National Guard called in to quell violence in Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles mayor said National Guard troops were being sent in to the nation’s second-largest city after a fourth day of violent protests Saturday saw demonstrators clash repeatedly with officers, torch police vehicles and pillage businesses.
Mayor Eric Garcetti said he asked Gov. Gavin Newsom for 500 to 700 members of the Guard to assist the 10,000 Los Angeles Police Department officers.
“The California National Guard is being deployed to Los Angeles overnight to support our local response to maintain peace and safety on the streets of our city,” said the mayor, who ordered a rare citywide curfew until Sunday morning.
Firefighters responded to dozens of fires, and scores of businesses were damaged. One of the hardest-hit areas was the area around the Grove, a popular high-end outdoor mall west of downtown where hundreds of protesters swarmed the area, showering police with rocks and other objects and vandalizing shops.
Community leaders denounced the violence that has accompanied protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn said she lived through two previous seminal LA race riots — Watts in 1965 and 1992 following the acquittal of police officers in the beating of black motorist Rodney King — and remembers the pain the city endured.
“We must stand in solidarity against the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of law enforcement,” she said. “But please don’t destroy our beloved Los Angeles. This is not a protest anymore.”
There were protests in cities throughout California, from San Diego to San Francisco. In Emeryville, just east of San Francisco, Mayor Christian Patz said Target, Best Buy and other box stores were burglarized, with thieves stealing electronics and other items. Stores in the city closed early Saturday as part of a shelter-in-place order following violent protests in nearby Oakland the night before.
“It’s an explosion of the frustration of the people in the community,” Patz said, “If we’re going to ask people to stay within the bounds of the law, we’re going to have to show that the law applies to everyone.”
In San Francisco multiple stores on Market Street were damaged, and a fire was set at Westfield Mall. Authorities said there was increased violence, vandalism and assaults on officers.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed said a citywide curfew will go into effect from 8 p.m. Sunday to 5 a.m. Monday. She has also asked the governor to put the California National Guard on standby.
San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said he understood why protesters are angry at police. But he warned that if anyone assaulted officers “we will not tolerate that.”
In Santa Ana, south of Los Angeles, people threw fireworks and explosives at police.
The scale of the damage 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 clearly extensive.
The day’s clashes occurred in and near the Fairfax District, where the historic center of LA’s Jewish community mixes with upscale shopping, restaurants and entertainment industry sites that draw locals and tourists from around the world.
CBS Television City, the quaint Original Farmer’s Market and the high-end luxury of the Grove are among sights. Trendy Melrose Avenue, which lent its name to the TV show “Melrose Place,” runs through the neighborhood.
The rally that preceded the violence was held at Pan-Pacific Park, former site of the 1930s-era Pan-Pacific Auditorium where LA’s professional sports teams played and many of its major events were held before the city’s modern arenas were built.
Through the day, crowds of demonstrators faced off with lines of police officers, or broke into businesses and stole merchandise. Patrol cars were battered and set ablaze, and several businesses burned into the night. The huge crowds gradually dissipated, but officers still pursued scattered groups and individuals.
On Friday night, protesters rampaged through the downtown late at night, smashing windows and robbing jewelry and other stores. Police arrested 533 people.
On Saturday, , a mostly peaceful demonstration early in the day devolved in the afternoon when protesters set several Police Department cars on fire, broke store windows and climbed on top of a bus. Police used batons to move protesters back and shot rubber bullets to scatter the crowd.
The demonstration came hours after LAPD Chief Michel Moore appealed for peaceful protest.
“I am asking for all of Los Angeles to come together and find the ability to peacefully express individual and collective grievances while also maintaining the safety of all of Angelenos,” he said.
Garcetti initially imposed a curfew on the downtown area. But he quickly expanded it to the entirety of the city as the violence focused on an area about 6 miles (9.6 kilometers) to the west.
Everyone was ordered to be off the streets from 8 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.
Adjacent Beverly Hills and West Hollywood followed as demonstrations spread into those cities. Other cities in the county also began imposing curfews.
“We cannot allow this city to spiral into anarchy,” Moore told ABC7 at the scene of one clash.
Social media video posts showed marchers chanting “Eat the rich” in Beverly Hills, where a crowd broke into a high-end boutique and fled with merchandise.
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.”
In Oakland, 13 officers were injured late Friday as demonstrators hurled objects at them. A federal contract security officer was killed and another critically injured when a vehicle pulled up to the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building and someone opened fire. The officers guard the U.S. courthouse as part of their regular duties and were monitoring the protest, Department of Homeland Security officials said.
It wasn’t immediately known whether the shooter had anything to do with the protest.
The death of the 46-year-old Floyd, who was recorded on video pleading for air as a white Minneapolis officer pressed a knee on his neck, has shocked the country and produced violence in numerous citie s. Police chiefs and police unions have called it unjustifiable and excessive force. The officer has been charged with murder.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, protests in Oakland and San Jose grew increasingly tense and confrontational Friday night. Small fires were set inside a Walgreens and a Mercedes-Benz dealership on Oakland’s auto row, where several cars were smashed and spray-painted with graffiti. City officials said more than 70 businesses were vandalized.
“This is not who we are,” Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a videotaped statement Saturday. “We must fight the travesty of racism, but we must do it in a way that works. Let’s not destroy or harm our own community.”
In San Jose, a Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputy fired at an SUV that attempted to drive through a group of protesters, striking two of them while attempting to make a U-turn, the East Bay Times reported.
Police in both cities fired tear gas and flash-bang grenades to break up unruly crowds.
Oakland police said in a preliminary report that at least 18 people were arrested and another 60 detained for investigation of stealing.
In Sacramento, nine police officers sustained minor injuries at a protest that drew about 500 people.
Associated Press reporter John Antczak in Los Angeles contributed to this report.