to tolerate the violence.
“I was extremely upset because unfortunately with some of the vandals, they thought this was a game, they thought this was funny,” Breed said.
Protests also roiled the east San Diego suburb of La Mesa, where two adjacent banks burned to the ground.
“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.