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Peaceful protests, looting, arrests grow across Southern California in wake of George Floyd killing



Los Angeles residents woke up Sunday morning to find businesses destroyed overnight and California National Guard troops armed with rifles patrolling city streets.

By Sunday afternoon, looters were running coordinated raids on Santa Monica shops while Huntington Beach police fired pepper balls at protesters who didn’t obey orders to disperse. And, as mandated curfews took effect in some cities as early as 4 p.m., tensions between demonstrators and law enforcement continued to escalate, leaving residents to wonder what they’d wake up to find Monday morning.

Sunday marked the fifth and largest day yet of nationwide unrest sparked by the death in Minneapolis police custody of 46-year-old George Floyd, who was accused of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a corner convenience store and resisting arrest. Floyd’s death, caught on film by a bystander as then-officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, marks the latest high-profile killing of an unarmed black man at the hands of police.

Hundreds of people were arrested at protests across Southern California over the weekend, including at least 400 arrests in Los Angeles overnight Saturday and into Sunday morning and a handful each in places like Santa Ana, Huntington Beach and Temecula.

Five Los Angeles Police Department officers were injured in clashes with demonstrators in Downtown L.A. and the Fairfax District. Two were hospitalized, including one who had a fractured skull from a brick thrown by a protester.

Things started off peaceful at the Huntington Beach Pier on Sunday, with demonstrators carrying signs with messages such as “End Racism” and chanting “I can’t breathe.” Then – in the same spot where thousands of demonstrators gathered a few weeks earlier to protest beach and business closures due to the coronavirus – people protesting police violence clashed with counterprotesters, who carried an American flag and heckled them. Police declared an “unlawful assembly” and ordered everyone to leave, though demonstrators on both sides stuck around.

A window was smashed out at the Bank of America on D Street in San Bernardino during Sunday’s protest, and police assembled there. Groups of people moved through the city’s government center, and some rocks and water bottles were thrown at California Highway Patrol officers.

Cities reeling from Saturday night looting and violence issued curfews, requiring residents to remain inside as early as 4 p.m. in Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and West Hollywood; 6 p.m. in the rest of Los Angeles County; and 10 p.m. in Santa Ana.

About 45 minutes before Santa Monica’s 4 p.m. curfew Sunday, police announced over loudspeakers that they were declaring the protest an unlawful assembly. Hundreds of people moved out of the area, but a large group remained. Police responded with non-lethal rounds: smoke from tear gas canisters wafted up from the intersection and rubber bullets whizzed by protesters who continued to confront police.

“White allies up front!” a man yelled as the protesters were slowly driven back. “Hold the line!”

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti on Saturday night asked Gov. Gavin Newsom to send California National Guard troops to support the city’s 9,000 police officers. It marked the first time citizen troops have been called to patrol city streets since 1992, amid riots sparked by the acquittal of four white police officers who beat unarmed black motorist Rodney King.

A line of Humvees and troops barricaded the steps of Los Angeles City Hall on Sunday afternoon. But that didn’t stop a protest from growing to an estimated 5,000 people by 4 p.m., with the crowd of marchers filling five city blocks as they moved through downtown.

At one point, a protester appeared to be struck by a police vehicle, but it was unclear if the person was injured.

Alvaro Gariday, 31, who was among the demonstrators in Pershing Square, said he was fed up with police brutality.

“It’s time for police brutality to be over,” he said. “We barely had time to mourn Ahmaud Arbery and now this.”

Inland Empire protests in Chino Hills, San Bernardino and Moreno Valley stayed peaceful, with limited police presence and no reports of looting as evening approached.

Some businesses had boarded up their windows and closed early Sunday. The front of Wet Dog Tavern in Huntington Beach was covered with plywood on which was written, “Local minority owned business.” But ABC7 footage showed a number of other shops vandalized and cleared out, with heavy looting in Santa Monica and Long Beach that picked up steam into the evening.

Many of the businesses had only recently reopened after being shuttered for more than two months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Volunteers were spotted helping businesses and city workers clean up in some cities.

Residents with brooms, dustpans and gloves went through Santa Ana streets, picking up and bagging the debris from the night before. They were responding to a call on a Santa Ana Facebook page to clean up the aftermath.

“That’s not the true Santa Ana,” said Jessica Vega, 25, who helped pick up the debris from firecrackers thrown at officers, bottles and other trash with her sister Lesley, 18, both lifelong residents of the city. “It’s just not Santa Ana people.”

Santa Ana police officers thanked the volunteers over the loudspeakers of their patrol cars, Vega said, and arranged to pick up the bags and bags of trash collected by the group.

An estimated 1,000 protesters were back out in Santa Ana on Sunday evening, marching through the streets and calling for racial justice.

Staff writers Ryan Carter, Eric Licas, Jeong Park, Pierce Singgih, Richard K. De Atley, David Rosenfeld, Alicia Robinson, Josh Cain and Olga Grigoryants contributed to this report.

Source: Orange County Register

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