Newsom welcomes protest rage; decries violence and theft
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday he welcomed the rage of protesters as long as they are peaceful, but he denounced unnamed groups of anarchists and others who used the demonstrations to tag graffiti on buildings, burn banks, shatter store windows and run off with armloads of goods.
“The looting, the violence, the threats against fellow human beings: That has no place in this state and in this nation,” Newsom said. “Those that want to express themselves and have: Thank you. God bless you. Keep doing it. Your rage is real, express it so that we can hear it, let’s not let others drown out that rage.”
Newsom has called up 4,500 National Guard troops to supplement overwhelmed police in Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Long Beach and Santa Monica following a weekend of violence that erupted around passionate protests over the killing of George Floyd, a black man who died in handcuffs after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee on his neck until he stopped breathing.
Protests were held across the state Monday, but were generally smaller and not accompanied with the scale of vandalism and theft seen over the weekend.
As a large group of demonstrators marched through Hollywood, people broke into businesses in a strip mall, including a Starbucks, a kebab restaurant and a Rite Aid pharmacy that was ransacked. Police quickly showed up and chased some of those who stole and caused damage. When a group of men with axes began smashing windows at nearby Walgreens drug store, demonstrators stepped in and blocked them and the would-be thieves left in cars.
“Don’t be dumb,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti warned people thinking of taking part in crimes. “Don’t make a mistake that lasts much more than today but that can stay with you for months and years in your life. Don’t do it.”
As evening curfews took hold, police and sheriff’s deputies in Los Angeles, Riverside and elsewhere moved in and arrested dozens of protesters who refused to leave. Those arrests were mainly peaceful.
Over the weekend, some protesters tossed rocks and bottles at police in riot gear, officers fired nonlethal rounds and tear gas and sent crowds running, military vehicles rolled through normally placid beachfront cities and black smoke rose from torched police cars and smoldering shops.
More cities imposed curfews Monday as merchants and volunteers cleaned up broken glass, boarded up shattered storefronts, and scrubbed spray-painted slurs off buildings.
Attorney Alex Rose clutched a garbage-picker as he joined hundreds of other volunteers sweeping and mopping up downtown Sacramento, where there were hundreds of broken windows and graffiti from a night of mayhem.
“There’s a very clear distinction between protesters and the looters,” said Rose, who protested during the day Sunday. “I went home last night, and that’s when the criminals came out.”
Many of the trashed businesses had recently been allowed to reopen following about two months of closures because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Actor Jamie Foxx joined San Francisco Mayor London Breed and church leaders during a “kneel in” on City Hall steps to protest the police killings of Floyd — the Minneapolis man — and other African Americans.
Foxx told the hundreds of people gathered that police need to know there will be consequences for taking the life of a black person.
“They have to be worried that, ‘I could go to jail for this,’” he said. “They have to respect us. They have to love us. That man cried out for his mom.”
San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit said Floyd’s death had prompted him to revisit department policy and stop using a controversial neck restraint.
Youths led protests Monday in San Diego and in Oakland, where an estimated 15,000 people gathered at a technical high school.
Protesters blocked traffic on U.S. Highway 101 in Santa Rosa, in Northern California’s wine country. Hundreds of miles to the south, a group temporarily stopped the flow of traffic on Interstate 405 near the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles, hours ahead of a citywide curfew.
In the Van Nuys section of the city, thefts were reported at a phone store and a pharmacy near a protest of about 500 people. Television reports also showed firefighters dousing a burning car blocks from the demonstration and later fighting a fire at a looted strip mall.
Over the weekend, thieves ran roughshod in more than 20 cities — emerging with stolen sneakers, clothes and electronics. Some stopped to change into their newly acquired attire before running away.
In some cities, police were nowhere to be seen as scores of people jumped through broken windows in broad daylight. In Long Beach, officers stood by as a group of thieves broke out of a boarded up storefront and ran away with fistfuls of clothes.
San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said it was almost unprecedented to have a second night of curfew Monday, but said it helped keep order Sunday after a small group of “defiant individuals” refused to leave after about 5,000 people had marched peacefully before an 8 p.m. curfew.
“There were individuals who came to this city with crowbars, bolt cutter, tools that were designed specifically to get into businesses, to take property and loot,” Scott said. He didn’t say where they came from.
Oakland’s acting police chief said organized looters had traveled more than 100 miles from cities in the agricultural Central Valley.
“Fifteen, 20, 30 cars at a time, hitting as you’ve seen different shopping malls, different areas,” Chief Susan Manheimer said.
Ronayne reported from Sacramento. Associated Press journalists Olga Rodriguez and Janie Har in San Francisco, Cuneyt Dil and Adam Beam in Sacramento, Robert Jablon and John Antczak in Los Angeles contributed to this report.